WATCH: What to expect at Meetings Africa

South African Tourism (SA Tourism) is sounding the horn that the market is open for business locally.

In the run-up to Meetings Africa 2019, which took place between 26-27 February at the Sandton Convention Centre, SA Tourism set its key insights to attract the world and strengthen profession expertise for the year ahead. Watch the video above to see some of the highlights. 

The launch event was held at the Johannesburg Stock Exchange (JSE) on 29 January, hosted by South African Tourism (SA Tourism) and its business unit, South Africa National Convention Bureau (SANCB). 

SA Tourism CEO, Sisa Ntshona delved deeper into how SA Tourism is looking to grow business tourism in the country through SANCB efforts to "sell our country as a business events destination of choice". 

"For tourism destinations the world over, as indeed for South Africa, competitive advantage goes beyond the beauty of a country. Embracing our ability as a country and technology in this widely talked about 4th Industrial Revolution, the tourism industry is forced to evolve. Our biggest challenge is to define what this revolution means for the industry,” says Ntshona.

An engaging panel discussion on the Importance of Trade Shows looked to not only inspire but also challenge conventional thinking - picking apart the fiercely competitive industry. 

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To illustrate, it is believed the first exhibitions took place in 1855. Since then, the industry sees 31 000 trade shows annually with 4.4 million companies directly involved and a 98-billion traveller’s spend across the globe. Business tourism which includes the meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions industry, is a US$800-billion industry globally, according to SA Tourism. 

The Importance of Trade Shows panel included SANCB Chief Convention Bureau Officer, Amanda Kotze-Nhlapo, Founder of Milvest, Miller Matola and Tsogo Sun Marketing Head of Hotels, Lindelwa Isabelle. 

“More than showcasing product, exhibitions grow other entities. Through our Meet Here. Grow Anywhere. distinct positioning, SANCB provides route to market for all who attend. We need to make sure that the continent, not just South Africa, gets its favourable market share,” said Chief Convention Bureau Officer, Amanda Kotze-Nhlapo.

“Exhibitions not only play an important role to profile our country as a business and leisure destination of choice. It is a mutually beneficial partnership with growth beyond a stand,” says Tsogo Sun Marketing Head of Hotels, Lindelwa Isabelle.

Adds Founder of Milvest, Miller Matola, “Trade shows develop and strengthen brands. We need to ensure that sustainability in the MICE industry goes beyond the environment to inclusiveness and filters through the previously disadvantaged with service potential at trade shows.”

“Sustainability is a key deliverable element of Meetings Africa. How we are going about our business will influence its staying power in years to come,” said Ntshona.

Adding in the "countries would have to work together to ensure such market demands are met".

SA Tourism sees Meetings Africa role to showcase the best of the best in capabilities not only as a country, but as a continent as a primary platform for Africa’s business events professionals.

It allows them to showcase their diverse services and products to global buyers and create partnership opportunities with African associations to help transform and contribute towards the continent’s economic growth.

For Ntshona, this year’s Meetings Africa is a “show and tell inviting the world to say as the African continent we have the capabilities and competence to host business events”. Of all the sectors in South Africa, Ntshona said tourism has the greatest potential to curb unemployment. 

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Matola backed this up, saying that the trade show industry had created 150 000 jobs.

He added that trade shows are still the most important form of marketing, second only to direct selling. “Trade, investment and commerce are key brand building functions and business executives still agree that trade shows are key for the marketing of various industries.”

This year’s Meetings Africa promises to be the biggest yet, with exhibitors from numerous African countries who are participating for the first time. Namibia, Zambia, Tanzania and Mauritius will be the new additions to the 70 exhibitors from outside Africa. Around 230 South African exhibitors make up the rest of the numbers.

Approximately 400 highly qualified buyers from 36 countries around the world were expected to attend in 2019, more than a hundred more than last year.  

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