INVESTMENT in South Africa’s conference facilities is playing an “essential role” in driving the local business-tourism industry — which, although growing rapidly, remains largely untapped.
South Africa is already achieving tourism growth well above world averages, but has put firm measures in place to grow its share of the global business events industry. These include the establishment last year of the South African National Conventions Bureau (SANCB).
Durban’s International Convention Centre has faced increasing competition from the likes of venues in Sandton, Cape Town and, most recently, Port Elizabeth. The Cape Town International Convention Centre is undergoing an expansion set to double its capacity and its contribution to gross domestic product, although the multimillion-rand contract for the expansion’s design has been the centre of recent controversy.
Tourism Minister Marthinus van Schalkwyk said on Monday that Africa had hosted “just 2.7% of the 11,000 international meetings held globally in 2012”, indicating the potential for growth.
The minister said that the SANCB had helped South Africa secure 88 major bids for the period 2013-17, which would attract an estimated 200,000 delegates and “no less than R2.6bn to the tourism economy”.
Matthew Cornall, GM of Pepper Club Hotel Spa, said on Thursday that South Africa was becoming an increasingly popular destination for international events, conferences and exhibitions.
He said the launch of initiatives such as the SANCB to assist with securing bids and events showed that “the tourism industry is recognising business travel as a key growth market for the country”.
Business travellers tend to spend three times more than their leisure counterparts, he said. “Due to the spending potential of business tourism, and its contribution to tourism revenue, there is still much potential to grow this market.”
Mr Cornall said recent investments in South Africa’s conference facilities were proving to have a positive effect on the number of events being held in South Africa.
“Previously, Durban’s International Convention Centre was the chosen destination for events, as other similar venues couldn’t accommodate numbers of that scale. However, investment into the industry, such as this week’s launch of Port Elizabeth’s Boardwalk Convention Centre and last year’s announcement of the expansion of the Cape Town International Convention Centre, has resulted in other regions having the capacity to also host large-scale events.”