Conferences could have brought R1.9bn to Cape during lost pandemic period


A survey of the organisers of 126 international association conferences scheduled for Cape Town and the Western Cape during the 2020/21 financial year, 65.9% have been postponed, 15.1% are still to be decided, 7.1% were moved to virtual platforms and 11.9% cancelled.

This is according to a survey conducted in June 2020 by Cape Town and The Western Cape's Convention Bureau – a unit housed within Wesgro, the tourism, trade and investment promotion agency of the province. 

It is estimated that the 126 conferences would have, in total, contributed close to R1.9 billion to the local economy over the course of 449 days, with just over 71 000 estimated delegates expected to attend. 

All isn't lost

Although around R163 million is estimated to be lost through the international association conferences that were either cancelled or shifted to a virtual platform, more than R1 billion will, however, still be brought into the province through the events that are scheduled to take place at a later date and into 2022.

The pending events stand to translate into an additional R183 million should they be able to commence later in the year. "Despite the impact Covid-19 has had on our local tourism economy, it is promising to see that the international association conferences sector responded positively to our plea to postpone instead of cancel, to help keep tourism alive," Wesgro CEO Tim Harris said in a statement on Thursday. 

The majority of postponed events (91.6%) are scheduled to take place within one year, with 8.4% postponed to 2022. The expected value for events postponed to 2022 is estimated at R140 million, with 23 event days and 5 900 estimated delegates expected to attend.


Forming part of the events value chain are exhibitions - a key economic enabler for the Cape, facilitating the exchange of knowledge and co-operation between sectors. Research by the global association for the exhibition industry (UFI) expects exhibitions at national level will likely only resume in Africa in 2021.

In South Africa 70% of respondents surveyed expect this. In the view of James Vos, Mayoral Committee Member for Economic Opportunities and Asset Management within the City of Cape Town, key to the recovery of Cape Town's economy is the reopening of travel and tourism.

"The meetings, incentive travel offered by international businesses, conferences and events (MICE) industry is, and will remain, a key industry in our City and is central to our economic recovery, because this sector also supports upstream and linked industries such as food and beverage, accommodation and transportation," says Vos.

Recent visits to a number of conference venues have convinced him that the local MICE industry is ready to resume events safely. Furthermore, the events industry in South Africa earlier this week successfully hosted a five-city conference to demonstrate that they are ready and able to host events with the guidance of the newly formed SA Events Council.

* Compiled by Carin Smith

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