A major research project into all aspects of business tourism will kick off at the Meetings Africa exhibition in Sandton next week.
The research will investigate business tourism as a niche market to better understand high growth niche tourism segments, opportunities and current supply of product in South Africa, says the Department of Trade and Industry's (dti's) Director of Tourism Kate Rivett-Carnac.
"The fund for research for industrial growth and equity has commissioned Grant Thornton and Prodigy Business Services to identify segments that should be prioritised for support. The role that the dti can play in the development and marketing of business tourism will be determined. Also of importance are the trends, challenges, size and potential of business tourism in South Africa.
"The research will determine how other countries have managed to substantially grow their business tourism segments as well as the export potential.
"Furthermore, the annual number of domestic and foreign business tourists in South Africa will be determined, the money that they spend and the expenditure patterns as well as what motivates their consumption pattern. Business tourism's current value and economic contribution, direct and indirect, to the South African economy, employment quantum and trends and its existing geographic spread as well as its seasonality will also be determined."
Rivett-Carnac says information on the number, nature, size and value capture of companies operating in business tourism in South Africa is essential.
"Major players and their market share will be identified as well as the ability of business tourism to contribute towards creating opportunities and linkages for small, medium and micro businesses in the country. Skills research will examine the levels of existing and required skills in business tourism and its supporting services to also determine the skills gaps and strategic skills development opportunities in this niche area.
"In terms of transformation and empowerment in the industry, the research will highlight the current status and will pay special attention to Black Economic Empowerment (BEE). Key areas for BEE research will include ownership, management, employment equity, skills development, preferential procurement, enterprise development and corporate social investment," she says.
Managing Director of Thebe Exhibitions and Events Carol Weaving, organisers of the event, says with close to 150 exhibitors and over 80 international hosted buyers at Meetings Africa, it is the logical place to kick off the research.
"The exhibition will showcase the best there is available on the continent. These include providers of services like conference venues, incentive travel destinations, technical support, catering, event management and air travel.
"It is thus truly a one-stop-shop for both international and local business tourism companies, aiming to make a real difference in their business in future. Attendance is pitched at management level which means that strategic research input will be obtained from exhibitors, buyers - local and international - and visitors alike. By applying information gained from sound research into forward-looking strategies, the Minister of Environmental Affairs and Tourism Marthinus van Schalkwyk's goal to move South Africa into the world's top ten preferred business tourism destinations by 2010, could be met sooner than later," says Weaving.
Currently South Africa ranks 27th worldwide.
Meetings Africa will be presented in conjunction with the Gauteng Tourism Authority and in association with the Johannesburg Convention Bureau and South African Tourism. International hosted buyers will be sponsored by the Department of Trade and Industry.
The exhibition takes place at the Sandton Convention Centre on Monday, 27 and Tuesday 28 February. Entrance is free.