Meetings Africa 2017 opened with some rousing announcements from Minister of Tourism Derek Hanekom on 28 February 2017 at the Sandton Convention Centre in Johannesburg recently. As the premier trade show on the continent, Meetings Africa has pushed boundaries this year with the introduction of several new developments and a renewed focus on sustainability.
Speaking to exhibitors, hosted buyers, MECs and media, South Africa’s Minister of Tourism, Derek Hanekom, broke down the importance of the business events industry’s contribution to Africa’s economy during the opening ceremony on 28 February 2017. Travel and tourism now contributes around 3.3% to Africa’s GDP and last year saw 58 million international tourist arrivals – an increase of 8% over 2015.
Sub-Saharan Africa alone saw an 11% increase, with a gradual recovery in North Africa. According to the United Nations World Tourism Organisation, arrivals are set to grow by between 5 and 6% in 2017. The business events sector is pivotal in bringing both tourism and opportunities to the continent. Minister Hanekom stressed the importance of relationship building and collaboration in this area. At the end of his opening address, Minister Hanekom dwelled on South African Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan’s announcement that the Department of Tourism would be allocating an additional R494 million to promote tourism over the next three years. As part of this additional allocation, the National Treasury has approved a Bidding Fund to help attract more business events to South Africa.