South Africa has secured 177 major international association meetings for the next five years, Tourism Minister Derek Hanekom said at the opening of Meetings Africa 2015 at the Sandton Convention Centre in Johannesburg, Tuesday.
He added that business meetings were big business in South Africa and would attract a quarter of a million delegates with an estimated economic impact of R3.5 billion ($305 million).
Meetings Africa highlights the diverse offering of services and products where African associations and African meetings industry professionals can partner to help transform the continent.
“Meetings Africa celebrates its tenth anniversary this year,” Hanekom said.
“In these ten years, the African business events industry has emerged from obscurity to become one of the most exciting sub-sectors on our continent’s tourism landscape. We have demonstrated that we can function well – in fact, very well – in a market that demands accessible, professional, value for money business event products and services,” he said.
Hanekom pointed to South Africa’s success in hosting globally strategic events such as the 17th Conference of the Parties (COP17) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) – also known as COP17 – in 2011, and the BRICS Summit in 2013.
Both were hosted by the city of Durban.
Such venues have contributed positively to tourism growth and job creation. According to research conducted by the National Convention Bureau, 40 per cent of all convention delegates attending meetings in South Africa return in the next five years as tourists, boosting tourism growth and job creation years into the future.
“As such, business events and major conventions have become important components of the economy and our plans to achieve the ambitions outlined in the National Development Plan,” he added.
Tourism South Africa estimates that the business to be generated by the 184 qualified buyers at Meetings Africa this year could bring 54,000 convention delegates which would generate nearly R1 billion ($87 million) in revenue in the next two years.
Hanekom said South Africa is making a major push to win business from its BRICS partners as two of the three top source markets for qualified buyers at Meetings Africa this year are China and India, while North America is the other top source market.
“Business events and conventions are catalysts for new thinking and competitiveness; they connect the best minds to spur innovation; they create platforms to collaboratively solve common global problems; and they create people-to-people connections that advance the cause of our common humanity. The legacy impact of business events extends far beyond its number value,” the tourism minister said.
After hosting the Rugby World Cup in 1995, the Cricket World Cup in 2003 and the Soccer World Cup in 2010, South Africa is now turning its attention to hosting more academic and professional association meetings.
It has been selected to host the world’s largest radio astronomy telescope, the Square Kilometer Array (SKA).
“SKA has attracted the brightest minds in astronomy, physics and computing as we push the boundaries of science,” the former Minister of Science and Technology said.
By Helmo Preuss for The BRICS Post in Johannesburg, South Africa