Derek Hanekom, Minister of Tourism for South Africa visited IBTM World for the first time in his career and outlined how South Africa intended to further cement its position as a world-class business events destination. The continued interest in South Africa as a destination successfully hosting large scale events is a focus for both economic growth and a route to develop careers for the youth of South Africa.
During ibtm world in Barcelona, Minister Hanekom outlined how South Africa has hosted 124 international association conferences in 2014 alone which attracted just under 70 000 industry professionals. Of these 124 conferences, 81% were international rotating events.
MICExchange spoke to Mr Hanekom during his visit to support South African Tourism during IBTM World 2015. When asked how Business Tourism impacted South Africa’s tourism sector he answered, “It is interesting – as many people talk only about business events or conferences – – but there is actually a wider aspect to business tourism than conferences and events as you may have festival and sports tourism.”
“It is very important to us in South Africa and has growing importance as it has features unlike leisure tourism.” Mr Hanekom noted that leisure tourism was often the byproduct of business tourism – where business tourism or events often bring people to your country that would otherwise not come and research shows us that there is a very high return rate as a result.
He went on to explain that his department saw that there was a resulting degree of leisure tourism as a result of pre and post conference activity and non conference related gains in the restaurant and entertainment sectors.
“What we need to do in South Africa is recognize that it is a long and expensive flight – and as a result we have to offer something that is sufficiently attractive to bring events to our country – and we have succeeded.”
“The [South African] offer is an attractive and diverse one, with an industry confidence derived from South Africa hosting very large events. This has lead to the World AIDS conference 2016 being held in Durban involving about 20,000 people, establishing the reputation of South Africa, as being very capable.”
The Minister pointed out that the tourism sector was offering economic growth where the South African mining sector was unable during times of lower commodity prices and mining revenues. “As long as you can back up with a product, the gains are quite quick – one deal can involve thousands of people.” Earlier the Minister stated, “The potential of Africa for the MICE industry is exponential. The tide has turned, we can see that our growth opportunities are now also within the African market.”
“By its very nature the industry is very labor intensive and that translates into jobs. It is estimated that for every twelve tourists that visit South Africa, a permanent job is created – so by developing tourism, we are creating much needed jobs for families” said Mr Hanekom. He went on point out that he wanted to not only create jobs, but also ensure ethical and responsible tourism.
The Minister added, “We are doing as much as possible to market South Africa successfully and effectively with significant and visible destination improvement – making the experience meaningful and memorable,” then added “but also – we need to step up our skills development and training programs to build a new layer of young people that want to be the managers of the future.”
“I would like to ensure that we capture the growth potential of tourism and ensure that the growth is inclusive, so that more opportunities are offered to people who have historically not benefitted – and that this translates to jobs.”
Mr Hanekom pointed out that while the South Africa National Convention Bureau (SANCB) has only been in existence for three years, it is uniquely placed to lead growth in the Africa business events sector. During its existance, SANCB has secured 163 bids for South Africa between 2016 and 2020, from industry sectors as diverse as mining, health and agriculture. Collectively they are expected to bring over 150,000 delegates to South Africa and contribute approximately R3.1billion to the economy.
The Minister also announced that SANCB welcomes the European Cities Marketing (ECM) programme coming to South Africa. This will be the first time that this initiative takes place in South Africa just ahead of the 2016 edition of Meetings Africa.
When asked how useful it was to visit IBTM World to gauge the global reactions and gain insight into business tourism development, the Minister responded – “I can say that it has been incredibly useful, the very questions from attendees and reporters, and the engagement with various industry people have reinforced my beliefs, but also provided useful perspectives.” He continued by noting that the business and events sector is extraordinarily important [for South Africa].