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2 August 2012

Partnerships key to growing SA business events industry

Speakers at the SAACI 2012 congress agreed that the public and private sector needed to work together if the goal of growing the business events industry was to be achieved.

Nina Freysen-Pretorius, SAACI national chairperson, welcomes delegates to the 2012 SAACI congress. Nina Freysen-Pretorius, SAACI national chairperson, welcomes delegates to the 2012 SAACI congress.

Working together is going to be even more important if we want to realise the goals that South African Tourism and the South African National Convention Bureau have set and would like us all to achieve collectively. - Nina Freysen-Pretorius, SAACI national chairperson

Delegates attending the Southern African Association for the Conference Industry (SAACI) congress, recently held in Johannesburg, will have walked away with a very clear understanding of the way forward for South Africa’s business events industry.

Commenting on scenario planning strategist Clem Sunter’s presentation, which highlighted potential future scenarios, Nina Freysen-Pretorius, SAACI national chairperson, said that potentially things were going to be tough moving forward. 'That is why working together is going to be even more important if we want to realise the goals that South African Tourism and the South African National Convention Bureau (SANCB) have set and would like us to achieve collectively,' she said.

Freysen-Pretorius also agreed with International Congress and Convention Association (ICCA) president Arnaldo Nardone's assertion. He said the business events industry was going to have to create new events with the African continent and have rotational conferences within the African region to create more business.

‘I think we’re really going to have to think out of the box, work together and change our approach,’ commented Freysen-Pretorius.

South African Tourism CEO, Thulani Nzima, pointed out that South Africa could leverage its position in Africa as well as its growing relationships with other BRICS nations to grow its business events industry.

‘South Africa has the opportunity to position itself as a gateway to Africa for international associations looking to expand their membership bases in Africa or for companies looking to enter the African market,’ he said.

In his presentation, Nardone announced that ICCA would be opening 2 new regional offices in Africa and the Middle East – one in Dubai and one in Johannesburg. Chris Prieto, groups and conventions manager at Emperors Palace Hotel, Casino and Convention Resort, has being appointed ICCA regional director for Africa.

‘This is not simply a move to deliver better services to our existing members in these 2 regions, but a recognition that the international association meetings market is continuing to evolve. It is in the growth of regional meetings that we anticipate some of the most dramatic future developments,’ said Nardone.

He added that ICCA was hearing more and more about strategies for creating entirely new association events.

‘Local convention bureaus and other industry players have the chance to support the marketing and development of these new events to create success rather than waiting for business to come knocking on the door,’ he concluded.

Gary Grimmer, CEO of Gaining Edge - an international business events industry consultancy that has been assisting the SANCB with strategy formulation, concluded that a strong collaborative industry approach to market was vital if South Africa was to reach its full potential in business events. ‘Key to that united effort is continued stakeholder engagement in Team South Africa,’ he said.

Grimmer facilitated an interesting panel discussion on convention bureaus and their value. Amanda Kotze-Nhlapo, executive manager of SANCB, and the various heads of South Africa’s regional convention bureaus participated. They are James Seymour (KwaZulu-Natal Convention Bureau), Cheryl Mulder-Verbruggen (Cape Town and Western Cape Convention Bureau), Nonnie Kubuka (Gauteng Convention Bureau) and Linda Ngcipe (Tswane Convention Bureau).