Identified by sizable populations and speedy economic growth, the “BRIC” countries of Brazil, Russia, India, China and—most recently, South Africa—are quickly becoming hot spots for international meetings.
According to South African Tourism’s recently launched National Convention Bureau (www.southafrica.net), the country hosted 90 of the more than 6,000 international meetings held around the world last year and is looking to significantly increase its global meetings share in the next five years.
“Following the 2010 FIFA World Cup, it was evident that as a country we needed to capitalize on what we built, our infrastructure and existing convention centers,” said the NCB’s executive manager, Amanda Kotze-Nhlapo. “Our government saw a way to build on our reputation as a strong leisure destination and get into a growing industry.”
After welcoming hundreds of thousands of visitors to South Africa’s nine host cities during the World Cup, the country plans to utilize its strong reputation as a leisure travel destination to boost growth in the international conference, exhibition and incentive sectors.
“There is fierce competition in the MICE industry and we are focused on putting South Africa on the map,” Kotze-Nhlapo says.
The bureau hopes to grow international convention business by 50 percent, and with regal venues such as the Mount Nelson Hotel in Cape Town, the Sandton Convention Center in Johannesburg, the 100,000-square-foot International Convention Center Durban and the adjacent Durban Exhibition Center, South Africa is equipped to become a major player and continent-leader.
In addition to the large international conference centers in Durban, Johannesburg and Cape Town, the country is dotted with smaller venues in unique cities and is a renowned food and wine destination.
“Being in an English-speaking country makes it easy for planners,” Kotze-Nhlapo says, “but we are also a year-round destination. We have plenty of sophistication and offer social responsibility programs to help clients leave a positive footprint.”
Similarly, Brazil is planning tourism and marketing strategies around the upcoming 2016 World Cup and 2014 Summer Olympics.