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April 2011Conference+Meetings World www.c-mw.net17South Africa Tourism's eighth Meetings Africa show in Jo'burg was its biggest yet. Vikki Carleyreports.South Africa'smeetings meccaSouth Africa's business tourismsector is on a high. For the firsttime in the country's history, theState President, Jacob Zuma, recognisedthe importance of business tourism in hisstate of the nation address. "We arepleased with the success of our tourismsector," the President said, adding:"More than 7.3m tourists arrived inSouth Africa last year, as compared toabout 6.3m in 2009. For further growth,we will strengthen existing markets whileexploring the emerging economies. "Our country continues to be a populardestination for international gatherings.We have already secured 200 meetingsand conferences between 2010 and2016. To further boost our tourismpotential, we will amongst othermeasures, look into flexible visarequirements, improved landing slots atforeign airports as well as improvedtourism infrastructure."The address came just weeks beforethe country's annual Meetings Africaevent took place at Johannesburg'sSandton Convention Centre, organisedby South African Tourism. The event is abusiness tourism marketing platformwhich aims to expose local andinternational buyers to the range ofservices and products in SouthernAfrica's MICE industry. South AfricanTourism's Global Manager for BusinessTourism, Nomasonto Ndlovu told CMW:"The industry is hyped up followingZuma's speech. It confirms that we areall working hard and not here to playgames, and it means the work we havebeen doing with the Ministry to educateon business tourism, is all worthwhile."The eighth edition of Meetings Africaattracted 3,353 visitors, up from 2,899 in2010, and around 200 exhibitors. Therewere also 123 international hostedbuyers and this year's Association Daywas attended by 52 delegates. The show, which has become muchmore sophisticated, introduced a numberof new initiatives for 2011 includingrevised show days from Monday toWednesday allowing three full days ofinteraction, a matchmaking programme,a corporate brunch and Meetings AfricaGolf Day. It also enhanced its onlinediary system, which links to Outlook andintroduced a more advanced array ofeducational seminars in line withcompetition. "Our main objective isgrowth and we want to grow to aninternational standard," said Ndlovu. "Bythis we mean we want Meetings Africa tosit firmly in any international eventorganiser's diary, much like IMEX andEIBTM. If we want to create aninternational standard show, we need tokeep an eye on what the other shows inour sphere are doing."Meetings Africa finished itsJohannesburg contract this year, (theshow has been there for its eight-yearexistence) and a new three-year tender isout for the next host city. While Ndlovuremained tight lipped about anycontenders, she said: "Whoever bidsneeds to understand how the MICEmarket works, I can't wait for thedecision."The obvious choices are Cape Town,Johannesburg or Durban, though Ndlovusaid Johannesburg has a lot going for it."Johannesburg is the unofficial gatewayto Africa, where everything is happening.It houses the stock exchange, moreinternational corporates than any otherarea of South Africa, it's such a vibrantcity," she said.South Africa's Minister for TourismMarthinus van Schalkwyk officiallyopened the first Meetings AfricaSHOW REPORTË'We want MeetingsAfrica to sit firmly in anyinternational organiser'sdiary, much like IMEXand EIBTM'