Conference enquiries jump 20%
22 July 2010
Liza van Wyk, CEO of AstroTech Conference Centre in Parktown, Johannesburg which hosted some key Fifa-aligned World Cup conferences and events said: “before the World Cup we were seeing quite dramatic dips in bookings as businesses prepared for disruption over this period.”
She says a successful World Cup is already seeing a rise in conference and venue requests from foreigners and locals as confidence in the country soars.
“The very positive vibe created in South Africa during the Cup has seen a surge in bookings and requests for information not just for conferences and events but for training courses,” the AstroTech Conference Centre is also home to two training companies, AstroTech and BizTech.
“It seems that South Africans have a new sense of energy and purpose, the palpable gloom before the World Cup has lifted and optimism seems to be the prevailing mood.”
She and other conference organisers said they were seeing a surge in interest in bookings not just from local companies but from business and organisations around the world. Van Wyk said bookings and requests had gone up by at least 20%.
“It seems that everyone wants to buy into the spirit of Mzansi,” Van Wyk said, “South Africa projected a happy, confident vibe with a very well-organised series of events. Although economic projections here and in the rest of the world are worrying there is a very strong sense that business and many citizens are saying, let’s put our shoulders to the wheel and overcome this.
“If we can keep pushing crime down with visible policing in the way that we did around the World Cup then South Africa is readying itself for a serious economic liftoff.”
South Africa is currently ranked 28th by the Union of International Associations (UIA) as a top meetings destination; and is ranked 18th on the Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) Index as an attractive foreign investment destination. South Africa hosts 23% of all meetings in Africa and, for a second year in a row, Cape Town is recognised as Africa’s most popular meeting destination.
The country will also host, among others the World Critical Health Care Conference in 2013 and World Pharma in 2014 – medical conference delegates tend to be high spenders with an anaesthesiology event in Cape Town two years ago earning around R100m in revenue for the Mother City according to the Cape Town Convention Centre.
Conference bookings in Gauteng alone are expected to exceed R1bn this year according to SA Tourism.
International conference delegates spend on average R3 000 each per day - on registration, accommodation, local travel and transportation, gastronomy and souvenirs – about six times more than is spent by holidaying tourists. Last year South African Tourism reported that the average daily spend of a leisure tourist was R550 per day.
This upgrading in perception is important in South Africa where the tourism industry contributed R69,8 billion of the country's R545 billion GDP in 1999 of which R14 billion originated from Johannesburg.
Demand has also been boosted by South Africa being named as a top 10 destination for 2010 in the highly influential British ABTA Travel Trends Report earlier this year. ABTA represents more than 500 travel associations and more than 9 000 travel agents in the British Isles alone.
ABTA hailed the quality of South Africa’s conference destinations and said that for business and holiday travellers South Africa leads with ‘x-factor destinations’ – those with something new and unique to offer – and ‘chadventure’, a combination of adventure and raising money for charity, or ‘voluntourism-based’ breaks, as key trends in British travel behaviour for 2010.
Late last year too both Conde Nast Travel and high-society magazine Tatler had a cluster of South African game lodges and hotels in their top 100 hotels in the world. And a significant number of journals from the New York Times to CNN carried glowing reports on South Africa as a holiday and business travel destination.
“The sort of infrastructural upgrades we experienced for the World Cup whether enhanced broadband width – which we will see the full results of by October, better highways, fantastic airports and more efficient processing of visas and travellers have all contributed to a much better business climate for local and foreign conference attendees,” Van Wyk said.
Johannesburg in its medium term framework to 2012 has already said that boosting conference attendances in this city, which already has 34% of all business travel spend (the highest in the country), is a key revenue-generating strategy for the city.
Source: The Skills Portal