Johannesburg - Meetings Africa 2018 officially kicked off at the Sandton Convention Centre this morning, with more than 3000 tourism industry professionals, international and regional buyers, government officials and media attending SA Tourism’s annual business events showcase.
Dubbed “Africa's business tourism lekgotla”, Meetings Africa was officially opened by outgoing Tourism Minister Tokozile Xasa and SA Tourism CEO, Sisa Ntshona. It takes place in Johannesburg for the 13th time and has established itself as the top MICE (Meetings, Incentives Conferences and Events) industry event on the continent.
ALSO SEE: #MeetingsAfrica18: Share-economy highlighted ahead of official opening
'Double our efforts in growing the tourism sector'
Speaking at the opening, Xasa says, “Tourism is a key growth sector for the SA economy, sustaining over 700 000 jobs. The business tourism sector alone sustains more than 252 000 of direct and indirect jobs and generated more than R115 billion for the SA economy in the last financial year. Our President Cyril Ramaphosa has called on us to double our efforts in growing the tourism sector, and we all need to put out hand to the wheel and not let him down.”
She added, “We must all look forward to the future of tourism… I would like to officially welcome all the 3000 delegates to this vitally important African business events tradeshow, which has grown over the last 13 years into a truly African event. The theme of Meetings Africa this year is ‘Shared Economies’, so I invite you to use this opportunity to explore commonalities, share expertise and forge partnerships with each other.”
About 200 hosted international buyers from over 40 countries are attending Meetings Africa, together with some 50 African association buyers and more than 60 local corporate buyers. Amongst the more than 300 exhibitors, 14 African countries are participating including Botswana, Ethiopia, Kenya, Mozambique, Namibia, Nigeria, Rwanda, Seychelles, Swaziland, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
'R2.2 billion between now and 2021'
Ntshona says, "The tourism industry is a strong contributor to our economy on the continent, offering great opportunities for growth… South Africa has already secured event bids estimated to contribute R2.2 billion between now and 2021."
He adds, "This year at Meetings Africa, we embrace innovation opportunities. And as we come together as a continent, under the theme of shared economies, we want to advance together. No one needs to be left behind."
Speaking at Meetings Africa, Lebogang Maile, Gauteng MEC of Economic Development, Environment, Agriculture and Rural Development, says he was glad the prestigious event had found a home in the province.
“The hosting of this event in our city region is further evidence that we are indeed a world class destination for meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions. Business events, mainly meetings and exhibitions are the largest segment of the events industry. Research conducted by the International Special Events Society in 2015 indicated that the global spend on events is approximately $500 billion,” he said.
'Business, arts and culture, sport'
“Further research also showed that business events are the biggest segment of the total market, ahead of cultural (art and entertainment) and recreational (sporting events), though they often receive less coverage. It is in this context that events such as Meetings Africa are important. They attract huge volumes of visitors who use amenities and services such as hotels, restaurants and car rental companies, all of which leads to inflow into the local economy.
“With the amazing infrastructure that we have as a city region, Gauteng is well positioned to become a significant Pan African player in the MICE industry. Our conference and meetings infrastructure, with cutting edge technologies gives us a competitive advantage within the African region.” added Maile.
Gauteng and the City of Johannesburg will be hosting the influential 10th BRICS Summit in Sandton Central in July, which will see the heads of state from Brazil, Russia, Indian, China and South Africa convene for the annual meeting of burgeoning economic bloc. They will be joined by business and government delegations to look at investment, business and collaboration opportunities between the member nations. South Africa, which will take over the presidency of BRICS from China at this year’s summit, last hosted the BRICS Summit in 2013 in Durban.
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