CAPE Town is fast establishing itself as a major hub on the international conference circuit, with the Cape Town International Convention Centre (CTICC) alone now contributing R2.7bn a year to the national economy.
The CTICC contributed the massive figure in the 2010/11 financial year, a whopping R400 million increase on the R2.3bn it contributed in 2009/10.
Since opening in 2003, the CTICC has contributed R16.8bn to the GDP and is expected to put in another R18.1bn over the next five years.
Dirk Elzinga, Cape chairman of Federated Hospitality Association of Southern Africa (Fedhasa), said the conference and meeting industry had become extremely important for Cape Town, adding: “The city is the most important international conference destination in Africa, but also the number of national conferences and meetings in the city is substantial.
“There are several dedicated conference and meeting venues in the city next to the CTICC and practically all medium to large hotels have their own meeting facilities. The number of meetings per year in the city must be several thousand and the numbers of delegates tens of thousands.”
The meeting industry is particularly important for the hotel sector because meetings also take place in the off-season periods and help hotel operators get through the slow winter months.
“Cape Town increased its capacity in the past three years substantially (through new hotels for the World Cup in 2010), and supply creates demand. Meetings are to a certain extent also anti-cyclical. In other words: in a time of economic trouble there is a great need to talk about how to address the challenges.”
About 100 hotels and smaller accommodation establishments in Cape Town also run conference centres, said Elzinga.
In a recent bid, the CTICC won the 2013 International Congress and Convention Association (ICCA) Sector Venues International Client/Supplier Business Workshop. This raises the total number of international conferences won by the CTICC to eight since January this year.
Joey Pather, chief operating officer for the CTICC, said the combined economic impact of these events was in the region of R41m and would lead to the creation of more than 700 direct and indirect jobs in SA.
“This win follows hot on the heels of the World Federation of Occupational Therapists conference that was awarded to Cape Town and the CTICC in March and is expected to attract over 2 500 local and international delegates to the city.
“The centre’s success just five months into the year can be attributed to the CTICC’s focus on targeting the international association market and the collaborative partnerships it shares with the Cape Town Convention Bureau and the national associations.”
Danny Bryer, director of sales, marketing and revenue for the Protea Hospitality Group, said:
“Our conference facilities are extremely busy throughout the year, on the back of resurgent corporate travel that has seen a steady increase in hotel occupancies since September 2011.
“Conferences make up a significant revenue slice for any hotels located in business hubs such as Cape Town.”
The Protea Hospitality Group has 10 hotels in Cape Town with conferencing facilities that can together accommodate approximately 2 000 delegates.
The most recent addition, which opened at the beginning of the year, is a new conference centre at African Pride 15 on Orange Hotel next to the Company’s Garden that can accommodate about 240 people.
However, the African Pride Crystal Towers Hotel & Convention Centre continues to be one of the city’s premier conference and convention hotels.
Conferences in the past year include international car launches, international finance conferences, international travel conventions and many conferences for SA’s biggest corporates.
Paragon Conventions Africa, a professional conference organiser, has secured a number of international conferences in SA this year.
The director of Paragon Conventions Africa, Paul Tredoux, said:
“With tourism such a key priority of the government’s New Growth Path and business tourism being identified as one of the key growth areas for attracting international visitors to our country, we believe the hosting of these conferences on our shores is a big step toward establishing South Africa as one of the top conference destinations in the world.”
Viola Manuel, executive director of the Cape Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said there was immense scope for the city to position itself as a global conferencing destination of choice.
“We are delighted by the campaigns that are already in place and support the renewed drive by the business and tourism collective to grow business tourism to the region.
“We also view Africa as a growing market to target and are seeing more and more conferences focusing on African development taking place in the city, and this should be built on.”