20 August 2014

Business events sector a significant contributor to South Africa’s GDP

The business events sector was a major contributor to the tourism sector’s 9.5% contribution to South Africa’s GDP in 2013, which translates into more than 1.4-million jobs in the country.

Tourism Minister Derek Hanekom at the opening of the 2014 SAACI congress

Government welcomes the impact of business events in attracting foreign direct spend and investment, creating jobs and positively shaping perceptions about our destination around the world. – Tourism Minister Derek Hanekom

The business events sector's significant contribution was highlighted by Tourism Minister Derek Hanekom at the opening of the Southern African Association for the Conference Industry’s (SAACI) annual congress and exhibition, which took place in St Lucia, KwaZulu-Natal, from 17 to 19 August 2014.

Hanekom told delegates that as a business events destination, South Africa is fast becoming a serious contender globally. 

'The country gained three places in the International Congress and Convention Association’s (ICCA) global ranking – from 37 th place in 2012 to 34th in 2013 – and all indications are that we are poised to continue to gain in this ranking. South Africa is also the number one convention destination in Africa and the Middle East, with Durban and Cape Town ranked among the top 100 cities globally for conventions,' he said.

South Africa hosted 118 ICCA-ranked meetings last year, bringing more than 94 000 association professionals to South Africa, which contributed an estimated R1.2-billion to the country’s economy. Add to this the 200 000 business events delegates who visited South Africa in 2013, and the business events sector contributed more than R6-billion to South Africa’s economy. 

‘It’s a well-known fact that business travel exceeds global averages for tourism spending. It represents a segment of higher-end spenders and contributes greatly to breaking seasonality patterns,’ Hanekom said.

The minister offered an example of how the business events sector is contributing to South Africa’s economy and the growth of tourism to the country. The Consumer Goods Forum to be held in South Africa in 2016, said Hanekom, will host up to 1 000 CEOs and senior managers from more than 400 retailers and manufacturers around the world, representing companies with a combined sales worth of more than €2.5-trillion a year. 

‘The immediate estimated economic impact of R11.2-million will include some 4 000 room nights spread over four conference days, excluding the spending by delegates who decide to stay longer, visit other parts of the country, or to return with their families in a year or two,’ he said, adding that this excludes the potential business and investment in South Africa that this kind of conference can bring. 

‘It should, therefore, come as no surprise that the South African government remains fully supportive of the business events industry and well recognises the impact that it continues to have on the economy. Government welcomes the impact of business events in attracting foreign direct spend and investment, creating jobs and positively shaping perceptions about our destination around the world,’ concluded Hanekom.

SAACI national chairperson Zelda Coetzee told delegates that to move forward, the business events industry needs to be bold. ‘Real innovation, lateral thinking and revolutionary ideas are what make modern-day winners,’ she said.

Coetzee said it is heartening to learn that nationally and internationally, the economic downturn of the past few years is slowly turning the corner, but added that South Africa is not out of the economic doldrums just yet.

‘South Africa is celebrating 20 years of democracy this year. In business terms, and specifically business events, our honeymoon is over and we need to deliver to draw the world to our wonderful country. We must manage the fact that we are a long-haul destination offering potential tourists value for money and an awesome and safe destination that is easy to access,’ she said.