The Southern African Association for the Conference Industry (SAACI) has welcomed the imminent establishment of a national conventions bureau.
The bureau, which will be operational as a business unit inside South African Tourism by October next year, will improve the country’s capacity to bid for even more international conferences and events. It will also contribute to unity within the sector and help grow the local association meetings market.
SAACI national chairperson Nina Freysen-Pretorius says the association has supported the establishment of a national conventions bureau from the outset, specifically its inclusion in the National Tourism Sector Strategy which was recently adopted by Cabinet.
She says: “We believe the national conventions bureau will be fundamental to the future growth of our business tourism sector. While we have made great strides in recent years, we are not even close to reaching our full potential. The establishment of the bureau and the implementation of its strategy will have to be approached very carefully for it to succeed and SAACI will stay close to this process.”
It is estimated that over 200 confirmed international meetings and conferences will take place in South Africa over the next five years, attracting approximately 300 000 delegates. South Africa hosted 90 of the more than 6 000 international meetings held worldwide in 2010 and is ranked 34th by the International Congress and Convention Association (ICCA).
The national conventions bureau will, among others, prepare a national bidding policy and guidelines for the selection of suitable events.
Freysen-Pretorius says as the private sector representative of the conference and meetings industry, SAACI looks forward to working with the bureau to increase South Africa’s ranking as a host of major events.
“Delegates often return to destinations with families and friends. The sector’s potential in terms of job creation and GDP contributions is huge and government’s commitment to it is very encouraging,” she says.
SAACI has approximately 1 220 members representing every sub-sector of the meetings industry.