Insights into South Africa’s meetings industry revealed at IBTM conference
Extracts from the study, based on two years of research, were shared with key decision-makers and media at the leading global event for the meetings and events industry, ahead of the final findings being released in 2017.
Using methodology employed by the United Nations World Tourism Association as a benchmark, the study is aimed at gaining a broader understanding of the South African meetings industry and its contribution to the local tourism economy.
The research, commissioned by the SANCB and conducted by Ground Control Research in conjunction with Grant Thornton auditors, is being compiled using information from interviews with delegates, organisers and venues.
Data collected so far reveals fascinating delegate and market behaviour patterns that are emerging in relation to the international association conferences hosted in South Africa.
“We are so excited about this study because it contains insights which will prove to be invaluable to planners looking at South Africa as a potential destination for their business events. It will enable them to organise quality events armed with a closer, more intimate knowledge of our country,” says Amanda Kotze-Nhlapo, Chief Convention Bureau Officer at the SANCB.
Among the insights gleaned so far are:
- In 2014 and 2015, the main source markets for business events closely mirrored South Africa’s core leisure tourism markets. Delegates chiefly hailed from the United States, the United Kingdom, Nigeria, Turkey, India, Australia, Germany, China, France and Kenya. This is a significant finding, bearing in mind South African Tourism’s strategy to convert more international business travellers into leisure tourists.
- Accommodation market “disruptors” such as peer-to-peer homestay websites have not yet had a significant effect on the South African business events industry, with traditional accommodation options still dominating. Between 69% and 85% of international delegates are still booking into hotels and a growing number are opting for guesthouses, game lodges and bed-and-breakfast establishments while attending business events.
- The places that were visited most during the period under review were the urban centres of Johannesburg, Cape Town and Durban, but Sandton, Bloemfontein, Pretoria, Port Elizabeth, Polokwane and Pietermaritzburg were also in the mix. Tourist destinations such as the Drakensberg, Pilanesberg, Soweto, Sun City, Parys, Rustenburg, the Kruger Park, Hermanus, Franschhoek and Stellenbosch also featured strongly in delegates’ itineraries, suggesting an overlap of business and leisure tourism.
- Approximately half of the delegates interviewed spent between six and 10 days in South Africa on their business trip during the two years under review. During the same period, a significant proportion stayed for between three and five days, but only about 10% visited for 11 to 15 days. This data suggests that efforts need to be redoubled to extend delegates’ length of stay by formulating and promoting attractive leisure tourism add-ons to business trips.
- About half of business delegates are accompanied by one other person on their trips to South Africa, and a significant number are joined by three or more fellow travellers. Whether they are accompanied by colleagues or family members, these delegates could be encouraged to extend their stay in order to experience South Africa’s leisure tourism attractions.
The full report, containing three years of research data and insights, will be made available at Meetings Africa at the Sandton Convention Centre in Johannesburg, South Africa, from 27 February to 1 March 2017.
“This research, together with our performance numbers, is proof that South Africa has a capable business events industry. The insights from this research allow us to further cater to conference delegates,” adds Kotze-Nhlapo.
“Whilst the business events industry has a significant economic contribution, the impact thereof is way beyond that of tourism, with an even stronger effect on the knowledge economy. Through this industry, sharing and distribution of knowledge, as well as collaborations, South Africans attending these events gain new knowledge which generates new ideas that lead to innovation and further growth in our economy,” concludes Kotze-Nhlapo.
South Africa hosted 90 international and regional association conferences between January and October this year. The estimated economic impact of these conferences is over a billion rand (about $70 million), with the total number of delegates estimated at 60 911.