Associations take centre stage at Meetings Africa

Industry leaders at Meetings Africa 2016 have acknowledged the importance of attracting association meetings to the region.

Commenting on the positive impact of association meetings, president of the International Congress and Convention Association (ICCA) Nina Freysen-Pretorius said: “The hosting of association meetings within a destination serves to expose international participants of that conference to the destination and the related meeting and tourism products.”

Chief Convention Bureau Officer at the South Africa National Convention Bureau Amanda Kotze-Nhlapo told media that sluggish international markets would create more opportunities for business events in South Africa, particularly in regard to association business.

“If we play our cards right, the low value of the Rand has to enable us to have significant quick wins. South Africa is an excellent value-for-money destination and we simply have to capitalise on this fact.

“Of the approximate 700 international associations in Africa, only 280 are really active. Where are the rest? How do we tap into this market? It is time for us to look ‘inside’ and identify opportunities to bring delegates to Africa – not only for conferences and meetings, but also for major tradeshows," she said.

Now in its 11th year, Meetings Africa 2016 is said to be the largest show yet hosting 58 exhibitors from across 15 African countries and some 250 hosted buyers at Johannesburg’s Sandton Convention Centre.

Speaking at the show’s opening ceremony, Deputy Minister of Tourism Derek Hanekon said: “Over the last two decades tourism has grown phenomenally in South Africa, from around four million international arrivals in 1994 to just under nine million in 2015. This growth represents opportunities for our people to get jobs, opportunities for entrepreneurs, and opportunities for communities to join the tourism value chain.”

Exhibitors include eight African tourism boards, airlines, destination marketers, hotels, convention bureaus, event services and venues from across the continent including South African Airways, Johannesburg Convention Bureau, Mozambique Tourism and safari lodges and resorts throughout east Africa. 

For event organisers coming from outside of Africa, Kotze- Nhlapo said that perception of South Africa as a business events destination remains a drawback, though she says this is improving.

“South Africa has hosted some of the biggest meetings and events in the world, and still some negative perceptions exist. Yet, when we meet first-time visitors, their perceptions are changed immediately. When they see it, they but it! I truly believe that when people touch the soil of Africa, they are a changed person forever.”

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