Tourism big-wigs head for IMEX

The Mercury

Business tourism bosses from Durban headed to the world’s biggest business tourism trade show, IMEX, in Frankfurt, Germany, on a high this week, having secured several major conferences and events for the city.

They have also helped to ensure Durban’s continued rise in the ranking of the influential International Congress and Convention Association (ICCA), up from 178th in 2010 to 172 in 2011. Durban’s 2009 ranking was 231.

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Durban's International Convention CentreCaption: Peter Proctor, Comrades Marathon Association (CMA) chairman, left, seen with Sandra Botha, SA Ambassador to the Czech Republic; and, CMA general manager, Gary Boshoff, after winning the bid to host the 20th Congress of the Association of International Marathons in Durban for 2014.

Officials from the Durban KwaZulu-Natal Convention Bureau, with Durban’s International Convention Centre (ICC) and Tourism KZN, are taking part in the three-day IMEX show, which started yesterday.

“IMEX is one of the three most important trade shows for meetings, incentive travel or business tourism. It attracts around 9 000 visitors, including 3 900 ‘hosted buyers’ from around the world,” said James Seymour, chief executive of the Durban KwaZulu-Natal Convention Bureau.

“Some 3 500 exhibitors from 157 countries representing national and regional tourist offices, major hotel groups, airlines, destination management companies, service providers, trade associations and more will be at the show.

“We are very upbeat about our presence at IMEX 2012, especially coming off a stellar year hosting major events like the UN COP17 climate change meeting and the International Olympic Committee congress in Durban last year.

“Rising up the ICCA ranking was another great achievement in the midst of a poor global economic environment.”

Seymour said added to their optimism was the fact that the bureau, ICC and other business tourism role-players in KZN had secured several new conference and events bids for the province.

The latest conference to be secured was the 20th Congress of the Association of International Marathons, announced last week. The Comrades Mara-thon Association, in close collaboration with the Durban KwaZulu-Natal Convention Bureau and Southern Sun, won the right to host the event in 2014.

“This is a huge coup for the CMA, city of Durban and our country… Delegates from 60 countries were represented at the 19th AIMS congress earlier this month in the Czech Republic’s capital city of Prague, where we won the right to host the next congress,” said general manager, Gary Boshoff.

Other recent conference bid wins include the 65th World Medical Association General Assembly – also in 2014 in Durban – and the World Toilet Summit in December. On the sports conference side Durban had also secured SA Tourism’s Sports and Events Tourism Exchange (Sete) and the Soccerex African Forum, both over three years.

The inaugural Sete event took place in Cape Town last year and the 2012 event comes to Durban in September. Soccerex takes place a month later in October and the event’s London-based organiser said on its website that Soccerex would be held just ahead of the draw for the 2013 African Cup of Nations.

Seymour said since the convention bureau was established 22 months ago it had assisted in securing more than 30 major conferences and business events for KZN.

“Attendance of the IMEX event is a must for any serious global player in the meetings and conference industry,” said ICC chief executive Julie-May Ellingson.

Together with Seymour, Ellingson is attending IMEX with the ICC marketing and sales director, David Frandsen, and eThekwini deputy mayor Nomvuso Shabalala.

Ellingson will be speaking at two sessions at IMEX on Durban’s experience of hosting COP17 last year. She will also join Shabalala on the political forum panel, which will discuss the social and economic impact of business events on a destination.

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