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ISSUE 67 / ConfErEnCE & MEEtIngS World / 31Show ReviewA story of growthMEEtIngS afrICa PoStEd a rECord attEndanCE fIgUrE In 2012. vIkkI CarlEy rEvIEWS tHE ContInEnt'S largESt MEEtIngS EvEnt at Sandton ConvEntIon CEntrEs South Africa announced its plans to grow business tourist arrivals to the country, its annual Meetings Africa event at Johannesburg's Sandton Convention Centre, in March, too announced some big growth in visitors.The exhibition, organised by South Africa Tourism, attracted 3,452 visitors a 20 per cent rise on 2011. Registered international visitor numbers nearly doubled from 106 in 2011 to 205 in 2012 (up 93 per cent) and a total of 8,906 meetings were requested during the three-day show through the Meetings Africa match-making electronic diary system. "There is no doubt looking at the numbers that this has been the most successful Meetings Africa show yet. 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," said South African Tourism Chief Executive Officer, Thulani Nzima.While there was good business tourism interest from South Africa's core tourism markets, there was a noticeable heightened interest at Meetings Africa this year from emerging markets, with a lively BRICS panel discussion on the show's penultimate day highlighting the potential and interest in South Africa from China, India, Brazil and Russia. South Africa's Tourism Minister Marthinus Van Schalkwyk opened the exhibition. "Partnership is key to South Africa's business tourism growth," he said."South Africa has made great strides in elevating its big event host status and is fast becoming one of the world's favourite destinations for big events, meetings, conferences and exhibitions."The Tourism Minister noted that as South Africa looks to aggressively pursue a bigger share of the global business tourism market, the newly-established National Convention Bureau (NCB) at South African Tourism would be critical in harnessing national business tourism efforts.Established in November 2011 and headed up by its Executive Manager, Amanda Kotze-Nhlapo, the NCB is finally up and running as a 'one-stop shop' for independent information and assistance, giving neutral advice on all aspects of hosting and organising any business tourism-related event in South Africa.The NCB will co-ordinate national bidding, undertake research and collaborate with national convention centres and the business tourism industry to present a united front for destination South Africa. Aabove: Meetings africa celebrated a 20 per cent rise in visitor numbers from 2011. Below: rob davidsonPartnership is key to South Africa's business tourism growth South AfricA'S touriSm miniSter

32 / ConferenCe & Meetings World / issUe 67Show Reviewof delegates return as leisure visitors south africa tourism 40%"The National Convention Bureau will add considerable value to the country's business tourism industry," Van Schalkwyk said."It will strengthen and support efforts already being made to drive expansion in business tourist arrivals to make South Africa a truly global force. "Through confidently staging major events like the 2010 FIFA World Cup and the United Nations' COP 17 Climate Change Conference, South Africa has proven its credentials to host events of any magnitude and is well-placed to play host to any local or international meetings, incentive, conference and exhibition (MICE) event, with world-class business and conference facilities complemented by excellent leisure tourism attractions and hospitable, welcoming, skilled and competent people," the Minister added.Over the next five years South Africa has already secured over 200 international conferences, which are estimated to attract 300,000 delegates and provide an economic boost of more than R1.6bn (US$200m). The NCB also set a target for 2012/13 of supporting at least 30 bids."South Africa already boasts a 40 per cent return of delegates as leisure visitors (Melbourne has a 23 per cent return), with 43 per cent of all delegates bringing an accompanying person," Van Schalkwyk noted.Meetings Africa this year featured an Association Lekgotla; a corporate speed-dating session to introduce the variety of products; a Presentation Theatre featuring an array of expert speakers and a series of Southern African Association for the Conference Industry (SAACI) educational workshops.Rob Davidson, Senior Lecturer in Events Management at the University of Greenwich, was asked to research and deliver a report on trends in the African conference industry."In the past 10 years, six of the 10 fastest-growing economies have been in Sub-Saharan Africa, according to The Economist," he said."Angola, Nigeria, Ethiopia, Chad, Mozambique and Rwanda, all showed annual growth rates of around eight per cent or more in that period. Moreover, according to the International Monetary Fund, Ethiopia, Mozambique, Tanzania, Congo, Ghana, Zambia and Nigeria are all expected to be among the world's 10 fastest-growing economies between 2011 and 2015, with annual growth rates of between 6.8 per cent and 8.1 per cent," Davidson added. "Inward investment can be a key stimulating factor for international business events and, in recent years, the Africa-China connection has become an important element in Sub-Saharan Africa's growth story. Africa has not only become an important trade partner for China, but also a key beneficiary of Chinese capital investment abroad," he added.The report noted how Africa's potential as a conference destination certainly had not escaped the attention of the Chinese: the new US$200m African Union conference centre recently inaugurated in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia was entirely funded by China as a gift to the African people.According to the African Development Bank, by 2030 Africa's new middle class will comprise over 300m people spending between them US$2.2trn a year."Professional associations are often attracted by the idea of holding their conferences in destinations which offer them the opportunity of gaining new members, and African countries increasingly fit the profile of places whose populations offer fertile recruiting grounds for associations," said Davidson."I have the strong impression that cities in South Africa and in neighbouring countries will give some European destinations a run for their money in the years ahead. "If current trends continue on their upwards trajectory, we could be seeing many more high-profile events taking place in African countries." Above: Meetings Africa was the most successful in its history