Delegates at the 33rd Southern African Association for the Conference Industry (Saaci) congress, which took place from July 28-30 in Durban, KwaZulu Natal, were given insight into the latest international industry trends by Chief Convention Bureau Officer, Amanda Kotze-Nhlapo.

It was conducted in the form of an interview by Business Events Africa Editor, Irene Costa. Kotze-Nhlapo said the industry had become so much more than just a form of tourism. “It is now a key component of the knowledge economy. 

“We are not talking about tourism any more, but about being a game changer in the global economy.  While pretty pictures are good, it is now about contributing to economies and making a difference in the lives of people. We now call it the business events industry.”

Kotze-Nhlapo said the new campaign ‘Meet here. Grow anywhere’ symbolised the new thinking behind business events and that South Africa was also attracting a new type of visitor.

When asked if South Africa was leading or following, she said: “We often punch way beyond our weight!”

A recent global study found that there was increased demand for creativity and more innovative event experiences – Kotze-Nhlapo believes that, more often than not, South Africa most definitely delivers on this.  Unfortunately, around the world, budget cuts and concerns around safety, security and political uncertainty remain a reality for the industry.

She said the South Africa National Convention Bureau had a number of new initiatives in place, including a national association strategy and a delegate boosting strategy.  Funding for the bidding support programme has also been extended for the next three years.