Capped venue capacity makes hosting events unviable, says SA conference industry

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The events industry in Africa is expected to only recover to pre-pandemic levels by 2024.
The events industry in Africa is expected to only recover to pre-pandemic levels by 2024.
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  • The current cap of 50% on venue capacity is making it hard to host economically viable events in SA, according to the Southern African Association for the Conference Industry.
  • It means the cost remains the same as it would for a full capacity event, but the organiser may only use half of the venue space.
  • The events industry has, therefore, called on government to use the 50% venue cap only as a guideline and allow local governments to have oversight on the hosting of large events. 

The ongoing 50% cap on venue capacity is making South African events and exhibitions economically unviable, says Glenton de Kock, CEO of the Southern African Association for the Conference Industry (SAACI). 

While it allows for business events and exhibitions such as Meeting Africa, Propack, WTM Africa, the Mama Magic Baby Expo, and most recently the Mining Indaba to take place, venues and attendees are capped due to the restrictions.

"This means the cost remains the same as it would for a full capacity event, but the organiser may only use half of the venue space. Also, attendees are required to produce proof of vaccination, which makes the events industry the only mandated vaccinated economic sector by the South African government," De Kock told Fin24.

SAACI has urged the government to consider the negative economic and employment impact of keeping this regulation in place and has made proposals on what a more sustainable approach might be.

In SAACI's view, it may be best to have the regulations as guidelines and allow the events industry, which is already regulated by the Safety at Sports and Recreation Events Act, to self-regulate. The organisation proposes oversight can be placed with local authorities about allowing large business events and exhibitions.

"We need to understand that the events industry is the engine room for powering the recovery of the economy," says De Kock. "We still need to get a push from the private sector, which has kept their business or incentive meetings to a minimum."

READ | Room rates, occupancy nearly double as Cape Town tourism bounces back

During a recent briefing to the events industry hosted by Deputy Tourism Minister Fish Mahlalela at the Century City Convention Centre in Cape Town, he said government remained committed to growing the business events industry and is steadfast with its efforts and investment in this regard.

He said the events industry in Africa is expected to only recover to pre-pandemic levels by 2024.

Both Mahlalela and SA Tourism's chief convention bureau officer Amanda Kotze-Nhlapo emphasised that key to fully realising the growth of the events industry will be collaborations with various role players in the South African and greater African business events sector.

Data from the latest SA Tourism business events industry performance outlook indicates that the value of the South African business events industry dropped from $6.9 billion in 2019 (therefore, pre-pandemic) to $1.6 billion in 2020. However, projections indicate the value could reach $7.4 billion by 2024 and $10.2 billion by 2028.

In the view of the SANCB, Africa is poised to be one of the fastest-growing business event regions, with Namibia and Ghana set to be the fastest-growing events destinations on the continent between 2021 and 2028.

The incentives component of the events industry is expected to show the fastest growth on the continent. The SANCB believes this presents substantial opportunities for corporate meetings and company incentives.

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