Meetings Africa 2012 exceeds formal meetings, attendance records

Posted: March 11, 2012 in travel & tourism

The recently-concluded 2012 edition of the top events and trade exhibitions on the continent, the Meeting Africa, has been hailed as an undoubted success for the South African travel and business tourism industry and also for the local and foreign buyers, exhibitors and visitors who flocked to the show in record numbers this year.

When the exhibition closed last week, overall attendance of 3, 452) represented a 20 percent rise up from attendance in 2011 of 2, 637), and with registered international visitor numbers nearly doubling from 106 in 2011 to 205 in 2012 also representing a 93 percent jump.

A major success for what is primarily a business-to-business trade show is that a total of 8, 906 meetings were requested during the three-day show through the Meetings Africa match-making electronic diary system, giving real substance to the show’s usefulness as a business-enabling and revenue-generating environment.

While there was good business tourism interest from South Africa’s core tourism markets, there was a noticeable heightened interest at Meetings Africa this year from emerging markets, with a lively BRICS panel discussion on the show’s penultimate day highlighting the potential and interest in South Africa from China, India, Brazil and Russia.

There were 68 percent more international journalists at Meetings Africa this year (37 in 2012 compared to 22 in 2011).

“There is no doubt looking at the numbers that this has been the most successful Meetings Africa show yet. It shows that there is keen interest in destination South Africa and bodes extremely well for our plans to grow business tourist arrivals, entrench our status as Africa’s leading business tourism destination and increase our share in the global business tourism market,” said South African Tourism Chief Executive Officer, Thulani Nzima.

Elena Demidova, a hosted buyer from Russia who has been working for three years with destination South Africa said it was important to co-opt the professional services and the interest of as many Russian buyers as possible. “Meetings Africa gives us a great opportunity to bring our best specialist people to South Africa from Russia. This has been the first time that our market has been exposed to your destination on this scale and to this extent. It makes people talk about South Africa. It’s been a great business opportunity, and we look forward to the rewards it brings for all of us.”

James Costello, a hosted buyer from Atlanta in the United States was visiting South Africa for the first time. “It’s chin-droppingly beautiful,” he said, “and every single one of my expectations has been exceeded.”

His visit to Meetings Africa (and the tour he went on that included the Western Cape and what he calls the ‘safari belt’) opened his eyes, he said, to the many different ways South Africa can be packaged for incentive tourism – his own special interest in the global industry. “I have sophisticated clients who are well travelled. South Africa is ideal for this market group as you have it all here. And the various combinations of experiences that you offer put this destination at the top of my inventory list. Yes, I am definitely planning to do business in South Africa very soon. And I’m going home to recommend South Africa as central for the marketing and incentive plans of my clients.”

Lin Wang, a hosted buyer from Shanghai was also impressed. She had visited South Africa before, and remained as impressed as ever with the variety of establishments and experiences the destination offers. “We are able to take this variety and package it into different itineraries for our specialist local agencies. It’s a fantastic business opportunity for us in China. I have enjoyed Meetings Africa. I like the clean and fresh South African air. But most of all I like the South African people – so nice and friendly.”

Meetings Africa is held each year at the end of February in the Sandton Convention Centre in Johannesburg. This year’s edition held from February 28 till March 1.

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