Meetings Africa 2022 presents an opportunity to collectively review and realign the African business events industry – one that embraces the increasing interconnectedness of trade and tourism.
So said Minister of Tourism, Lindiwe Sisulu, when she officially rang the bell and opened the 16th Meetings Africa event yesterday (Tuesday, March 1).
“Opening trade corridors across the continent must also open pathways for intra-African tourism to thrive, and vice versa. It is us – the African business events sector – that have to be intentional and strategic in ensuring that we leverage this mutual benefit between trade and tourism,” she said.
A total of 161 global buyers and 216 exhibitors from 13 African countries attended the flagship event of the South African National Conventions Bureau (SANCB) which concluded at the Sandton Convention Centre today (Wednesday, March 2).
Sisulu added that the business events industry accelerated progress as it was a platform for sharing information and collective engagement. “This, in turn, results in innovation and re-invention, which are key for economic and professional development and advancement.”
‘In competition, but also co-operation’
Amanda Kotze-Nhlapo, SANCB Chief Conventions Bureau Officer, said Meetings Africa would play a key part in the business travel sector’s recovery as it had reintroduced international buyers to Africa.
“Platforms like these allow us to come together as Africa. In our sector, while we are in competition, we are also in co-operation. And then, of course, we need to build on our brand together, go out there and tell the world that Africa is ready.”
She pointed out that the business events industry was the catalyst to get the world to open up its borders again. “After two years of shutting our imaginary national borders to each other, now is the time to allow for a freedom of movement. Sharing minds and economies does not mean we sit behind our desks and stare at each other through screens. It means being able to travel from one place to another freely so as to create and grow relationships.”
Exhibitors told Tourism Update that the quality of buyers had been high at this year’s event and that they had secured several business deals over the past two days,
“The positive outlook for international conferences has been entrenched with our presence at Meetings Africa, with many buyers expressing further interest in hosting conferences in KwaZulu Natal,” said Sonto Mayise, GM: Durban KZN Convention Bureau.
Equally upbeat was CEO of Eastern Cape Parks and Tourism Agency, Vuyani Dayiwane. “We are looking forward to ramping up our business events offering as leisure tourism on its own during the COVID-19 pandemic has not been sustainable.”
Dayiwane said he welcomed the Department of Tourism and South African Tourism leading from the front to highlight how an event like this could safely be held.
“Meetings Africa 2022 has been the perfect showcase to highlight to buyers what can be achieved in the corporate and meetings space,” he said.
Chris Munyao, GM of Business Events East Africa – who was exhibiting on the Rwanda stand – told Tourism Update that Rwanda was one of the first countries to sign up as an exhibitor. “We knew it would be on a smaller scale this year but we also knew we needed to have a presence at this event and show the world that Africa was open for business.”