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TThree years ago SAACI adopted South Africa’s Business Events Strategy, a commitment by the conference industry to work together and to include government to ensure that the African continent becomes more competent globally.

Paying tribute to those who have been instrumental in promoting South Africa as a business-events destination, Tourism Minister Derek Hanekom said, “The African continent hosts, on average, around 350 of the 12 800 international association meetings held around the world. All of you here today have affirmed the world’s confidence in South Africa as a capable business-events destination.

“It is because of your professionally managed international convention centres, smaller business-event facilities, and your well-known hosting capabilities, that we occupy the 32nd spot on the ICCA (International Congress and Convention Association) rankings. We continue to hold the top position for Africa and the Middle East. This is no small feat, considering the fast-evolving and dynamic global environment that we operate in.” 

However, the minister also acknowledged that growth in the conference industry has not been without its challenges and made particular reference to the new visa regulations.

“Factors such as the safety of delegates, affordability of our offerings, air access and ease of entry into our country all impact on the success of the industry. We are all aware that the recently introduced visa regulations have had an impact on tourism. You will also be aware that cabinet has decided to establish a team of ministers to consider and review the unintended consequences of these regulations,” Hanekom said.

Despite these challenges, Hanekom assured the industry of the commitment of both government and the South Africa National Convention Bureau (SANCB) to bringing new business to South Africa. He cited the launch of the Tourism Incentive Programme, which is geared towards supporting market-access opportunities for the industry at international trade shows. 

“Under the leadership of this bureau, South Africa has already secured 177 international association conferences for the country over the next five years, which will attract over 253 128 professionals. This will create 753 event days and generate an estimated R3.5 billion in economic impact,” Hanekom said. 

Adriaan Liebetrau, chief executive officer of SAACI, said SAACI would be adopting a four-point plan focusing on integrity, intelligence, innovation and sustainability. 

“We want our members to use our logo with pride and if the public sees you are a member of SAACI they must know you represent the highest possible standards in our sector,” said Liebetrau.

“Therefore we will review the membership process to ensure that members belong to the right forum and that they follow best practice. We will also start the process of reviewing our code of conduct and will present a revised code of conduct for members’ adoption over the next few months. This [will include] a review of our disciplinary code.

“We hope to launch the SAACI Academy that will provide online courses in the coming months. We are also going to start focusing on more industry research,” Liebetrau added. 

Amanda Kotze-Nhlapo, executive manager of the SANCB, reiterated South Africa’s successes in the conference industry but said a lot of work still needed to be done to attract more African countries to participate in the conference industry.

Kotze-Nhlapo encouraged delegates to work together to put Africa on the map. “When we work as one, we win as one,” she concluded.

For more information, visit SAACI.

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