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Business tourism is big business, and it is a market Joburg is vigorously pursuing at the continent’s biggest business tourism trade show.
BUYERS from around the world and exhibitors from across Africa descended on the Sandton Convention Centre on 28 February to usher in the start of Meetings Africa, the continent’s biggest business tourism trade show.

JTC CEO Xolela MangcuActing JTC CEO Phelisa MangcuTourism Minister Marthinus van Schalkwyk officially opened the conference, which runs until 1 March. “It is wonderful to be part of this initiative,” he said. “My first Meetings Africa was six or seven years ago, and it was very different now than it was then.”

It had grown exponentially over the years to encompass over 200 international buyers from all over Europe and Africa, he said. Meetings Africa is South African Tourism’s platform to highlight the services and products on offer in the meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions (Mice) industry.

Exhibitors range from tourism authorities and convention and visitor bureaux, to conference and accommodation providers.

Van Schalkwyk announced that in the first three months of this year, the three major metropolitan centres – Johannesburg, Cape Town and Durban – had secured over 50 conferences. In the next five years, these cities would host over 200 conferences.

“This will translate into approximately 300 000 delegates and R1,6-billion being injected into the economy, which is very impressive,” he said. “There is an enormous potential for tourism and business tourism in South Africa: good infrastructure, skilled, welcoming people and good leisure tourism facilities. We have it all.”

It was precisely because there was so much to offer that the national government invested so much in the industry; this year alone R800-million had been invested in tourism.

Visitors at the JTC stand Visitors at the JTC stand Van Schalkwyk wished all participants a productive few days, and all South African exhibitors he wished good hunting. “This is the platform we have given you to find new business.”

South Africa is perfectly positioned to host visitors, and Johannesburg, as the country’s economic hub, is an ideal host city for business and leisure tourists. The acting chief executive officer of Johannesburg Tourism Company (JTC), Phelisa Mangcu, was eager to use Meetings Africa as a platform to sell Joburg.

“As destination Joburg, we are home to over 70 percent of company headquarters in the country,” she said. “We have the largest infrastructure for hosting, with four major conference centres and many smaller ones.”

She explained that Meetings Africa was a chance to publicise all that Joburg had on offer. “We want to make sure we have access to buyers and to meet them personally so we can say ‘We have everything you need’.

“We want to make Joburg not just a gateway to the country, but a destination.”

The JTC’s involvement in Meetings Africa this year focuses mainly on the City’s green credentials and bids secured by the company’s conventions and events bureau for the next few years.

For instance, Joburg has secured the bid to host the One Young World conference in 2013. “We are competing with other destinations, which indicates we can compete on a global level,” she said.

Green convention
In terms of green credentials, Joburg can boast of a number of initiatives and projects. These include being the only South African city that is part of the C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group. C40 is a network of cities dedicated to finding local solutions that will address climate change globally.

Exhibitors meet with visitors and buyers to discuss their productsExhibitors and buyers discuss business at Meetings Africa Joburg has also recorded an above-average performance on the African Green Cities Index, the results of which were published in November 2011 by Siemens and The Economist Intelligence Unit. It performed particularly well in land use, energy and carbon dioxide emissions, transport, air quality and environmental governance.

“We are here to emphasise Joburg’s acknowledgement of the need to protect the environment,” Mangcu said. “We also need to highlight the broader City environmental initiatives.”

Sustainability and greening is not just on the JTC’s agenda, though; it features widely throughout the entire trade show. Water coolers have been placed throughout the venue and visitors are encouraged to drink out of reusable bottles and glasses. Collection points have also been set up for unwanted brochures, branding and stand materials such as wood.

Also, the lanyards and bags being used have all been made out of recycled plastic bottles and can be recycled on the premises at the Sandton Convention Centre.

Organisers have set a target to divert 75 percent of the waste from this year’s meeting into reuse and recycling streams, and an eco-audit will be carried out on the event by Steadfast Greening.

There are numerous events and presentations at this year’s conference. These include the association lekgotla, previously called the association conference, which began on 28 February and ends on 29 February. It is designed to empower South African associations by promoting discussion of issues that affect associations; networking with international associations and suppliers; and understanding the role that associations play in the economy.

There will also be a variety of presentations over the three days of the convention, ranging from a debate and panel discussion on the Brics emerging economies on 29 February to a presentation on how to attract the Chinese Mice market on 1 March.

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