The business events industry hopes to see an inclusive recovery of the sector by sharing benefits of future events with local, underprivileged communities.
Stakeholders are already discussing ways to introduce skills development, training and job creation opportunities into different parts of South Africa.
According to South African Tourism, Africa’s business events industry is on track to recover to pre-pandemic levels by 2024. SA Tourism said the industry was valued at US$13.6bn in 2019, which contracted to US$3.1bn in 2020.
South Africa’s Deputy Minister of Tourism, Fish Mahlalela, urged stakeholders to work together to speed up the recovery and grow the country’s events pipeline, during a post-budget vote address last week.
He was speaking at an event in Cape Town to highlight the Department of Tourism’s efforts to help the business events sector to recover post-pandemic.
Mahlalela told stakeholders: “The future of our African continent is bright. It is not time for our country to reclaim our place as an attractive tourism and business events destination.”
The Deputy Minister also said the easing of COVID restrictions on gatherings had shown positive results and would provide “great reprieve for the South African tourism sector and, in turn, the economy”.
Chief Convention Bureau Officer for SA Tourism, Amanda Kotze-Nhlapo, called for collaboration and said the business events industry could “reignite the real recovery” of the industry by filling up conference rooms and bringing delegates to South Africa’s shores.
“We will continue to work with the industry to actively seek to develop leads for future business events to ensure that South Africa develops and maintains a bid pipeline for continued growth of the event sector.”
A model for upliftment
Last week's stakeholder engagement also provided a chance to showcase some of the industry’s events, hospitality and tourism-related skills training programmes.
One such programme is the project for Rural Incubation for Social Enablement (RISE) in the Western Cape. Chiefly, RISE provides practical events, hospitality and tourism-related skills training to members of communities who are not in a position to further their education and exposes them to the tourism industry.
RISE was started by the Southern African Association for the Conference Industry (SACCI) and an ECTA Training Service Provider, led by the late Mariette Greyling who lost her life to COVID-19 (SACCI said her family, Jaques Greyling and his wife, Yolandi, were continuing her work), the Bay Christian Family Church and the Cape Peninsula University of Technology.
SACCI CEO, Glenton De Kock, reported that more than 500 individuals had received training through the programme over five years, with a success rate of work opportunities and self-employment of 70%.
De Kock revealed plans to expand the programme to other parts of South Africa, even though details and timelines could not be shared.
Aside from community upliftment, it is SACCI's view that encouraging basic skills would help to meet the national government’s goal to double the number of jobs in tourism (SA’s National Tourism Strategy aimed to achieve a target of supporting one million jobs by 2021).
Furthermore, SACCI supports the notion that financial assistance and skills training projects like RISE could also help to create new tourism products, services and attractions, even ‘tourist routes’ elsewhere in SA, which would attract more visitors, uplift more people and contribute more to the economy.
“This (RISE) is a project aimed at utilising the business events industry as a catalyst for social upliftment and in turn providing capacity building and skills transfer for community growth within the identified rural areas,” said De Kock.
“[It is also] an opportunity to nurture new and passionate community members into the business events sector with the support of partners and our members.”