Africa’s scenery, wildlife, beaches and wine have kept luring travellers to the continent for a long time now, acting as the key contributor to the tourism industry’s growth. However, business tourism is now also on the rise, with its new-found recognition as an important, untapped segment.
By targeting business travel, the number of meetings, incentives, conferences, and exhibitions, Africa is leaving no stone unturned to make sure that MICE events increase over the coming years. Recently, Africa Tourism Partners (ATP) and Grant Thornton announced that they will host the first ever Africa Masterclass in MICE in Johannesburg, from February 20-23, 2018. Themed ‘Growing destination tourist arrivals through business and events tourism leadership development’, it is a professional development programme that aims to enhance the skills of professionals and public officials in the African MICE sector.It will also focus on how tourist destinations in Africa can optimize the value of business and events tourism.
TravHQ spoke to Kwakye Donkor, chairman at ATP, about what he envisions for the MICE sector.
Business tourism has now become a key agenda in Africa. How did the transformation take place – from a leisure hotspot to a business travel hub?
Africa has always been a business tourism hub. There is, however, more hype and global awareness about business tourism now than ever. The primary reason being that both the Public and Private sector in Africa have committed to work in unison to position their tourist destinations on the continent as such, thereby increasing their investments in business tourism development. These are in the form of building more business hotels, conference centers, establishment of more convention and visitors bureau and more commitment in business tourism marketing.
How do you see this MICE masterclass helping the African tourism industry overall?
This is the first of its kind and Africa Tourism Partners and its lead Partner, Grant Thornton see it as a professional development programme for both experienced and inexperienced professionals in the industry. It also aims to sharpen skills in the industry and create a peer-to-peer knowledge-sharing opportunity. Ultimately, we wish to use this novel initiative to close the industry skills gap in order for destinations in Africa to grow their tourists arrivals through business tourism.
What are the key destinations in Africa that could potentially become/already are MICE leaders?
Almost all African destinations have the opportunity to become MICE destinations . This is because each destination is unique in its own way for meetings, incentive travel, conferences and conventions.
What are your main target markets globally?
We are inviting all African and Middle East Destinations officials /representatives, marketing directors, sales directors, CEOs of tourism authorities and CVBs, as well as all stakeholders in public and private sector to participate in the Masterclass. We also take this opportunity to invite all interested parties across the globe to attend and learn more about Africa’s MICE /business tourism sector.
The government has also taken up a number of initiatives to expand the MICE horizon in the country. Any particular initiative that you think worked the best so far?
Yes, this is true, African governments are doing their best to grow the industry as a key sector for African tourism economies and there are different approaches. Given that each destination is unique, destinations will adopt and implement initiatives that suit them best. This is a good approach as it gives way to diversity and uniqueness.
What are the challenges that you foresee in growing Africa as an important MICE destination?
The biggest challenge is the cost of air travel to most MICE destinations in Africa. This is, however, being resolved as a result of the emergence of low cost carriers.
How do you expect the segment to grow in the next 5 years?
I cannot put figures to this, however, we are very positive that this segment will continue to grow given the commitment by industry stakeholders to create more awareness about their offering, which are on par with the rest of world.