New study reveals Africa's potential in hosting Business Events

30 March 2023

A new study conducted by the South Africa National Convention Bureau (SANCB) has provided valuable insights into Africa's potential as a major business events destination. While the primary objective of the exercise was to measure the brand equity of South Africa as a business events destination across various markets and MICE segments, the research findings could be beneficial to other African destinations aiming to position themselves as ideal business event destinations.

The study highlights the positive attributes of African destinations and sheds light on the hindrances that limit the growth of business events in Africa. To gather data for the study, key decision-makers in the Business Events Industry were interviewed, between May and June 2022. The study showed that decision-makers consider various attributes when identifying potential destinations. These include value for money, ease of getting around locally, varied accommodation options, easy visa processes, and personal safety and security.

Other attributes that are considered when identifying potential destinations, albeit not across all four segments, include good air connectivity, good event hosting facilities, government regulations and norms, the availability of vibrant leisure options, and industry potential and presence of associations. In the post-pandemic era these legacy factors remain relevant, as well as newer ones such as personal safety, which is an inherent factor post the pandemic.

The study further reveals that one of the most significant challenges that organisers of business events face are finding the right local business partners who can deliver the requirements of the brief.

Zinhle Nzama, Acting Chief Convention Bureau Officer at the South African National Convention Bureau (SANCB) says the study confirms having the right set of local partners who can assist and provide recommendations while organising events but also provide timely delivery of services.

“During this process, we also discovered that finding sponsors is a key factor in finalising event details, including venue, destination, and event size and scale,” says Nzama.

The study also identified government support as important, with organisers saying they seek more government support apart from just financial assistance. Decision makers said they would like the government to discuss policies and actions to promote the industry during such events.

Non-financial support from government stakeholders was considered critical to increase the reach of events and make them a success. Arranging high-rank dignitaries to open and participate in events, marketing events through signages at the airport, sponsored site inspection during bidding, and media support were listed as essential forms of non-financial support.

Decision makers believe that there is a need for more flexible contracts from vendors, venues, and hotels in case of any postponement to encourage especially in the post-COVID times.

They also believe that governments and tourism boards can help provide flexible contracts with options such as waiving off cancellation fees to boost organisers' willingness to consider the destination for business events. Business events organisers are looking for partners and not just suppliers, because unlike suppliers partners treat the relationship as more than a transaction, and share the risk and reward with the event organiser.

“One area where there could be significant improvement is easing regulations for organising events, such as easing import regulations to bring in products for exhibitions or trade shows and easing regulations for organising events for highly regulated industries such as pharmaceuticals and defense,” says Nzama.

Nevertheless, the responses from the participants in the study show that some African destinations are already well-poised to become top MICE destinations as they boast a range of positive attributes for hosting business events.

These attributes include good air connectivity in countries like Ethiopia and South Africa, which offer multiple flight options globally. Additionally, countries like South Africa, Kenya, and Egypt are perceived as unique and boasting various leisure options, thus offering varied leisure options for attendees.

Furthermore, some of these destinations boast event infrastructure that meets international standards and caters to different types of business events, while countries like South Africa, Kenya and Tanzania are seen to have reliable effectual local partners who offer high-quality services.

However, the survey also revealed some barriers associated with hosting business events in African destinations.

Despite good air connectivity, the long travel time to African countries can be a deterrent for some organisers. Also posing a challenge is the perceived lack of safety in some destinations.

Additionally, the overall costs associated with conducting a business event in African countries can be high and comparable to those of well-established MICE destinations. Furthermore, participation of local members in business events organised, particularly in Africa, is very limited, owing to the limited market potential in the region. Lastly, the geopolitical rules and regulations in certain African countries, can pose significant challenges for business events decision makers.

Overall, the survey highlights the potential of African destinations as ideal locations for hosting business events while also shedding light on the challenges to organising business events in Africa.

“By addressing these issues, African countries can position themselves as attractive business event destinations, offering a unique blend of cultural experiences and efficient event organisation services,” concludes Nzama.

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