Barefoot Clients Newsletter

This week: guest writer and tourism communications consultant Jacques Maritz went to last week’s Meetings Africa 2012 – and kindly agreed to  report back to my readers.

Fourth Annual Meetings Africa: huge success

Tourism Minister Marthinus van Schalkwyk opened Meetings Africa 2012 – which took place at Gauteng’s Sandton Convention Centre – by reminding us that, “Partnership is key to South Africa’s business tourism growth. 

Our country, he said, “has made great strides in elevating its big event host status and is fast becoming one of the world’s favourite destinations for big events, meetings, conferences and exhibitions.”

He also noted that South Africa plans to aggressively pursue a bigger share of the global business tourism market, and that the newly-established National Convention Bureau (NCB – which will be situated at South African Tourism) will be critical in harnessing national business tourism efforts.

Under the leadership of executive manager Amanda Kotze-Nhlapo, the NCB will open in April 2012 as a one-stop shop that will provide independent information, help, and neutral advice on all aspects of hosting and organising business tourism-related events in South Africa.

The NCB will co-ordinate national bidding, undertake research, and collaborate with national convention centres and the business tourism industry to present a united front for South Africa.

“The National Convention Bureau will add considerable value to the country’s business tourism industry,” said Minster van Schalkwyk.

“It will strengthen and support efforts already being made to drive expansion in business tourist arrivals to make South Africa a truly global force.”

He said that through the successes of major events like the 2010 FIFA World Cup and the United Nations’ COP 17 Climate Change Conference, South Africa has proven that it can do the job – and do it well – and that it is now well-placed to host meetings, incentive events, conferences and exhibitions.

In support of the MICE industry South Africa has, said the Minister, “World-class business and conference facilities complemented by excellent leisure tourism attractions, and hospitable, welcoming, skilled, and competent people.”

He announced that South Africa has already secured more 200 international conferences for the next five years – and that they are expected to attract around 300,000 delegates and boost the economy by more than R1.6bn.

The NCB also plans to support at least 30 bids during the 2012/13 financial year.

In contrast with Melbourne (at 23%), 40% of all delegates to conferences hosted in South Africa return as leisure visitors.
Meetings Africa is the country’s premier gathering of all the products and components of South Africa’s business tourism industry; it runs over four days at the end of February every year.

This year the event featured an Association Lekgotla; a corporate speed-dating session to introduce a variety of products to one another; a Presentation Theatre which hosted an array of expert speakers; and a series of educational workshops presented by the Southern African Association for the Conference Industry (SAACI).

According to the organisers, On Show Solutions, this year’s Meetings Africa was the most successful to date: it drew 3,452 delegates (a 20% improvement on 2011); 205 international buyers and visitors (up from 106 in 2011); and 37 international journalists (up from 22 last year).

Adding to the success this year was the fact that 8,906 meetings were requested during the show (up from 7,387 last year) – most of which were logged through the event’s business matchmaking electronic diary system, which allowed participants – all listed according to company profile and business category – to set up and plan appointments in advance.

The system also served as a way of matching exhibitors with buyers as simply as possible. As Minister van Schalkwyk said: “I heard that Meetings Africa offered speed-dating services, which I thought would increase numbers … I then realised that it referred to corporate speed-dating services.”

South African Tourism CEO, Thulani Nzima, said that the numbers show that, “There is keen interest in destination South Africa and bodes extremely well for our plans to grow business tourist arrivals, entrench our status as Africa’s leading business tourism destination and increase our share in the global business tourism market.”

Presentations which took place during the event ranged from Simon Gear on the Environment, to Ryan Hogarth on ‘The Communication Revolution,’ and Cheryl Mulder Verbruggen on ‘Site Inspection – Make or Break’ (Cheryl is the new head of Western Cape Convention Bureau) – while I presented ‘The Media Landscape’ (a discussion on integrating traditional with new or online media) on the second day of the show.

Integrating your media strategy, and understanding how the mass media works and how to access it is, of course, a vital part of any tourism business.

One debate which received enormous attention was the panel discussion with the BRICS – Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa – about methods of reporting on event sustainability.

Sustainability and greening took centre stage at Meetings Africa this year, and the organisers did everything they could to ensure that the show was made as environmentally friendly as possible. They set a target of diverting 75% of all waste generated to reuse and recycling, and a variety of collection points and other initiatives were set up to achieve this aim; all bags and lanyards which they supplied were made out of recycled plastic bottles (and were then themselves recycled on the premises); while collection points enabled the recycling of unwanted brochures, branding, and stand building materials. Also, water coolers were placed at strategic points to discourage the purchase of plastic bottles. And, of course, a full audit of the eco-friendliness of the show will be carried out by the sustainability consultants at Steadfast Greening.

Meetings Africa left me with a distinctly positive feeling about the state of the MICE and events industry in South Africa.

Now let’s see what Indaba 2012 has to offer.

See you there?

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