Meetings Africa’s growing impact on business tourism

SCC welcomes Meetings Africa 2020.jpg

Meetings Africa is having an increasing impact on business tourism in South Africa and into many other African countries, according to Shaun Bird, GM of Sandton Convention Centre, proud host to the continent’s leading meetings industry event.

This year, Meetings Africa (from 24 to 26 February) celebrates its 15th anniversary and Sandton Convention Centre (SCC) celebrates 20 years of excellent service to the events industry.

“Meetings Africa has always held a special place in our heart because it’s so focused on the meetings industry, and we consider ourselves to be leaders in the industry. Our congratulations to the event on its consistent excellence as the showcase of Africa’s meetings industry.”

He says that an event highlight, certainly since he joined SCC in 2016, has been the impressive growth of Meetings Africa, specifically in terms of the number of meetings and the number of hosted buyers. “Over and above that, we have seen a marked improvement in the quality of buyers attending the event, which has contributed to a business tourism in South Africa and further into Africa.” He gives credit to SA National Conventions Bureau, SA Tourism, and other participating organisations for the increase in the number and quality of hosted buyers, as well as for the opportunity for SCC to hold its own hosted buyers event to showcase the venue and Tsogo Sun Hotels properties in Sandton.

Meetings Africa stated in 2018 that the business tourism industry contributed a remarkable R115 billion to the country’s economy, highlighting the fact that business tourists spend more overall than leisure tourists. Globally there are more than 300 million business travellers annually, with Africa attracting only 58 million – and increasing Africa’s share will be a key focus of Meetings Africa 2020.

Other Meetings Africa highlights include the range of activities and activations, as well as the sheer entertainment and great networking opportunities that the event brings among hosted buyers and peers, other conference and convention centres, professional conference organisers, and everyone involved in the industry.

He believes that what makes Sandton Convention Centre and Meetings Africa such a good match is more than just the ideal location in the heart of South Africa’s business hub. “Everything here can happen almost under one roof. We have world-class facilities and services, venues of all sizes, and accommodation right here at InterContinental Johannesburg Sandton Towers, Sandton Sun, and Garden Court Sandton City – providing convenient space for all activities and interactions.”

His message to Meetings Africa participants, delegates and buyers is in line with both Amanda Kotze-Nhlapo’s (the Chief Conventions Bureau Officer) and Minister of Tourism, Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane’s. “We’d like the global business tourism industry to recognise that South Africa is open for business. We might have challenges, but at the end of the day, business will be done in South Africa – we’re hard-working, we thrive under adversity, and we pay attention to detail. We pride ourselves on how far we’ve come and how much we’ve achieved. Business is here to be done – not only to benefit the sector in South Africa, but also through to the social fabric of the country.”

Sandton Convention Centre is facing a strong year ahead, which Bird attributes largely to “the way we do business. We have focused on encouraging flexibility, listening to our clients, and sharing ideas. Clients have been willing to engage with us and experiment, and our approach is paying dividends. One example is in the financial services sector; we host a large number of events for industry service providers each year, and they have all been willing to take their events to the next level.

“This has all contributed to our building a solid reputation for listening to clients’ needs and being flexible, and ensuring that their events are successful and unique.”

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