Meetings Africa has enjoyed its busiest year yet as Johannesburg’s Sandton Convention Centre played host to the who’s who of business travel.
Scores of exhibitors, buyers, tourists and journalists attended the three-day exhibition in Joburg, Africa’s business capital.
Meetings Africa targets the business tourism industry, serving as a platform to market brands and countries. It aims to expose local and international buyers to the range of services and products in southern Africa’s MICE industry.
Lindiwe Kwele, chief executive of the Johannesburg Tourism Council, said the conference would serve as a platform to promote some of Joburg’s recent developments, especially in the inner city. “We want to give people an authentic Joburg experience.”
The exhibition is focused on increasing the number of corporate visitors, while building strong networks and educational platforms and enriching the international hosted buyer programme.
“For us it is about entrenching Joburg as Africa’s premiere business and lifestyle destination. But ultimately, it’s about retaining and growing the market share; we are very excited and things are looking good,” she said.
(Meeting of Minds: Minister of Tourism Marthinus Van Schalkwyk and Premier Hotels & Resorts MD Samuel Nassimov at Meetings Africa in Sandton)
Exhibitors included tourism authorities, conference hotels and accommodation providers, event management specialists, transportation companies, luxury trains, and cruise liners, to mention a few.
At the opening address, Tourism Minister Marthinus van Schalkwyk said the exhibition was pivotal in growing South Africa’s economy.
He said: “It is clear business tourism has been bolstered by a new sense of energy and direction and I believe this will make a significant contribution to consolidating our continent’s position in the global arena and demonstrate our capabilities in terms of hosting international events.”
Inside the convention centre, the welcome party included singers draped in colourful African traditional garb, singing soothing African melodies; dancers, mascots, drummers, harp and marimba players also entertained visitors.
Joburg’s head of economic development, Jason Ngobeni, said the impact of the conference on the city economy was “huge”. Joburg was looking into leveraging this market to grow its economy, promote various attractions and get tourists to increase their stay and expenditure.
He said the conference was a good platform to promote Joburg as a destination for investment. “We have a suite of everything, from leisure to world class infrastructure, and we have a lot to offer.”
Joburg’s major competitive advantage is its international recognition as the business and commercial capital of the continent. Given its accessibility by air and that 75 percent of corporate headquarters are based in the city, Johannesburg’s success as a tourism destination pivots on business.
South Africa now ranks 28th in the world as a business and conference destination - with over 200 international conferences destined for the country in 2011.