This week kick-starts the three-day conference at the Sandton Convention Centre in Johannesburg called Meetings Africa, where the global events industry displays various hosting offerings on the continent.
“It is a platform that we want to showcase the best that we can offer to the world around the business events industry – meetings, conferences and exhibitions,” said Amanda Kotze-Nlapho, Chief Convention Bureau Officer, Meetings Africa.
According to the hosts, the global meetings industry has recently begun to recognise Africa as a sought after destination. The event showcases “products where African associations and African meetings industry professionals can partner to help transform our continent.”
“It’s about exhibitors and buyers, we have around 220 buyers from the region as well as international and they come and see what we can offer and how capable are we to host these big meetings and conventions,” said Kotze-Nlapho.
She explains how very “technical” the meetings industry is, in the sense that having anything not work at an event is unacceptable.
“It is really to make sure that we are capable and that we have all the tools to deliver on good meetings.”
Kotze-Nlapho said South Africa is ranked 32nd in the world as a meetings destination.
“We only, as a continent, host somewhat 9 per cent of the international association meetings but I think that actually gives an opportunity for us,” said Kotze-Nlapho.
Her biggest challenge is that there is a mild negative perception of Africa and constant questioning of the continent’s capability to host a competent event.
“People forget that we actually had, some small event called the World Cup, where I think everything was demonstrated in this sector, that we can host the best of the best”, said Kotze-Nlapho sarcastically.
A silver lining can be found in that Meetings Africa states it is easier to get a visa regulation and impacting on the country’s ability to host more meetings, Kotze-Nlapho says it might actually be easier to use them as a route.
“When people come for meetings, it’s so much easier to get through the visa regulations because you are registered for a meeting as the National Convention Bureau, a unit of South African tourism, that is one our jobs – to make sure that we get the people here,” she concludes.
Kotze-Nlapho says South Africa needs to be able to host more regional events in order to increase the number from just nine per cent.
“Last night we kicked off Meetings Africa with a very exciting thing, the opening of the headquarters of the African Society for Association executives and associations come together to network, to educate and to regulate and we believe that that is definitely going to help us to grow this sector, help them understand why it is important to rotate these meetings,” said Kotze-Nlapho.