Over 7.3 million tourists visited South Africa between January and November last year, says Marthinus van Schalkwyk, the country’s minister of tourism.
Mr. van Schalkwyk said this on Monday at the opening ceremony of Meetings Africa 2011, Africa’s business tourism lekgotla, at the Sandton Convention Centre, Johannesburg, South Africa.
Meetings Africa is a business tourism marketing platform which aims to expose local and international buyers to the range of services and products in Southern Africa’s MICE (Meetings, Incentives, Conference, Exhibitions) industry. The visitor target market is anyone who travels for business or who books business travel, as well as organisers of events, conferences, meetings, team incentive trips, or teambuilding activities.
Lekgotla means a consultative process between groups pursuing a common goal.
The minister also highlighted the important and growing role that business tourism will play in the South African government’s job creation objectives.
“Tourism contributed an estimated 7.7% to South Africa’s Gross Domestic Product in 2010. Business tourism will no doubt play a role in getting more visitors to South Africa,” Mr. van Schalkwyk said.
Five years’ security
“We have already secured almost 200 meetings and conferences in South Africa over the next five years, attracting more than 300, 000 delegates to our country. The potential economic impact of these confirmed meetings and conferences is more than R1.6 billion,” he said.
Mr. van Schalkwyk added that in 2009, approximately 500, 000 business tourists came to South Africa, about 4.7 per cent of total tourist arrivals:
“This represents a total economic value of about R4 billion with business tourists spending an average of R5, 300 during their stay in South Africa. The average length of stay business tourists also increased from 4.6 nights in 2009.”
He cited statistics by the International Congress and Convention Association (ICCA) which ranked South Africa 34th globally and first in Africa for 2009 in terms of the number of meetings hosted. The report shows that in 2009, almost 8300 meetings were held globally, of which almost 55 per cent were held in Europe.
Africa hosted 3.8 per cent of the meetings or 314 meetings with 90 held in South Africa, followed by Egypt with 32 meetings. Cape Town was the leading city in Africa with 49 meetings, Johannesburg was ranked 5th, and Durban 10th, compared to other African cities.
“These figures show that South Africa and our leading business tourism cities compare very well in terms of the rest of our continent. We believe Meetings Africa will again be an important opportunity for the entire African meetings and business community to interact and explore opportunities.
“In terms of our country’s global ranking, South Africa has done well in terms of maintaining its competitive position,” minister of tourism said.
Later, in an interview, the minister acknowledged the importance of the African market, especially Nigeria, in response to a question on whether or not South Africa expects Nigerian business tourists.
“We intend to open tourism offices in some African countries, and Nigeria is high on the list. We want to see the whole continent benefit form tourism and we believe that if we open up the African axis, it will be wonderful. We hope South African Airways will open up more routes in the continent.
“I think Nigerian tourists are very discerning, and they are high spenders who are always interested in shopping beyond meetings and this we are working on too,” Mr. van Schalkwyk said.
Meetings Africa commenced in 2005 and over 183 exhibitors are attending, with buyers from different countries.