Meetings Africa 2015, which recently celebrated its 10th anniversary, is expected to bring around 54,000 convention delegates generating a revenue of R one billion in the next two years By Rituparna Chatterjee
The business travel, meetings and events industry continues to evolve and so does Africa. In recent years, Africa has been able to establish itself as one of the most sought after business events destinations in the world. Meetings Africa, a business events trade show, has been showcasing Africa’s diverse offering of products and services, and providing a platform to African associations and African meetings industry professionals to network and partner. Since the first Meetings Africa in 2005, South Africa has seen significant investment in its business events infrastructure including the opening and expansion of a number of convention centres. It has also seen the establishment of the South African National Convention Bureau (SANCB) in 2012, setup to attract more business events to the country. This year, Meetings Africa 2015 celebrated its 10th anniversary and was held at Sandton Convention Centre, Johannesburg from February 23-25, 2015. Meetings Africa 2015 opened with an interesting line-up of events on the Business Opportunities Networking Day (BOND Day), which offers meetings, workshops and seminars to empower delegates with information, skills and networking opportunities. This year’s events held on the BOND Day included – Event Greening Forum AGM and Conference; Council of Event Professionals (CEP) Africa Summit; IMEX-MPI-MCI Future Leader Forum Africa wherein tourism students representing tertiary institutions from the Tourism Educators South Africa competed for the international university challenge; AIPC Africa Summit; and Association Day (in collaboration with ICCA).
This year’s Event Greening Forum Conference at Meetings Africa 2015 highlighted the need for hosting sustainable business events to reduce environmental impact. Emilie Hagedoorn, sales manager, Fair Trade Tourism, spoke on the need for making sustainable choices like creating sustainably conscious conference packages, hosting business events at sustainably designed venues, being selective about the choice of suppliers, sourcing local vegetables, using bottles for branding, getting guests involved by creating awareness, among some. While Geoffrey Shute, managing director and event master, Event Masters advised the audience to replace traditional energy systems with sustainable ones. “Event managers have to look at sustainable energy, which is essentially using power derived from sources which are not going to run out. We need to make intelligent choices. For instance, nine hours of meetings with traditional devices would use upto 30,000 watt hours. The solution would be to use LED lightings and appliances, etc which will consume less than 3000 watt hours per day, thereby reducing power consumption by almost 90 per cent.” ‘Going green – Saving or Luxury’, addressed the challenges of running an eco-friendly hotel. “Four years ago we heated our solar farm, invested in water cycling, etc. We have new projects coming up like PV panels, geothermal energy, biogas digesters, etc,” mentioned JP Valverde, owner, Valverde Eco Hotel. The conference also highlighted the significance of ISO 20121:2012 which specifies requirements for an event sustainability management system for any type of event or event related activity, and provides guidance on conforming to those requirements.
Another highlight of the BOND Day was the CEP Africa Summit – Advancing Africa together with Exhibition and Event Association of Southern Africa (EXSA), International Festivals and Events Association (IFEA) Africa, Southern African Association for the Conference Industry (SAACI) and Society for Incentive Travel Excellence (SITE). CEP Africa is currently looking at introducing three certifications such as event director, event manager and event coordinator. This year’s CEP Africa summit witnessed participation from 11 speakers representing IFEA Africa, The Global Association of the Exhibition Industry (UFI), SITE, SAACI, Tourism Business Council of South Africa (TBCSA), International Congress and Convention Association (ICCA), South African Airways, Botswana Tourism, Nigeria Tourism, Zimbabwe Tourism, and Arc International.
The second day witnessed the inauguration of Meeting Africa 2015 by Derek Hanekom, minister of tourism, South Africa, who spoke on the future potential of the business events sector in the country. “The African business events sector has grown from obscurity to becoming a promising sub-sector hosting global business events which have contributed to job creation and to the country’s tourism growth. South Africa will be hosting 177 major international association meetings for the next five years thereby attracting a quarter of a million delegates with an estimated economic impact of R 3.5 billion. The 184 hosted buyers at Meetings Africa 2015 is expected to bring around 54,000 convention delegates generating an expected revenue of R one billion in the next two years. Moreover, 40 per cent of conference delegates to South Africa return in the next five years as tourists,” stated Hanekom adding that 60 per cent of the qualified buyers at this year’s event are from India, USA and Canada, and China, which are South Africa’s major source markets.
Rapidly improving infrastructure and accessibility are some of the major reasons for the growth of the business events sector in South Africa. Speaking on the list of international events lined up this year, Ruby Mathang, economic development, member of the Mayoral Committee, Johannesburg opined, “Meetings Africa is a great platform to unlock the economic potential of the entire continent. Johannesburg is a world-class event destination. We have a calendar full of international events lined up like a summit on health and ageing, while another event is expected to host around 5000 delegates, these are just to name a few. South Africa is focused on increasing visitor arrivals and spend.” The opening ceremony was followed by the Global Media Face Off which highlighted ways by which this particular sector can be grown like easening the VISA process, building up on content, outcome and legacy being created by the previous events, to name a few.
At the end of the second day a gala dinner was hosted for stakeholders and exhibitors of Africa’s business events sector at Sandton Convention Centre to celebrate 10 years of Meetings Africa. Gracing this occasion was Hanekom along with Thulani Nzima, CEO, South African Tourism. Speaking at the occasion, Hanekom opined that South Africa is bullish about the future of the business events sector. The final day of Meetings Africa 2015 concluded with the Local Corporate Buyer Event hosted by Unique Speakers Bureau (USB), a corporate B2B speed marketing session, and the Green Stand Awards.