Tourism Minister Tokozile Xasa says the International Congress and Convention Association (ICCA) continues to rank South Africa as the top business events destination in Africa and the Middle East.
“We are also one of the world’s top 10 long-haul destinations for hosting international meetings and conferences,” the Minister said.
Speaking at the 2017 Southern Africa Association for the Conference Industry (SAACI) Congress in Pretoria, Minister Xasa said South Africa hosts about one million business delegates every year and that the average business traveller spends seven days in South Africa, with five of the days being spent attending a business event.
“Hosting more major international business conferences will also help develop our intellectual capital and position us as a world-leading knowledge economy,” the Minister said.
In 2016, South Africa hosted 17 more international and regional association conferences than in 2015, bringing the total to 125 ICCA recognised conferences.
“These conferences generate a direct economic benefit for our country, which includes what delegates spend on hotel accommodation, food and beverages, and souvenirs.
“There is an indirect benefit as well. The business event delegates that we host annually return home to sell our country to others by word of mouth, and indeed, many will return here on holiday and some may consider investing in South Africa,” Minister Xasa said.
Minister Xasa said return visits are dependent on the country providing quality services and products to tourists.
“It’s clear that our position as a magnet for business events is certainly strong, but it is a position that we need to vigorously defend and improve on.”
The Minister said government would like to see more of South Africa’s smaller towns and cities bidding for smaller meetings, where they can meet the hosting requirements.
“This will help to improve the geographic distribution of tourism beyond the major centres, and spread the wealth generated by these events more equitably.
“Our challenge is to shift more and more of our national and international business events to our smaller towns, so that we spread the benefits geographically across all regions of our country.”
Government is firmly committed to growing South Africa’s business events industry, as South Africa aims to attract five million additional tourists within the next five years.
“Equally, we are committed to nurturing the tourism economy in such a way that promotes inclusive growth and industry transformation, so that previously disadvantaged players are empowered and brought into the mix in a meaningful manner.
“As such, we are constantly striving to find creative ways to support sustainable tourism jobs by offering training programmes for chefs, sommeliers and many other entry level careers in the hospitality sector,” Minister Xasa said.
The National Convention Bureau, in partnership with the Department’s Tourism Incentive Programme, subsidised more than 35 SMEs to exhibit at international trade shows over the past two years.
In 2016, International and Regional Association meetings were held in Rustenburg, Ladysmith, Mbombela, Phalaborwa, Skukuza, Bloemfontein, Somerset West and Stellenbosch.