The Northern Cape is positioning itself as an attractive business events destination that offers not only world-class conferencing infrastructure, but also fantastic leisure tourism attractions to make any business trip one that delegates will be talking about for years to come.
Business events tourism is one of the main prongs of South Africa’s tourism growth strategy, with the potential to generate billions of rands in economic impact every year. In addition, the potential economic spin-offs for leisure tourism and other related sectors, such as transport, are staggering.
Fortunately, the global meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions (MICE) industry is increasingly eyeing value-for-money destinations such as South Africa, with its world-class infrastructure and its distinctive cultural flavours, to host big-ticket events.
The Northern Cape is hoping to tap into this growing appetite for all things authentically South African. Peter McKuchane, the Northern Cape Tourism Authority’s general manager for business tourism and events, says the province has much to offer the international MICE sector.
The Northern Cape’s stand occupied pride of place at the entrance to Meetings Africa, regarded as Africa’s premier business events trade show, hosted at Johannesburg’s Sandton Convention Centre on 26 and 27 February 2019.
He had about 40 meetings lined up with interested parties in the space of two days, with delegates queuing up to see what South Africa’s largest, most unexplored and arguably most intriguing province has to offer.
After the trade show, a group of travel buyers was taken on a tour of the province to sample some of its attractions, venues and experiences first-hand. These included a river cruise, a helicopter flip, water sports, quad-bike riding, a wine tour, a visit to a bee farm, a trip to the Big Hole, a ghost tour, stops at the McGregor Museum and the Wildebeest Kuil Rock Art Museum, a cycle tour through Galeshewe, and spa treatments.
They also relaxed at Mattanu Private Game Reserve (enjoying dinner in a boma and sleeping in five-star luxury tents) and Broadwater River Estate, both of which also offer conferencing facilities.
McKuchane says South Africa’s tourism strategy seeks to attract more visitors to the less-visited provinces through leisure and business events tourism. Key to securing these events, with their hundreds or even thousands of delegates, however, is having proper infrastructure, accommodation and venues in place. As a result, the state-of-the art Mittah Seperepere Convention Centre was built in Kimberley, which is able to host up to 2 500 delegates.
“We now have a business tourism and events unit, which I manage, and have developed our own business events strategy,” says McKuchane. “Much of the bidding for these events entails us forming partnerships and stepping up to say that we, as a destination, are ready and able to host them. We also give our assistance and support to members of associations who want to bid for conferences.”
Last year, the Northern Cape hosted three major business events with a combined delegate tally of more than 1 000. One was a Round Table event in Upington, another was the annual conference of the South African chapter of the International Association of Women Judges at Kimberley’s Sol Plaatje University, and the third was the National Wetlands Indaba at the convention centre in Kimberley.
McKuchane says he has detected a definite uptick in interest in the Northern Cape’s distinctive “bleisure” tourism offering, as it has all the necessary facilities, as well as a range of mid- to high-end accommodation options.
He adds: “We have the Association of Southern African Professional Archaeologists’ conference coming up in July, plus other events lined up. We’re also going after medical events now that we have a specialist heart hospital in Kimberley, plus sporting events – after all, we have the venues. We host up to 40 000 people at the Wildeklawer school sports tournament every year.”