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SSome newcomers to the 17th edition of Meetings Africa have praised this year’s event for being well organised and rich with future prospects.

As old friends from across Africa hugged and shook hands happy to see one another again, the Galaxia Group from Egypt, the Mangalis Hotel Group from Cote d'Ivoire, MICE Solutions DMC from Tanzania, and Willch Travel and Tours from Zambia made their first appearance at Meetings Africa.

Meetings Africa is a business events trade show hosted by South African Tourism in partnership with Gauteng Tourism and Joburg Tourism Company.

As has always been the case, Meetings Africa is about networking, meetings and learning from their colleagues from across the continent and the world.

Paul Chibwe from Willch expressed delight at the standard of professionalism and organising that was on display.

“This has met and exceeded our expectations. Everything was well organised and you could see people come in here and we could share thoughts, ideas and I think it has met our expectations,” said Chibwe.

“Everything was well arranged. We know who we are meeting, what time and where. We do wish we had a slightly bigger place,” he said.

He added that would be the main reason that they were likely to return next year.

“We came here because we had heard that we would meet Africa and the rest of the world so that we could get an opportunity to sell our business to potential clients looking for people who provide the services we offer.

Baityr Diaw, the commercial director for the Mangalis Group of hotels based in Abidjan and operating in several West African countries echoed Chibwe’s view that the event was professionally planned and executed.

The group also made its debut this year.

“We came to enhance our visibility and make ourselves known to buyers and hope that this was achieved. Meeting Africa has been good for us.

“The experience has been really amazing. From 9am we have been meeting people and building what I believe are very important relationships with future partners,” said Diaw.

“The second reason was for networking. We have met many different people. Some from hotels and other parts of the tourism industry. We have met people from Europe and other parts of the world. It was ideal for us to come here,”

He added that while they were keen to return next year, the company would make an assessment at the end of the meeting.

“I am sure that we will come next year because the meetings today was very successful,” concluded Diaw. 

Mishouy Habib, an Egyptian based Dubai buyer said it was his first time in South Africa, let alone to the Meetings Africa.

“I am very impressed by South Africa. The event is very well organised. The South African people are so friendly to be very honest. The reason I am here is so that I can go back to my country and the place where I am from and tell people about South Africa and how good the country is and encourage other people to come here.

Habib said among the products that had caught his eye were the hotels where he was staying.

“This country is very unique and very different from where I come from. In Dubai we are not used to seeing the animals or the mountains. I really think the attractions are can make people want to come here again,” said Habib. 

One returnee was South African businesswoman Lihle Mahlangu of Leehle Crocheteria, who returned for the second year to showcase her crocheted handbags as the centrepiece of either handmade crocheted items or loomed knitting creations.

Mahlangu said her main passion was travel and tourism and saw he craft as a way of contributing to what was unique about her country.

“Business has been good. I have networked with some people from here and Europe. I have met with people who run hotels and are interested in my items. I see great prospects ahead. Sometimes it is great to showcase your work to other people from other countries because sometimes they show greater appreciation for what you do than locals,” she said.

Mahlangu also lauded the organisers for a well-run event but expressed a wish for a bigger space than she had.

“I am definitely coming back next year. The last two years have been a learning curve for me and I will ensure that next year will be an improvement on the last two because of all the things I have learnt here,” said Mahlangu.

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