If you want to host a mega conference without the logistical hassle or fuss, alongside breath-taking scenery and in world-class facilities then South Africa should be your destination of choice.
Over the last 20 years we have hosted more than 1 038 international conferences and 118 meetings and have done so by adhering to the criteria of the International Congress and Convention Association (ICCA).
These events have been hosted to the highest standards, earning us a reputation as one of the most popular business tourism destinations in the world.
As gracious hosts we demonstrated our capabilities in transport, accommodation, safety and security, smooth immigration procedures and an abundance of leisure activities.
This is reflected in South Africa climbing three positions in the ICCA 2013 ranking of business tourism destinations to 34th place. Cape Town and Durban are now rated as Africa’s top two cities for meetings and events.
Our successes in the business tourism sector were no easy feat. Apartheid had turned the country into an international pariah, excluded from holding international events.
At the end of apartheid the country’s business tourism sector was underdeveloped with only a few small-scale facilities catering for the local market. In 1994 South Africa had no international convention centres.
Government together with our partners in the tourism sector began to steadily develop the industry. Understanding its job creation and economic potential, we adopted a national strategy and worked on raising our profile as a destination of choice.
Minister of Tourism Derek Hanekom said: “It should therefore come as no surprise that the South African government remains fully supportive of the business events industry and well recognises the impact that it continues to have on the economy.”
He added: “In fact we have every reason to be thrilled about the impact of business events on attracting foreign direct spend and investment, creating jobs and positively shaping perceptions about our destination around the world.”
The ICCA meetings hosted last year contributed around R1.2 billion to the country’s economy. The 200 000 delegates who attended these meetings further contributed R6 billion.
Tourism in general remains one of South Africa’s biggest success stories with international tourist arrivals reaching a high of 9.6 million tourists in 2013. In 2012 it contributed R93 billion to gross domestic product and created 1.4 million jobs.
Today South Africa boasts more than 2 598 world-class meeting and conference facilities. Our flagship venues include the Inkosi Albert Luthuli International Convention Centre in Durban, the Sandton Convention Centre and the Cape Town International Convention Centre.
Business tourism remains an important tourism growth area. Business travellers are known to spend on average three times more than their leisure counterparts and frequently cross over into leisure travel. About 40 per cent of business delegates to South Africa have returned on recreational visits.
It also offers huge exposure and a successful conference adds currency to our reputation. During the Climate Change Conference in 2011 we earned the United Nation’s acclaim, not only for the manner in which we arranged the event but also for our leadership towards a successful resolution.
South Africa facilitated the stand-off between developed and developing nations towards a credible response to climate change. We also seamlessly provided for 135 000 hotel rooms, prepared 405 000 meals and 50 000 metered taxi trips.
Our other successes include hosting the World Summit on Sustainable Development in 2003 and the International AIDS Conference in 2000. We have the privilege to again host the International AIDS Conference along with its estimated 20 000 delegates in Durban in 2016.
Government will use the opportunity to share how our nationwide rollout and availability of antiretroviral drugs has given hope to millions of South Africans to continue living healthy and productive lives.
More recently we hosted the 123rd session of the International Olympic Organising Committee in 2011, the 5th BRICS Summit and the World Congress on Intensive and Critical Care Medicine in 2013 with a total of 10 000 delegates.
While our credentials as a major events host are firmly established, there are enormous opportunities as the global meeting and conference market hosts around 10 000 events a year.
To further our gains, government has established the South African National Convention Bureau to sharpen our competitiveness and support our work to become the world’s preferred business event destination.
If you are a local organisation or business, thinking of where to next to hold your conferences you need not look any further than your own doorstep. In supporting our home-grown conference and meeting sector, we must all play our part to move our business tourism and our country forward.