South Africa’s bidding support programme for business events, initiated three years ago, is bearing fruit.

The Deputy Minister of Tourism, Fish Mahalela said in the opening session at the SAACI congress which took place on July 28-30, that during the 2018-2019 financial year South Africa had a target of 105 submissions.

In conjunction with the city and provincial convention bureaus, the South Africa National Convention Bureau submitted 108 bids, a 14.8% increase compared to the previous financial year.

The submissions have a combined potential to generate 501 events days.  To date, 29 of the bids were converted into secured events with three lost to competing destinations and 61 still awaiting outcomes.  More than 55% of these bid submissions were for association conferences and 30 percent for corporate meetings and incentives, dominated by the medical and life sciences sectors.

“It is encouraging that 28% of the bids submitted in the last fiscal included smaller towns and combinations between metropolitan areas and smaller towns.”

Three years ago, government approved R90 million (R6 million) to establish a bidding support programme to propel the business events industry forward.  The grant enabled South Africa to bid more aggressively for international association conferences, meetings, incentives and exhibitions. 

In 2018 South Africa was ranked 39 globally in the annual rankings announced by the International Congress and Convention Association.  The country is still ranked the number one association congress destination in Africa and Cape Town is the top convention city in the region, hosting 100 of the total 415 association meetings held on the continent.

Referring to the issue of safety and security, Mahlalela said tourism provides much needed revenue to countries during uncertain times.  “Our overall goal must be to protect tourists, to prevent organised crime and to promote sustainable development so that communities can prosper.

“We are in the process of finalising the Tourism Safety Strategy, ensuring that we are able to deal with this issue.  We are also entering into a Memorandum of Understanding with the South African Police Services.  The two departments will collaborate on projects of common interest, including identification and analysis of key hotspots, the establishment of a database of crime against tourists, the enhancement of the tourism environment through visible policing and the establishment of a Tourism Safety 24-hour hotline.”

The deputy minister said the sustained growth of South Africa’s business events industry is good news for the economy.  “While we are pleased that the sector brings in millions of Rands worth of foreign direct spend, what is really exciting is that the business events industry fuels the knowledge economy in two ways.

“Firstly, when South Africa hosts an international association or a global corporate event, our local professionals and industry leaders are exposed to cutting-edge research, expertise and knowledge as well as excellent networking opportunities with global leaders in the field in question.

“Secondly, by hosting international events in areas where South Africa is a global leader, the country is given an opportunity to showcase its expertise to a high-level international audience.  It provides exceptional networking opportunities which could lead to further investment and growth,” he said.

To ensure that South Africa’s business events industry has the biggest impact on the country’s knowledge economy, the South Africa National Convention Bureau is focusing its efforts on attracting events in economic sectors that have been identified by government as priority sectors for future development.

The target industries include manufacturing, with a specific focus on areas where South Africa excels including automotive, chemical, pharmaceutical, agri-processing, electronics and biofuels sectors.

“Hosting major events in these sectors can contribute significantly in accelerating macro-economic benefits and demonstrates that the country has the intellectual property to complete globally,” said Mahlalela.

He assured delegates that his door and that of the Minister of Tourism are always open for any constructive engagements to help strengthen the tourism sector and grow the economy.