Feature

Strong Local Market Attracts International Interest

For the last two years the business events industry has been functioning in slow motion, and in some cases, it has been put completely on hold. It is finally time to look past the pandemic and into the future. The South Africa National Convention Bureau (SANCB) has managed to materialize the need for revised ideas and solutions when attracting association conferences, with a view to a more promising future for the industry and the country.

Words Vicky Koffa

South Africa is emerging from the pandemic as a strong association destination. Looking ahead, South African Tourism (SAT) has introduced the Tourism Sector Recovery Plan, part of which focuses on recovery plans to revive the business event sector in South Africa. These plans include concrete steps for the gradual reopening of the market, carefully curated and implemented by the country’s dedicated convention bureau.

Bid Support Programme 

“The South Africa National Convention Bureau has undertaken a full review of SA Bid Support Programme (BSP) to help improve the competitiveness and value proposition when SA is bidding to host international and regional association meetings,” says Amanda Kotze-Nhlapo, Head of SANCB. One of the main revisions of the program is the adjustment of the size criteria for bids to a minimum of 50 pax for 2022-2023, set as a transitional period post-pandemic.

Other amendments include the enhancement of the role of hybrid events, seasonality criteria, and digitalization of the full application process. A cross-functional team is to be established to manage the host destination benefits packages and create content for case studies to promote the strengths of the destination. In order to re-ignite demand, the SANCB ensured that postponed association meetings which were scheduled for 2020-2021 are still coming to SA, all while new ones are secured for 2023-2025.

The National Association Project

Using a smart and safe approach for recovery, SANCB is focusing its efforts firstly on the local market. The belief is that building a strong base for business events between local stakeholders and national associations is vital, before looking to attract their international counterparts. 

Kotze-Nhlapo says: “South Africa, through the SANCB, is investing in capacitating associations through the National Association Project, encouraging the hosting of national association meetings and domestic travel. The National Association Project is an initiative driven by the SANCB to pull different levers as part of SAT’s recovery plans for the tourism industry. National associations are critical stakeholders in the bidding process to secure both regional/international conferences and conventions for SA.”

Main objective of the project is to assist national associations to host their meetings and conferences in Villages, Townships and Small Dorpies (VTSD) across SA already from the bidding process. To achieve that, SANCB is assisting VTSD’s who bid for conferences with developing the suitable infrastructure, incentivizing the procurement of conferencing goods and services from local service providers, and promote tourism experiences. Various internal and external stakeholders were consulted to ensure the objectives and goal of the project are achieved.

Local & Sustainable

The organization of sustainable meetings has pride of place in this recovery period. In fact, South Africa has become one of the 181 members of the United Nations Development Program’s Global Environmental Facility (GEF), which aims to address global environmental issues while supporting national development initiatives. The organization deals with issues such as groundwater management, wildlife, electric mobility, biodiversity and sustainable management of chemicals and waste. 

More specific to the meetings industry, SANCB has sponsored various green projects across the country. In 2020, the Event Greening Forum hosted free training workshops in different SA cities. Part of the training were principles and practices for exhibitors to become greener and get the chance to win the Green Stand Award at the Meetings Africa annual show. During the same show, at the Sustainability Village, South African businesses showcase and sell unique and locally produced goods usually made from recycled materials – thus promoting sustainable tourism and supporting local businesses.

Sustainability comes linked to legacy. The new era of business events in South Africa requires that associations – national and international – have a mission and a plan to help the local community through their event, thus leaving a legacy. “Legacy has always been an integral part of destination South Africa, encouraging the associations that host meetings here to leave legacies that will benefit local communities in various sectors,” says Kotze-Nhlapo.

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