from DION HENRICK in Cape Town
CAPE TOWN – THE South African government has pledged continuous commitment to growing the business events industry as it recovers from the COVID-19 restrictions.
Deputy Minister of Tourism, Fish Mahlalela, gave the assurance at his post-budget vote industry engagement in Cape Town.
“The future for our African continent is bright,” Mahlalela said in an address coinciding with Africa Day.
“It is now time for our country, South Africa, to reclaim our place as an attractive tourism and business events destination.”
Held at the Century City Convention Centre, the engagement brought together captains of the business events industry to continue collaborations which will see this sector once again contribute fully to the economy.
The COVID-19 pandemic had an adverse impact on tourism, with the African business events industry declining from US$13,6 billion in 2019 and contracted to $3,1 billion in 2020. It is anticipated that the region will reach pre-pandemic figures by 2024.
Mahlalela said the removal of the National State of Disaster in April this year allows the tourism sector to once again contribute fully and meaningfully towards the South African economy and towards job creation.
“The easing of restrictions on gatherings has already shown to have a positive impact on business events and will provide great reprieve for the South African tourism sector and in turn, the economy,” he said.
Amanda Kotze-Nhlapo, South African Tourism’s Chief Convention Bureau Officer, emphasised the role of collaborating and believes that the business events industry will reignite recovery – and be able to fill up the conference rooms again and bring people to our shores.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has made it increasingly important for us as a sector to work together,” she said.
“We will continue to work with the industry to actively seek to develop leads for future business events to ensure that South Africa develops and maintains a bid pipeline for continued growth of the event sector,” Kotze-Nhlapo said.
This stakeholder engagement also showcased some of the work done by the business events industry to ensure inclusive recovery.
One such project is the RISE project, which is championed by the South African Association for the Conference Industry (SAACI).
It aims to provide practical events, hospitality, and tourism-related skills training for members of the community unable to further their education. The programme allows the participants to gainfully participate in the tourism sector.
“This is a project aimed at utilising the business events industry as a catalyst for social upliftment and in turn providing capacity building and skills transfer for community growth within the identified rural areas,” Glenton de Kock, SAACI Chief Executive Officer, said.
– CAJ News