The Exhibition Association of Southern Africa (EXSA) recently commissioned Grant Thornton South Africa to conduct research on the growth and economic impact of the exhibition industry in South Africa.
The research, a joint venture between the Johannesburg Tourism Company (JTC) and EXSA, assessed the size of the industry in terms of the number of exhibitors and visitors at exhibitions and the total square metres sold domestically and internationally for every exhibition. It showed that 25,917 exhibitors exhibited in 2006 with a total of 3,7 million visitors attending. The total visitor spend for major exhibitions was confirmed as R260 million by foreign visitors; R32,2-billion for domestic out of-town visitors; and R21-billion for domestic local visitors.
According to the research results, the South African exhibition industry is currently contributing R156,8-billion to the national economy and its growth impacts South Africa’s economy in more ways than one. Not only does it sustain 908,741 jobs a year but the overnight tourism spend that is associated with exhibitions alone is an impressive R12,24-billion.
Gillian Saunders, principal at Grant Thornton South Africa, said she did not find the results surprising as the tourism component of the industry’s impact on the country’s GDP was normal. “What is important though is that the industry plays a facilitative role in encouraging economic activity through trade purchases,” she said.
The exhibition industry’s input into the national economy is categorised into three main sectors namely trade deals and purchases; wholesale, retail, catering and accommodation; and lastly the transport sector. From these three categories, it was confirmed that trade deals and purchases contribute a massive R98,5-billion into the South African economy while the transport sector and the wholesale, retail, catering and accommodation sectors combined sit at R58,3-billion.
EXSA’s Immediate Past Chairperson, Carol Weaving praised the South African exhibition industry, saying that the outcome of the research was a revelation and a positive indicator that the industry was prepared for the 2010 Soccer World Cup. “Our contribution to the business tourism industry is very clear, and I anticipate the industry raising the stakes and increasing these figures before 2010,” Weaving said.
Eddy Khosa, Chief Executive Officer of the JTC echoed similar sentiments in saying that the research definitely helped for the way forward in planning and building up to 2010 as South Africa is made aware of the potential business to come. “The research is a fantastic tool to use when deciding on focus areas in terms of segmenting our businesses,” Khosa said.
Weaving stated that the future looked positive for the industry, with a substantial growth in exhibition activity in the Cape as well as for all venues. “Exhibition revenues represent, on average, 49 percent of total venue revenue,” she said. She also added that all venues reported growing exhibition activity with a revenue growth of 7,5 percent to 10 percent annually. She confirmed too that organisers should expect growth of trade and consumer visitors as well as an increase in exhibition spend.
“Exhibitions are doing well to put us on the map and I think that their value is growing from strength to strength. It’s important to always ask ourselves how we are influencing the national tourism agenda and I think this research expressed well how exhibitions are contributing to the business tourism as a whole,” said Khosa.