Industry leaders in Mpumalanga, South Africa, believe that the province’s natural scenery and nature-based activities set it apart when it comes to hosting MICE.
“We play to our strengths to host intimate events or large outdoor events. We keep it nature based and interesting – we do not pretend to be a big city destination and we should not try. We are absolutely number-one with outdoor events. Nelspruit is, after all, marketed by us as ‘the Capital of Nature’,” COO of the Kruger Lowveld Chamber of Business and Tourism, Linda Grimbeek, told Tourism Update.
Grimbeek confirmed that there had been a steady increase in the province’s MICE sector, and even though the sector is not as big as it would like to be, people are increasingly discovering the area as a gem for events.
“Our niche market is smaller events (up to 500 people for conferencing) to give an intimate and unforgettable experience. We should not lose the spirit of Mpumalanga in the process [when bidding for big events], but that does not say we cannot do big events.”
She referred to the Afrikaans festival, Innibos, which typically attracts 50 000-plus people on the final night, and that it had hosted conferences for 3 000 people at the Mbombela Stadium, although they had to add a big tent. “Events are unlimited because you can really tailor-make to fit the exact needs of the event.”
Grimbeek said although Mpumalanga looked to attract international and domestic markets, she believed it was important to focus on domestic first, as international would follow.
“It takes a lot of money to bid on international events. I think we should focus on the SA clubs – hobby or special-interest clubs as well as sports of all kinds – and associations first and invite them to come, then build it up from there.
“I am hoping that a lot more funding will be made available to facilitate events in smaller economies and towns – like we have here. It is a great way to experience outdoor sports, all our cultures, all our cuisine and even our African games,” she said.
There are plenty of facilities in the province that cater for events and conferences, but there are also others such as Kruger Gate Hotel and ANEW’s four properties focused on business and leisure clients in the Mpumalanga area.
“We fortunately have the ability to not only cater for holidaymakers but also to those corporate companies who wish to escape the mundane city environment and rather connect with their teams and conference in the bush,” said CEO of Kruger Gate Hotel, Anton Gillis.
He said Kruger Gate Hotel, located on the banks of the Sabie River and bordering the Kruger National Park, had become well known for incentive trips, strategy meetings, corporate prize-givings, workshops and weddings.
“We offer small groups of up to ten people an exclusive Kruger experience that is ideal for private family or corporate team getaways in our Nkanyi Presidential Suite.”
The Nkanyi Presidential Suite and three adjoining Kruger suites provide upmarket accommodation and services for discerning travellers, and include a kitchen with a butler service for private dining occasions prepared by its top chefs.
For ANEW, each of its four properties offers unique attractions, catering for different trends, needs and requirements for both guests and clients.
“ANEW Resort Hazyview Kruger Park is particularly favoured due to its proximity to Kruger Park’s Phabeni Gate entrance, while ANEW Resort White River Mbombela appeals to sports groups. ANEW Hotel Highveld and ANEW Hotel Witbank – both in eMalahleni – tend to attract mining companies due to their prime location in this area. The uniqueness of Mpumalanga lies in the diverse offerings and caters for a wide range of preferences and needs,” said ANEW Hotels & Resorts’ Inland Regional Sales Manager, Naomi Bhuda.
She added that most groups expressed a strong interest in exploring local unique experiences in this region.
“At ANEW Resort White River Mbombela – previously known as Ingwenyama Conference and Sports Resort – there is the appeal for adventure tour operators such as Induna Adventures.”
The resort has a history of hosting notable events, including sports teams such as teams from the South African Premier Soccer League and the New Zealand National Rugby team.
ANEW Resort Hazyview Kruger Park is known for hosting government groups, utilising its resort set-up to offer an attractive experience. “Extensive refurbishments – which are still currently under way – have further enhanced the appeal of this perfectly located property,” said Bhuda.
ANEW Hotel Witbank, due to its larger capacity, regularly accommodates significant corporate events, and ANEW Resort Highveld, being a smaller property, typically caters for around 100 people, often hosting corporate events.