The business, meetings and events industry – while breathing a collective sigh of relief at the announcement by President Cyril Ramaphosa that South Africa would move to lockdown alert level 1 on Monday (September 21) – is mindful that the road to recovery will require significant support to rebuild and renew in the coming months.
Southern African Association for the Conference Industry (SAACI) CEO, Glenton de Kock, said: “The association will continue engaging with government to look at practical ways to ensure that our sector supports South Africa’s overall recovery over the years to come.”
Group COO: Hospitality for Sun International, Graham Wood, agreed: “The road ahead will not be easy but we can now plan for the recovery of the hospitality and conferencing segments of our business. This is especially important for our key properties such as The Palace, Sun City; The Table Bay Hotel; The Maslow, Sandton; the Wild Coast Sun and The Boardwalk.”
He added that the move to level 1 lockdown restrictions was a relief as this gave greater clarity to the industry.
Business events stakeholders and members of SAACI, who have seen their livelihoods threatened or lost because of the COVID-19 lockdown, viewed the announcement as “positive proof” that the Government had been listening to SAACI and its sector partners in understanding that it could open safely, said Kim Roberts, SAACI National Chairperson.
“We urge our members and the wider sector to ensure that we operate in a COVID-secure way. It will be imperative that the sector follows the Event Safety Re-Opening Guidelines that we have worked with the Events Safety Council and used successfully in our July 2020 Proof of Concept event under Level 3.”
What’s the value of this sector in SA?
According to the SA Events Council (SAEC) – a formal body that comprises a collaboration of 12 industry associations that represent the Meetings, Incentives, Conference and Exhibitions events and business events industry – about half a million people are employed through the associated and related economic activity.
“This industry contributed 11.4% of foreign tourism in 2019. That same year, South Africa hosted 103 international association meetings, of which 57 were held in Cape Town and the Western Cape,” said Tes Proos, Chairperson of SAEC.
She said, on average, Cape Town hosted 20 227 international delegates during the year and in South Africa, a total of 39 579 international delegates, culminating in an estimated economic impact of international association meetings of R905m (€46.7m) for the year.
“Exhibitions then add R24m (€1.2m) to business tourism, which creates 35 000 jobs directly, and R40bn (€2bn) in business deals concluded at trade shows.”
To date, 100% of exhibitions and events have been postponed from 2020 to 2021 and even 2022, representing R68bn (€3.5bn) of lost economic impact for the South African economy in 2020, which, critically, comes with a devastating loss of employment.
What level 1 means for business travel, meetings and events
The move to alert level 1 will mean a further easing of restrictions on gatherings and international travel into and out of South Africa for business, leisure and other travel, with effect from October 1.
- Social, religious, political and other gatherings will be permitted, as long as the number of people does not exceed 50% of the normal capacity of a venue, up to a maximum of 250 people for indoor gatherings and 500 people for outdoor gatherings.
- Health protocols, such as washing or sanitising of hands, social distancing and mask wearing, will need to be strictly observed. Members are encouraged to ensure that the Events Safety Re-Opening guidelines are used when planning an event.
- Venues for exercise, recreation and entertainment – such as gyms and theatres – which were limited to no more than 50 people, will now be allowed to accommodate up to 50% of their venue’s capacity as determined by available floor space, subject to social distancing and other health protocols.