While international tourists are arriving in large numbers following a successful domestic tourism season, SA Tourism’s annual Meetings Africa conference in Sandton next week is attracting a record number of delegates.

Almost 350 international, regional and local qualified buyers have booked to attend – 67 percent more than last year.

“This is a good indication that this year’s event will deliver outstanding business and networking opportunities to all delegates and will establish the African region as one of the world’s premier events destinations,” a spokesman for SA Tourism said yesterday.

SA Tourism chief executive Thulani Nzima said the numbers were impressive. “They show global interest in South Africa as a host destination for business events is growing.”

This year’s conference has been organised by South Africa’s new National Convention Bureau headed by Amanda Kotze-Nhlapo, which was set up by SA Tourism last year to attract a larger share of the international conference market and spread it more evenly between cities.

Meetings Africa brings under one roof the best of the continent’s business event products, services, organisers and facilities needed to stage an international meeting and business event of any size.

Pointing out that South Africa was one of the top 15 long-haul destinations on the International Congress and Convention Association’s list, Nzima said the show took the first steps this year to include other destinations on the continent, to make it the biggest and most influential pan-African business event trade exhibition.

“The plan to create a pan-African meetings platform is timeous and strategic as Africa’s economy is growing at more than 4 percent a year, with growth in sub-Saharan Africa forecast by the World Bank to rise to 6 percent,” Nzima said.

“The goal is to attract more regional and global business events to this continent and in doing so to increase our tourist arrivals.”