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Business tourism is in the spotlight at Meetings Africa, which markets the sub-continent and its destinations and offerings to the international meetings, incentives, conference and exhibitions industry.
THE Sandton Convention Centre in northern Joburg was abuzz with activity as scores of exhibitors, buyers and tourists milled about the concourse and scrums of international and local journalists jostled for best pictures and interviews.

 

JTC CEO Lindiwe KweleJoburg is the leader in destinations, says JTC CEO Lindiwe KweleThey are in town to attend South Africa’s biggest business tourism gathering – Meetings Africa – to learn about and discuss tourism trends, products and innovations in the meetings, incentives, conference and exhibitions industry. The many exhibitors are there to promote their brands and services.
 

Meetings Africa opened on 21 February and ends on 23 February. The Joburg Tourism Company (JTC) is hoping they will stay longer and experience Joburg’s lifestyle and other tourism attractions. Among those attending are business tourism stakeholders and international buyers.

Exhibitors include tourism authorities, convention and visitor bureaus, conference hotels and accommodation providers, event management specialists, transportation companies, luxury trains, cruise liners, spa and wellness resorts, trade associations and travel trade publications, to mention a few.

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 Joburg’s economy was “huge”. The City was looking into leveraging this market to grow its economy, promote various attractions and get tourists to increase their stay and expenditure.

 

The Joburg stand at Meetings AfricaThe Joburg stand at Meetings AfricaHe 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.”
 

Economy
Opening the conference, Tourism Minister Marthinus van Schalkwyk said Meetings Africa was pivotal in growing South Africa’s economy. “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,” he explained.

Meetings Africa targets the business tourism industry, acting 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 meetings, incentives, conference and exhibitions industry.

Lindiwe Kwele, the chief executive of the JTC, said her entity’s primary focus was on business tourism and using that to increase leisure tourism. The company would use the conference to promote some of Joburg’s recent developments, especially in the inner city. “We want to give people an authentic Joburg experience.”

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.

 

Jason NgobeniExecutive director of economic development in the City, Jason NgobeniIts tourism sector was faring well and was leading in the country, Kwele said, adding that it held a 49 percent market share. “We are the leader in destinations, but the challenge is to ensure that we convert the increase in arrivals to rands and cents.”
 

Meetings Africa is focused on increasing the number of corporate visitors, while building strong networks and educational platforms and enriching the international hosted buyer programme.

Destination
“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.

There are a range of new initiatives this year, including a golf day, educational seminars, an exhibition on greening in line with international standards, and an exhibitor categorisation to help visitors navigate the show better and maximise limited time. There is an association day for learning and sharing for national associations and a networking function. Issues to be highlighted include business tourism’s growing importance to South Africa’s tourism industry.

The visitor target market is anyone who travels for business or who books business travel as well as organisers of events, conferences, meetings, team incentive trips or teambuilding activities. For more information about Meetings Africa, visit its website.

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