Cape Town - It is important for the SA tourism industry to also focus on business events in order to be sustainable, according to Thulani Nzima, CEO of South African Tourism.
"South Africa is a successful safari destination, for instance, but it is also good for the tourism industry to diversify into the hosting of events," he told Fin24 at the 29th congress of the Southern African Association for the Conference Industry (Saaci) taking place in Cape Town.
"From a business point of view, the average spend of business tourists are higher than leisure tourists and delegates often bring along partners, who take part in their own itinerary. Delegates themselves also often do some leisure travel in SA just before or after the event they come to attend."
He emphasised that business tourism offers a unique opportunity to expose travellers to South Africa. In fact, research shows that about 43% of delegates come back to South Africa at a later stage as leisure tourists.
"South Africa has a proven pedigree of being able to host big and small events. We have the infrastructure, telecommunications and hotels, for instance," said Nzima.
To him the value of the Saaci congress lies in the ability to align all roleplayers in the events industry along a common understanding of the latest business tourism developments. It also offers the opportunity for networking.
At the same time Nzima praised the SA National Convention Bureau (SANCB) for the good work it has done in a short space of time since it was founded. He said SANCB is a one-stop shop for the conference industry in South Africa.
"The business tourism industry in South Africa wants to advance business tourism in Africa together with our counterparts in the rest of Africa," said Nzima.
He is proud of the fact that South Africa has improved its ranking as an international conference destination to number 32 in the world. It is also the number one international conference destination in Africa and the Middle East and among the top 15 long haul international conference destinations.
He sees the role of the SANCB to make sure the provinces and cities in South Africa align in the bidding process for international conferences.
"If we do a good job in the tourism industry we are changing the lives of many South Africans and we then also add value to the economy, especially by job creation," said Nzima.
Currently the SANCB are waiting for the outcome of 52 bids it has submitted for international conferences taking place over the next few years.
The value of these conferences is estimated at a total of R1.7bn to the economy.
The SANCB has already secured 177 conferences which will generate an estimated R3.5bn for the SA economy.
"We need to be reminded that the events industry requires all of us to pull together to realise our efforts by working as a team," said Nzima.