Africa: A much sought-after MICE destination

In its 15th year Meetings Africa 2020 was again able to make its mark with 100% space occupied by 329 exhibitors feels Chandragupta Amritkar

It was during IMEX, Frankfurt that I had the opportunity of first interacting with Altaaf Kazi, GM, Global PR and Communications, South African Tourism. We initially spoke passionately about cricket which truly connects the two countries before moving on to MICE and tourism. He talked about South Africa's leading MICE event Meetings Africa and said he would extend a media invite.

So in January I received the invite and co-ordinating with Lesego Marimo, PR & Communications Coordinator, South African Tourism for the trip that not only included visiting the event but also visiting select tourist spots across the country (another article). But the main purpose was to cover Meetings Africa.

Meetings Africa, celebrating its 15 year, showcased most of the continents diverse offerings – countries, destinations, hotels, gastronomy, forbidding landscapes, deserts, beautiful beaches, luxury trains, rich cultural heritage and the not to be missed wild safari expeditions. African countries and cities were promoting their MICE venues and potential offerings as associations and African meetings industry professionals interacted with hosted buyers, visitors and media.

Held at the Sandton Convention Centre in Sandton, Johannesburg, the theme for Meetings Africa 2020 was “Shared economies” looking towards collaborative African growth. Spread over three days hosted buyers, visitors and media used the opportunity not only to network but also add to their knowledge substantially. In addition presentations and panel discussions provided insights into the business opportunities available to grow MICE in Africa. The first day was BONDay (Business Opportunities Networking Day).

The event saw Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane, Minister for Tourism, South Africa ringing the bell to open the trade floor. Speaking on the occasion she said, “Meetings Africa has assisted in creating and cementing partnerships as well as collaborations, both continentally and globally. Meetings Africa is only poised for growth going forward.”

The Minister further added collaboration rather than competition is crucial to assist all African countries to realise their potential. It is for this reason that Meetings Africa showcases the continent’s diverse offerings.

Sisa Ntshona, CEO, South African Tourism expressed that Meetings Africa would encourage the rotation of meetings on the continent; “It is a platform for the regional business events industry to engage in a bid to attract more global and regional business events to Africa.”

As per the World Bank the African continent is home to the world’s largest free trade area and with a 1.2 billion percent market it is poised to create an entirely new development path, harnessing the potential of its resources and people.

Exhibitors

The expo, spread over a couple of days, had quite a variety of exhibitors from all over the continent.

We had the opportunity to interact with quite a few of them. While many exhibitors were quite happy with the show, a few expressed concerns over the rapidly grooving coronavirus and how it would impact their business.

From the hotels - Hilton (Seychelles) and Marriott were able to get some of their top end hotels to participate. India’s Taj group also had their presence with two hotels - Taj Pamodzi Lusaka and Taj Cape Town and Ajit Jha, BD Director was representing them.

Naomi C Ndaradzi, Director Marketing, Don Tours and Safaris from Namibia and Dexter T Chikerema, Operations Manager, African sunset travels were promoting their wildlife safaris spread across the continent. Tanzania, though located towards the end of the hall had good presence. Bharath Swarup , DoSM, Ramada Resort Dar Es Salaam found the event worth the trip.

Mauritius as always was a crowded stand. Anielle Ramsahye, MICE and Cruise manger, Concorde explained in depth the opportunities in Mauritius and its potential for Indian visitors. Esmeeta Ramchurrun, Account Director – Groups, Mauritius, Marriott and Rosabelle Fanny, sales manager, Hilton hotels highlighted their hotels uniqueness.

Muriuki Murithi, Business Development, Kenya National Convention Bureau explained why Kenya is an attractive destination for both MICE and leisure. Chipping in Shaileen Shah, GM, Trade Mark hotel said that many Indians visit Kenya and quite a few Bollywood actors have stayed at her hotel. “Kenya is quite India friendly with a lot of citizens having Indian roots. Its an excellent country to shoot movies. Theres a lot to see and numerous activities. Also Indian delicacies are easily available,” said Shaileen Shah.

Malawi, still a much untapped destination for Indians had some good exhibitors. Was looking forward to meeting Sarah Leah Njanji, but somehow we kept missing each other. Hajab Kamboj, BDM, Serendip Hotels gave me some good insights on not only her property but also on Malawi.

From the education side there was the School of Tourism and Hospitality from University of Johannesburg. Kagiso Mouse, Marketing Manager said, “Apart from the normal courses we have a BTech in Tourism Management and one can also do PhD in Tourism and Hospitality Management. Bursaries are available for students and I think if we can get Indian students we can look at some special offers and bursaries for them too.”

During the networking events caught up with quite a few buyers including Senthil Kumat from CWT, Dubai and Rajat Sawhney from Rave tours and travels, India.

Media interaction with Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane, Minister for Tourism, South Africa and Sisa Ntshona, CEO, South African Tourism

Exclusively speaking to the hosted media Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane highlighted the importance of MICE especially business events. “We have attracted a lot of traders + SME to Meetings Africa as the business events sector is not just crucial to the tourism industry but also for the economy of our country and continent,” said Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane.

Regarding her recent visit to India she reflected, “We have started to see result from our recent visit to India. We had roadshows and I am quite happy by the response.”

The minister as well as the CEO Sisa Ntshona are quite bullish on the Indian market. “Destination wedding is what we are very keen to have. January being off peak season, Indian weddings can be planned as they can get venues and hotels at a reasonable price,” said Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane.

Adding to the minister Sisa Ntshona said, “Many Indian companies hold their corporate events at global locations. I am sure they will find South Africa a lucrative market, especially the pharma and ICT sector. We have all the facilities for a MICE event and an excellent getaway - attractive venues, gorgeous sights, exotic wildlife, rich culture, ancient history etc. This can be an incentive to bring their spouses and we can add value.”

When questioned on the launch of e-visa for Indians, the minister said technicalities are being looked into and should be a reality soon.

Statistics: Meetings Africa 2020

  • 100% of the exhibitor stands sold – a vast improvement from 95% in 2019.
  • 100% of the exhibitor stands sold – a vast improvement from 95% in 2019.
  • 329 exhibitors
  • 155 main exhibitors, three more than last year
  • 321 buyers that include 205 international hosted buyers
  • 8,000 meetings held, 200 more than 2019.

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