Incentive travel accounts for the highest per head spend, and is the fastest growing sector within the Business Events industry, according to a global study by the Events Industry Council.

The study shows that incentives make up 6.1% of the MICE sector by volume, but 6.7% of per-head spend. And while the business events sector grew by 19% over the past four years, the incentive sector grew by 22.3%.

This is something that the Convention Bureau at SA Tourism has identified to help the country reach its tourism arrivals goals.

Amanda Kotze-Nhlapo, Chief Convention Bureau Officer, says the incentive industry in South Africa is well established, with award-winning DMCs and many up-and-coming small businesses establishing themselves in the sector. “The Tourism Incentive Programme is providing these SMMEs with valuable market access platforms at international business events, where incentive buyers source partners and service providers for the programme.” Kotze-Nhlapo adds that a large percentage of the hosted buyers for Meetings Africa’s buyers programme are incentive buyers, demonstrating the importance that the country and the South Africa National Convention Bureau are placing on this sector to contribute to economic development and tourism arrivals.

The National Convention Bureau has also identified six sectors that it is focusing on to help grow the economy, and provide leads for incentive bids. The sectors are: Business process outsourcing, manufacturing, creative industries (such as film, music, and crafts), information and communication technology, mining and metals, and life sciences, and the NCB believes that by targeting these sectors it will not just improve the tourist arrival numbers, but investment and social development as well.

And while the South African tourism industry battles a tough economy, incentive travel seems to be performing well.

“Despite the economic crunch, incentive travel is booming across South Africa and is proving to be quite lucrative for the travel industry,” says Wesgro. “To date, in our 2019 fiscal we have seen a welcoming increase of enquiries from the US, followed by India and Europe. The sudden increase in enquiries from the US market alludes to the mass advertising and the launch of the new direct flight from the US to Cape Town, starting in December.”

 “We have an unbeatable product,” says Daryl Keywood, MD of Walthers DBS. “We offer bucket-list experiences, great quality and good value, combined with an ease of communication in English, and warm, friendly people.” According to Keywood, Cape Town and safaris still rank at the very top of the incentive ladder, with incentive programmes to South Africa winning a significant portion of SITE’s (the Society for Incentive Travel Excellence) Crystal Awards. “We absolutely punch above our weight category when it comes to incentive travel.

“When looking at lead generation through the Cape Town and Western Cape Convention Bureau, we noticed that in our previous three fiscals (2016-2018) South East Asia and India tended to be the two most dominant markets,” he says, pointing out that Southeast Asia proved less sensitive to the water issues in Cape Town. “To date in our 2019 fiscal we have seen a welcoming increase of enquiries from the USA, followed by India and Europe. The sudden increase in enquiries from the US market could allude to the mass advertising and launch of the new direct flight route from the US to Cape Town, which begins in December.”