New business tourism boost worth R1.6bn

Johannesburg - SA is aggressively pursuing a bigger share of the global business tourism market, said Tourism Minister Marthinus van Schalkwyk.

Over the next five years SA has already secured over 200 international conferences, estimated to attract 300 000 delegates and provide an economic boost of more than R1.6bn, the Meetings Africa 2012 conference heard.

Van Schalkwyk told delegates at the conference, which started on Tuesday, that the newly-established National Convention Bureau (NCB) at South African Tourism would be critical in harnessing national business tourism efforts.

The bureau has set a target for 2012/13 of supporting at least 30 bids, with a potential of 18 000 delegates and R162m direct economic spend.

Partnership is key to SA's business tourism growth, he said.

The bureau is designed to act as a one-stop shop for independent information and assistance, giving neutral advice on all aspects of hosting and organising any business tourism-related event in SA.

The NCB will coordinate national bidding, undertake research and collaborate with national convention centres and the business tourism industry to present a united front for destination SA.

South African Tourism has prepared an 18-month implementation plan for the bureau, including the preparation of a national bidding policy and guidelines for the selection of suitable events.

The bureau, through an extensive stakeholder engagement process, said it was working collaboratively with the business tourism industry on its activation strategy and business plan.

SA already boasts a 40% return of delegates as leisure visitors (Melbourne has a 23% return), while 43% of all delegates bring an accompanying person (a leisure tourist spends R1 000 per day during visits).

"We want to, through the National Convention Bureau and through the continued growth of the Meetings Africa platform, make our destination more competitive in this market.

"We want to grow our global market share, which will require government and the private sector to work closely together as partners to shape the future of business tourism, to grow business tourist arrivals, and to fulfil the rich potential of destination SA as a business tourism destination," said Van Schalkwyk

The bureau will officially start to operate in April 2012.

More than 200 international hosted buyers are attending Meetings Africa this year, engaging with the South African and regional industry to conclude deals that seek to grow business tourism arrivals.

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