African destinations must work together to open the skies – Marthinus van Schalkwyk

Continental collaboration will unlock huge potential of the business tourism industry, Minister tells Meetings Africa 2013 Business events has potential to contribute more than R2.6 billion to GDP over the next five years

Meetings Africa 2013 opened at the Sandton Convention Centre in Johannesburg, South Africa this morning with a strong message from National Tourism Minister, Mr. Marthinus van Schalkwyk that there is a great, untapped potential for the regional business events industry. Minister van Schalkwyk also said that this potential would best be realised through partnerships and through working together to make Africa the world’s favourite conferences, meetings, incentives and exhibitions destination.

Advancing Africa Together is the theme of Meetings Africa 2013. It’s a theme that has been given substance in a greater contingent of African exhibitors at Meetings Africa this year; in an African Association Day as a special event feature of Meetings Africa 2013. This theme has also been carried through in the fresh resolve by the sector to make optimal use of the valuable business platform that Meetings Africa 2013 offers to negotiate, to partner and to do business.

Hosted by the South African National Convention Bureau (SANCB), in partnership with Gauteng province and the City of Johannesburg, Meetings Africa 2013 brings together under one roof the very best of the country’s business events products, services, experts and facilities needed to stage an international meeting and business event of any size and stature.

Global business event buyer numbers have grown by about 70 percent on last year’s numbers – evidence that the South African business event offering – its capability, excellent service levels, superb infrastructure, and warmly hospitable culture – has caught the world’s imagination. Almost 350 international, regional and local qualified buyers are in attendance at Meetings Africa 2013. They have been vetted by an international agency that serves other international business event exhibitions.

Minister Van Schalkwyk told delegates at the Opening Ceremony that under the SANCB’s growth strategy, a number of events had already been secured for South Africa over the next few years.

The SANCB and its destination partners have secured 87 new association meetings for 2013 to 2017 with a total contribution of over R 2, 6 billion to the economy. In 2013 alone, 38 secured association meetings will bring more than 57 thousand delegates to South Africa that will contribute R680 million to our economy.

“South Africa has achieved much,” the Minister said. “But we can do better, especially as a region to grow our share of the global market in business events. The truth is that we have only just started to realise our potential as a business events destination.”

Minister van Schalkwyk also highlighted that the business events industry has a huge impact and influence on the country’s macro-economy as it –

  • stimulates international markets for locally produced goods and services;
  • builds business contacts, trade and research links; and
  • creates access to new technologies, new ideas and new professional networks. It is indispensable if we want to compete in the prevailing knowledge economy.

“We know that the real, rich potential for growth and for unlocking the lucrative value that the market offers will be best realised if we unite as destinations across the continent and across the region to give the world one irresistible offering for business events: the beauty and capability of a pan-African destination.”

Minister Van Schalkwyk added that whilst competition between regional destinations was – and always would be – a good thing, collaboration across the African region would bring major influence and major benefits for the continent.

Africa needs to support itself first: rotating meetings and conferences at home, between neighbouring states to boost the global rankings of all African nations. African needs to invest across borders in capability, in infrastructure, in knowledge sharing and idea pooling. And African destinations need to work together to open the skies and airlift into the continent and to ease visa applications to make Africa accessible and easy to visit.

Minister van Schalkwyk congratulated the South African Convention Bureau on an excellent first year. When the entity was officially launched at Meetings Africa last year, he said, it announced a bold and ambitious growth strategy. Hard work and collaboration had borne fruit, he said.

SANCB has laid a firm foundation for a bidding strategy that had already shown results. And the Win as One strategy that it had taken to the larger industry had pledged everyone to a common goal and a united vision for the destination.

“This Meetings Africa, that extends that vision and that strategy, gives all delegates, and the entire regional industry, a valuable opportunity to push forward in our quest to make southern Africa the world’s first choice destination for conferences, events, meetings and incentives. It’s a prize that’s waiting to be claimed. And it’s up to us to go out and get it,” Minister Van Schalkwyk concluded.

Author: Muzi Mohale

Hi there, am your host and I blog about the tourism industry in South Africa. You're also welcome to contribute your expert content on matters affecting the industry. You can reach me on muzi[at]

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