Huge growth is expected in the business tourism industry, with 78% of conference venues in South Africa optimistic about future expansion.
Principal at Grant Thornton, Gillian Saunders, says Gauteng is the leading event destination in South Africa, holding proportionately more than its fair share of events than both Cape Town and Durban.
Speaking at the official opening of the Meetings Africa Incentives, Conferences and Business Travel Expo in Johannesburg this week, Saunders says that between April and June this year, Johannesburg hosted 38% of events compared to 26% in Cape Town and 17%in Durban.
"According to a recent conference industry research benchmark study done by Grant Thornton/Direct Access, business meetings are the most common type of event organised by planners and held by venues. Independent and corporate meeting planners organise twice as many events as association and government planners.
"September to November are the busiest months for conference venues and meeting planners, with low activity during May to July and December and January the least busy."
Saunders says the study is aimed at assisting industry players in making informed decisions and to demonstrate the wide ranging impact of the conference industry in South Africa.
Kate Rivett-Carnac, Director, Tourism at the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) says South Africa has a unique business tourism offering: "We have acknowledged the importance of diversity and are beginning to understand the value of this in an economic sense. Some examples are the indigenous knowledge of medicinal treatments, craft, music and art
"Contemporary solutions include the Mzansi bank account and Afrian tools of consensus building. These process orientated tools are perfect for application to business tourism as they build commonality and energy around mutual goals."
Carol Weaving, managing director of Thebe Exhibitions, organisers of Meetings Africa, says the G8 Glen Eagles meeting in Scotland this week and the announcement of the winning bid for the 2012 Olympic Games today in Singapore are prime examples of how business tourism can stimulate economies.
"South African business tourism should learn from these opportunities - after all the 2010 Soccer World Cup Tournament is around the corner with a possibility of the 2011 World Cup Rugby Tournament being hosted in South Africa as well. History has proven that host cities become extremely popular conference destinations after hosting major sporting events.
"It is estimated that business tourism is currently worth approximately R21-billion per year to the South African economy and sustains nearly 260 000 jobs. It provides more than R6-billion annually to salaries and contributes R4-billion to the central fiscal in the form of taxes," says Weaving.
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