The largest Meetings Africa is currently underway in Sandton, as South Africa looks to more aggressively market itself, and the continent, as a MICE destination.
Meetings Africa was officially opened by the Minister of Tourism, Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane on Tuesday.
The event, now in its 15th year and taking place between 25 to 26 February 2020 - brings key business tourism sector players under one roof to "help African countries to collectively advance the tourism interests of the continent".
The business events sector remains crucial to tourism and South Africa's economy - and is currently valued at R115bn, while directly and indirectly sustaining more than 250 000 jobs.
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This year Exhibitors from about 17 African countries are taking part, says Kubayi-Ngubane as she reinforced the importance of tourism to the overall benefit of the continent. Some 313 buyers from across the globe are attending to "explore and buy what Africa has to offer", while SMMEs are once again being promoted - The unique micro offerings of 20 SMMEs are being showcased in the Meetings Africa Development Zone.
"This year we are hosting the largest Meetings Africa, to date. In this regard, we have sold 100% floor space, with 321 exhibitors from 20 Africa countries. A special welcome to the Democratic Republic of Congo, who are first time exhibitors at Meetings Africa.
"Walking around earlier, I could already sense a buzz of excitement surrounding the many possibilities that Africa has to offer the international business travel industry. Africa comprises of countries at varying degrees of development, majority of which now form part of the virtuous growth cycle.
"Therefore, collaboration, rather than competition, is crucial to assist all African countries to realise their potential. For this reason, Meetings Africa showcases Africa’s diverse offering of services and products, in which African associations and African meetings industry professionals can partner to help transform our continent’s fortune," says Kubayi-Ngubane.
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"As a country, we already have a vibrant tourism industry and both leisure tourism and business events industry hold massive potential to play an even more meaningful role in the economic transformation of our country and the upliftment of our people and the rest of the continent. Our government is committed to forging partnerships with the private sector to enable new entrants to come in and contribute to the tourism industry’s diversity and sustainability."
Kubayi-Ngubane added the commitment to securing a larger footprint within the MICE as SA plans to bid "more aggressively".
"Our national convention bureau, and our provincial and city convention bureaus, can provide intensive support across the bidding process. The time for Africa to show its immense value to the rest of the world as a business events destination is now."
"With many African countries making remarkable economic strides in the past few years, the global meetings industry has come to regard the continent as a dynamic, sought-after destination. Hence, Africa is the second fastest growing tourism region in the world."
The World Bank in its Africa overview said 'Sub-Saharan Africa’s opportunities are vast, and its challenges persistent. Home to the world’s largest free trade area and a 1.2 billion-person market, the continent is poised to create an entirely new development path harnessing the potential of its resources and people.'”
*Compiled by Selene Brophy
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