In a significant address during the Business Opportunity Networking Day (BONDay) at Meetings Africa, Deputy Minister of Tourism, Fish Mahlalela, emphasized the vital role the tourism business events sector plays in the economies of numerous African nations.
Highlighting the World Travel and Tourism Council’s (WTTC) data, Mahlalela noted that before the pandemic, travel and tourism constituted 10.3% of global GDP. In the context of South Africa, tourism directly contributed to approximately 2.9% of the GDP and supported over 725,000 jobs.
Acknowledging the sector’s resilience, Mahlalela celebrated the return of events like Meetings Africa, which once seemed impossible due to global restrictions. He also spotlighted Meetings Africa’s unique contribution to the tourism sector, emphasizing its focus on supporting Small, Medium, and Micro-sized Enterprises (SMMEs) in the industry.
Addressing the nation’s challenges, including energy crises and infrastructure wear, the Deputy Minister reassured attendees of the government’s commitment to ensuring a sustainable path forward. He mentioned that the ANC-led government has consistently prioritized small and medium-sized businesses since 1994, especially those within historically disadvantaged communities.
In a move towards inclusivity, Meetings Africa will offer greater access to SMMEs through the “plug and meet” pavilion. This initiative will allow around 20 SMMEs to gain free access, with an additional platform provided for 45 SMMEs to showcase at the event.
Mahlalela also unveiled a new logo symbolizing a fresh wave of energy for the sector. He proudly announced the presence of 352 exhibitors from 22 different African countries at this year’s Meetings Africa.
Discussing achievements, Mahlalela revealed that the South African National Convention Bureau (SANCB) had secured a commendable 34 of the 79 bids for international events for the fiscal year 2022/23. These bids are set to contribute an impressive R288-million to the South African economy from 2022 to 2025.
This year will also mark the inclusion of the AIPC Summit at Meetings Africa for the first time. This summit is designed to unite the African convention center community, fostering discussions around the continent’s challenges and opportunities.
In his concluding remarks, the Deputy Minister articulated hopes for the future. He envisioned actionable proposals from the event that would stimulate growth, advocate inclusion, and ensure shared benefits in the tourism sector. Mahlalela also stressed the importance of advancing tourism to benefit rural areas, empowering smaller businesses, and bolstering the international competitiveness of South African tourism.