Johannesburg - Tourism Minister Marthinus van Schalkwyk today told delegates at the Meetings Africa expo that South Africa was fast becoming one of the world's favourite destinations for big events, meetings, conferences and exhibitions.
According to Van Schalkwyk, the country has already secured over 200 international conferences over the next five years, which are estimated to attract 300 000 delegates and provide an economic boost of more than R1.6 billion.
"We will encourage business travellers to stay longer to explore our country's tourist offerings and of course, to return with their families..." said Van Schalkwyk.
Meetings Africa is the biggest business-to-business tourism exhibition on the continent.
This year's event introduces the industry to the National Convention Bureau of South Africa, an entity that will give the larger industry a strategic and operational platform from which to boost the country's business tourism global competitiveness.
The National Convention Bureau (NCB) will be central to South Africa's ambition to leverage the global opportunities to remain Africa's number one host of meetings and conferences.
The NCB will officially start to operate in April 2012, but its work will be introduced at Meetings Africa to give all stakeholders an opportunity to acquaint themselves with the bureau and to learn more about its role as a strategic facilitating platform that enhances their work.
More than 200 international hosted buyers are attending Meetings Africa this year, engaging with the South African and regional industry to conclude deals which seek to grow business tourism arrivals.
The buyers, hosted by South African Tourism, come from 18 markets which include the United Kingdom, USA, Australia, Kenya, Germany, Netherlands, China, Brazil and Nigeria.
Van Schalkwyk said South Africa's capability and infrastructure for business tourism was superb.
"Besides the three big national convention centres in Johannesburg, Cape Town and Durban, our destination is home to numerous other facilities that give the world's meetings and conference organisers the same quality, variety and choice that South Africa offers across the larger tourism sector."
Established in November 2011 and headed up by its Executive Manager, Amanda Kotze-Nhlapo, the NCB will act as a 'one-stop shop' for independent information and assistance, giving neutral advice on all aspects of hosting and organising any business tourism-related event in South Africa.
The NCB also set a target for 2012/13 of supporting at least 30 bids, with a potential of 18 000 delegates and R162 million direct economic spend.