Business plan

Business events can boost the growth of African tourism

As the economy continues to move away from being resource-based, knowledge industries such as tourism will become more sophisticated and more important and while business travel accounts for only a quarter of the global tourism pie, its potential extends well beyond their current nominal contribution.

At the recent Meetings Africa 2018 conference, it was reported that business tourism contributes R115 billion to the South African economy, the overall contribution of the travel and tourism industry s amounting to R412.2 billion in 2017, or 9.4% of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP). .

According to a Statistics South Africa report, the tourism sector is a major job creator, employing over 686,000 people in 2016, outnumbering utilities (118,000) and mining (444,000). People working in tourism made up 4.4% of South Africa’s formal and informal workforce, up from 3.8% in 2015, and that figure continues to rise, with new President Cyril Ramaphosa targeting 700,000 jobs direct and indirect in the sector this year.

The tourism sector – a growing opportunity for all

New visitors to South Africa are often business people, who otherwise wouldn’t think of visiting a country so far south of the continent, and one, unfortunately, often covered in bad press. However, by gaining first-hand experience of the country, business travelers often find their preconceptions about the country strongly challenged, and major investment decisions can be made on the basis of a single visit – whether this investment either in a major work – creative project or on a family vacation.

Visitors are surprised to find that not only is South Africa a beautiful place to visit, but that its commercial centers of Johannesburg, Durban and Cape Town are also among the most sophisticated cities on the continent, with infrastructure that rivals and even surpass more developed countries. Their personal experience runs counter to media reports that portray Africa as a homogeneous, backward and violent place, home to the hungry and corrupt.

In this regard, business tourism is fundamental to the growth of African economies and Africa-focused business events need to be hosted in a more diverse range of locations in Africa and beyond to create a more even spread of the exhibition.

In the coming months, for example, South Africa will host a number of events in various sectors attracting experts from around the world. Africa must be marketed (and managed) as an easily accessible and safe destination to visit, which offers an incredible experience and is full of opportunities – not only for Africa-related conferences, but also for global conferences.

Most of these events, however, remain concentrated in the main business centers of Johannesburg and Cape Town.

Africa needs closer collaboration to develop its market

Sisa Ntshona, CEO of South African Tourism, told Meetings Africa 2018 that the key to the growth of the South African MICE sector was closer collaboration between nations to position Africa as a diverse yet integrated whole. The continent, and not just South Africa, has the facilities, infrastructure and expertise to host world-class conferences, coupled with a variety of unforgettable leisure activities.

While there may be practical reasons for Africa-focused events to be held in locations off the continent, wouldn’t it be great if influential world leaders had the chance to experience Africa up close? ? How would the air, sounds and people of Africa inspire economic and trade discussions that could affect the lives of millions of people living on the continent?

This means that more work needs to be done to attract more people to lesser-known towns and villages, not just in South Africa but across sub-Saharan Africa. The MICE industry is a great opportunity to show the diversity of the landscape, cultures and especially its trade and industry to a very influential audience.