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​Record numbers of visitors dropped in for Meetings Africa, which pushed South Africa as a business tourism destination of choice.
ATTENDANCE records were smashed at this year’s Meetings Africa – hosted at the Sandton Convention Centre from 28 February to 1 March – making it the biggest and most successful one to date.

Buyers Meetings Africa 2012: Most successful to dateOverall attendance was 3 452, a 20 percent improvement on the 2 637 visitors who attended in 2011, according to the official statistics released by the organisers. Also markedly improved was the attendance of international buyers and visitors, jumping from 106 in 2011 to 205 in 2012.

There were also more international journalists at this year’s Meetings Africa, growing from 22 in 2011 to 37 this year.

“There is no doubt looking at the numbers that this has been the most successful Meetings Africa show yet,” said the chief executive officer of South African Tourism, Thulani Nzima. “It shows that there is keen interest in destination South Africa and bodes extremely well for our plans to grow business tourist arrivals, entrench our status as Africa’s leading business tourism destination and increase our share in the global business tourism market.”

Adding to the success of this year’s trade show was the fact that 8 906 meetings were requested during the show, showing an improvement on the 7 387 requested during the 2011 Meetings Africa. Most of these meeting requests were logged through the business matchmaking electronic diary system, which allowed participants – all listed according to company profile and business category – to set up and plan meetings in advance.

It served as a measure to match exhibitors with buyers as simply as possible, much like speed-dating for the corporate world. Tourism Minister Marthinus van Schalkwyk joked about it when he opened the trade show on 28 February: “I heard that Meetings Africa offered speed-dating services, which I thought would increase numbers … I then realised that it referred to corporate speed-dating services.”

The number of international journalists also jumped upThe number of international journalists also shot upThere was a jam-packed programme on offer during the three-day trade show, which included presentations and debates focusing on forging international relationships and sustainability. A Brics – Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa – panel discussion was held on 29 February, for instance, and there was a presentation looking at reporting on event sustainability the following day.

Sustainability and greening took centre stage at the 2012 Meetings Africa, and organisers went the extra mile to ensure that the trade show was as environmentally friendly as possible. A target of 75 percent diversion of waste generated by the event towards reuse and recycling streams was set, with a variety of collection points and other initiatives set up to achieve this aim.

For instance, all lanyards and bags produced for Meetings Africa were made out of recycled plastic bottles and were able to be recycled on the premises at the Sandton Convention Centre. Collection points enabled the recycling of unwanted brochures, branding and stand materials like wood, while water coolers were placed at strategic points around the exhibition space. These discouraged drinking out of plastic bottles.

A full audit of the eco-friendliness of the trade show will be carried out in due course by the sustainability consultants, Steadfast Greening.

Meetings Africa is Africa’s biggest business tourism trade show, highlighting what is on offer in the meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions (Mice) industry in South Africa. As such, exhibitors at the event ranged from tourism authorities and conventions and visitor bureaux to conference and accommodation providers.

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