At 9: 30am, the metallic bell rang as in the culture of stock exchange to kick off the day’s business. But that morning at Sandton Convention Centre in Johannesburg, the bell rang to usher in over 260 exhibitors, about 1,000 hosted buyers (including international, regional and corporate buyers), and about 40 countries from across the globe who came to use the platform of the annual ‘Meetings Africa,’ Africa’s largest business events show to network, discover new trends and advance their businesses.
Of course, in her opening remarks, Tokozile Xasa, deputy minister of tourism, South Africa, who both rang the opening bell and also stood in for the minister who was unavoidable absent, noted that since 2005, when South African Tourism acquired Meetings Africa, the show had grown from strength to strength and had been instrumental in solidifying the industry’s approach to growing and developing Africa’s business events hosting capability and prominence.
“We are truly the pan-African platform for the business events industry. Meetings Africa is the one trade-show where our whole continent can come to network, build relationships and partnerships, and meet with premier buyers from numerous sectors and dozens of countries and markets around the world,” the deputy minister noted.
While exceptional growth has already been achieved, she noted that South Africa had only just begun to unlock the potential of the sector and was working to grow the size of the business events industry by at least 50 percent between now and 2020.
The country’s tourism body is also offering South African National Convention Bureau (SANCB), its arm and the organiser of the event, a strategic platform for collaboration and partnership, as SANCB work hard to realise the target of 12.3 percent growth in total spend associated with business events between now and 2017.
The Amanda Kotze-Nhlapo-led SANCB is already working hard to ensure that Meetings Africa 2014, meets its theme: ‘Advancing Africa Together’ during and after the meetings for the hosted buyers. “Meetings Africa is attended by local and international buyers from South Africa and the rest of the continent. We delivered what we promised this industry: a world-class business events trade exhibition show and, possibly most important, a show which is truly representative of our theme: Advancing Africa Together,” Kotze-Nhlapo said.
But Mpho Parks Tau, the executive mayor of Johannesburg, is delighted that his region is now the hub for Africa and global business meetings, and especially the economic impact of the development.
“Johannesburg comes tops in Africa in terms of international visitor spending, with $2.7 billion estimated to be injected into the city in 2013, while a baseline study conducted by Joburg Tourism last year estimated direct spend from tourism-related activities for 2012 was approximately R35 billion,” the mayor noted.
The mayor is looking at more collaboration with the tourism ministry and its SANCB in pulling off the Joburg 2040 Growth and Development Strategy.
But for the hosted buyers, Meetings Africa has so far been as rewarding as they expected. Genni Krynauw, executive sales, Hilton Worldwide, South Africa and Namibia, noted that for the three consecutive years the Hilton Group had attended the event, it portfolio and awareness of its products in the Southern African region had increased beyond its five properties.
Jeremy Tulsca, a destination manager from Kenya, has also benefited with more business flowing to his company on the account of his participation at the Meetings Africa.
However, Thulani Nzima, CEO, South African Tourism, sees beyond the meeting to the empowerment, skills acquisition and exchange, wealth creation and rapid development in African businesses and competitiveness among participating countries.
Hence, he invites you to the 2015 Meetings Africa to sustain the feats achieved in this year’s edition. He hopes you and many others will be there.