South Africa leads continent to target slice of estimated $1.2 trillion global MICE market

The value of the global Meetings, Incentives, Conferences and Exhibition market is estimated to reach $1.2 trillion by 2023. The industry was valued at $752 billion in 2016, and South Africa is moving to get other African countries to join it in taking a slice of this market.

As a result therefore, this year’s Meetings Africa, in the 13th year, being held at the Sandton Conference Centre in Johannesburg is under the theme: “Sharing African Economies” with the aim of sharing resources to serve this niche market within the broader tourism sector.

Speaking to journalists at a roundtable, the CEO of South African Tourism, Mr. Sisa Ntshona made a point about rotating meetings and conferences.

“For instance, we shouldn’t always hold the same conference here in South Africa, we should rotate conference around the continent,” he said.

Mrs. Amanda Kotze-Nhlapo said South Africa receives about 32 per cent of the tourist visits in Africa and would like to work hard to increase the figure to at 40 per cent and for the visitors to stay longer.

According to the UNWTO World Tourism Barometer destinations worldwide received 369 million international tourists (overnight visitors) in the first four months of 2017, 21 million more than in the same months of 2016 (+6 per cent), adding that Africa received about +8 per cent at the same time. This growth surprised many tourism professionals, because even though they expected some growth, this figure exceeded their expectations.

While MICE is only 10 per cent of the overall tourism sector it is reported that MICE delegates spend “about five times the amount spent by regular tourists.”

“Meetings Africa serves as a primary platform for Africa’s business events professionals, to showcase their diverse services and product offerings to global buyers and create partnership opportunities with African associations to help transform and contribute towards the continent’s economic growth,” Tokozile Xasa, South Africa’s Minister of Tourism said at the opening ceremony Tuesday February 27, 2017.

She indicated that there are 3000 delegates attending this year’s programme.

According to the Minister, currently, the business tourism market generates 252,000 direct and indirect jobs per annum and contributes R115 billion to the South African economy. 

The Minister noted further that a big part of Meetings Africa is about engagements, networking, partnership and of course, Collaborations/Co-opetition. 

“So, today is about that – it is a chance for us to take a break from our busy schedules of doing business by getting to know the industry and its offerings even more. It is about new entrants, the SMME’s, new offerings and service excellence, illustrated by the presence of hidden jams, whom we have entrusted with the responsibility of taking this industry forward, through the creation of new tourism business and leisure opportunities,” she said.

The Gauteng MEC of Economic Development, Environment, Agriculture and Rural Development, Lebogang Maile said business events, mainly meetings and exhibitions are the largest segment of the events industry.

Citing research conducted by the International Special Events Society in 2015 he said, the global spend on events is approximately $500 billion.

“Further research also showed that business events are the biggest segment of the total market ahead of cultural (art and entertainment) and recreational (sporting events), though they often receive less coverage,” he added.

South Africa is also investing in the sector to boost growth and create jobs, by building more conference and convention centres, as well as improving the quality of services even as the country this year celebrates the 100th birthday of its icon, Nelson Mandela.

BY Emmanuel K. Dogbevi, in Johannesburg, South Africa

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