People want authentic experiences at meeting venues - industry expert

There is a definite move into regionalisation, Amanda Kotze-Nhlapo, executive manager of the South African National Convention Bureau, recently told Fin24.

"Regional activities are also important and not just the internationally known ones," she explains.

"People are definitely looking for new destinations for meetings - and even if they are looking at the 'old' destinations, they are looking for new aspects thereof."

They want authentic local content and local input from that region.

Presenting value for money offerings is another important aspect.

"It is about how to provide a 5-star experience at a 4-star cost. People really want value for money - it is a world-wide trend," she said.

The incentive business is another important sector.

"It cannot just be a holiday for those being rewarded. We must ask what is the legacy programme they could participate in and workshops we can set up for them," she explained.

Another trend is to use non-traditional meeting venues, for example multi-functional venues.

"The science of meetings is being discussed more and more and in SA we have the ability to assist the organisers to have a better outcome," said Kotze-Nhlapo.

"We have a whole new positioning of SA as a meetings destination. We say: 'come to the source where it all started', then go back to where you came from and know you made a difference. We share a bit of 'the Madiba legacy'."

She said SA can offer world-class meetings.

"We are just modest. The meetings sector can help grow the SA economy," she added.

"We can provide authenticity and also for us. Our industry is part of the 'engine room' of economic development in SA and we are hosting people that we need to help us to help SA and Africa. That is what Meetings Africa is a platform for, for example."

One of the challenges in the meetings industry she mentions is safety and security concerns.

"We have to constantly address this perception. When an event takes place there are rules and regulations, guidelines for safety and security," said Kotze-Nhlapo.

"Political stability is another important factor shaping the perception of a country."

Kotze-Nhlapo also pointed out that there is fierce competition from all over the world in the meetings industry.

"More and more destinations are bidding for events. More convention centres are being built. But competition pushes us to do better," she said. She is grateful for the support the bureau gets from government in this regard.

"We had 505 international and local buyers at Meetings Africa. They represented 512 events. If we could convert all of them into meetings being hosted in SA, it could potentially bring 450 000 delegates to SA and an economic impact of R8.5bn," she said.

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