South Africa remains in the top 15 'long-haul' business events destinations in the world and is the premier business events destination in Africa, says Tourism Minister Marthinus van Schalkwyk.
"Our ambition is to compete with the biggest and best business events destinations in the world," he told delegates at the opening of the annual Southern African Association of the Conference Industry conference on Monday.
"As government continues to focus on tourism as one of the key job creating sectors, we recognise business events tourism as an area with significant growth potential," Van Schalkwyk said.
Government had established the first South African National Convention Bureau (SANCB) to promote growth further in the conferencing industry. The SANCB is tasked with co-ordinating national bidding, undertaking research and collaborating with City and Provincial Convention Bureaus and the business events industry to present a united front for destination South Africa, he said.
He said for the next five years, South Africa has already secured over 200 international conferences, that are estimated to attract 300 000 delegates and an additional R1.6bn to the economy.
In 2011, according to a departure survey, South Africa had 392 000 business travellers, of which 140 000 attended conferences and meetings.
"So, while we have identified the business events industry as a critical component in helping us reach our National Tourism Sector Strategy's target of 15 million international arrivals by 2020, we know that we still have considerable room for growth and improvement in this sector," Van Schalkwyk said.