Phindile Makwakwa is the acting chief executive of Tourism KZN. Image: Supplied.
DURBAN -  The impact of business tourism for South Africa and KwaZulu-Natal, in particular, develops the potential for year-round tourism sustainability, tackling seasonality and occupancy, improving the overall national economy and building a recognizably positive image of our country.

Business tourism emanates from among others, conferences, meetings, exhibitions, events or incentives with an international audience; regional global exhibitions, and corporate meetings. 

Business tourism is worth a whopping R115-billion a year to South Africa and this is “just the tip of the iceberg”.
Since the Durban KZN Convention Bureau was established a few years ago, it had secured 40 business events which have contributed in the region of R2-billion a year to the fiscus. The -2017 strategy was to generate R1.1-billion in direct investment, which is expected to translate into a R2.2-bn impact over three years.

While hotels are full during the peak seasons, like the end-of the year when South Africans generally go on their annual holiday, hotels also rely on major conferences and events to sustain high occupancies throughout the year.

Business delegates occupy hotels and B & B’s, go on pre-and post-tours and take on legacy projects, leaving behind a valuable imprint after each major conference. Most delegates often return with their families at a later stage therefore further contributing to the leisure tourism of the destination.

This sector also aids seasonality by increasing hotel occupancies during the quiet times, thus helping to sustain jobs. Research reveals that the average hotel occupancy rate stands at 80% from conferencing. 

The recent positive ranking of South Africa on the International Congress and Conventions Association (ICCA) is a powerful endorsement of excellent infrastructure and the country’s destination image.

The recent ICCA has helped build KZN destination confidence when bidding for major conferences and meetings. Next year KZN will host the Forbes Women Summit, and plans are afoot to bid for the 2020 Intra-African Trade Fair which will be held in Egypt this year.

Although the country hosted one million international business events delegates last year, it was still just “scraping the surface” in marketing South Africa considering the wonderful tourism attractions we have to offer.

Major optimism and boost has come from the national treasury which has given the national convention bureau R90-million over five years to help it focus on a bidding support programme to attract events and conferences to the country.

With the country aiming to bring in five million more tourists in the next five years, the industry is hard at work in getting tourists to come earlier to their conferences, stay longer and bring more people with them.

International delegates are big spenders too, spending an average of R3 251 a day.

Durban’s Inkosi Albert Luthuli International Convention Centre is a major catalyst of tourism and economic growth in KwaZulu-Natal.

The venue contributed R4.7-billion to the country’s GDP last year, most of that coming back to the province. And more than 9 000 jobs were created as a result of the ICC’s activities in the last financial year.

We will continue to enhance the competitiveness of SA and ensure sustainable growth as a business tourism destination.

What everything comes down to is making our destination is accessible, affordable and safe. If these three things continue to improve, we will continue to give people the confidence to come to South Africa for their business, returning over and over again.

Phindile Makwakwa is the Acting Chief Executive Officer for Tourism KwaZulu-Natal.

The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Media.