For long, Africa’s tourism potential – the scenic landscapes, wildlife, beaches and wineries – have kept luring travellers to the continent. However, business tourism is now also on the rise, acting as a key contributor to the tourism industry’s growth. For instance, in recent years, the global meetings industry has begun to recognize Africa as a sought after destination; it currently accounts for R155 billion of the South African GDP, thereby leading to immense growth of the tourism economy in the African continent. 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.
South Africa’s third oldest town of Paarl has also joined the MICE bandwagon and is eyeing the market in a big way. Located an hour’s drive from Cape Town in the Drakenstein Municipality, Paarl is famed for its age-old wine farms, top performing schools, and a stretch of land where former President Nelson Mandela took his first steps of freedom after being incarcerated for 27 years. Drakenstein Municipality itself is the largest local municipality (outside the City of Cape Town) in South Africa’s Western Cape province, and has been rated the 18th top municipality in the country and adopted secondary city status in 2017.
A fast-growing, progressive region and investment destination, Drakenstein’s main economic sectors include finance, insurance, real estate and business services. Paarl has become internationally renowned for its award-winning wines and its unique terroir has proven to be ideal for creating world-class Chenin Blanc and Shiraz. Additionally, between 2016-2017, the municipality submitted R2.2 billion in building plans, setting the stage for major growth of the region.
However, Paarl is not just about the ambiance; it makes good business sense, too. The easy flight access to the airport at Cape Town allows the region to position itself as an attractive MICE destination for international conference and incentive organisers. Moreover, it has ample facilities like convention centers, good transportation, along with good accommodation in the form of luxury stays, with great sightseeing, entertainment and hospitality.
From the Diamant Estate in the heart of the Cape Winelands, to the Domain Brahms with its spectacular surroundings and friendly personnel, from the luxurious Freedom Hill that caters specifically to events, to the Historium Conference Centre located right in the heart of Paarl; the city has no dearth of historic, hospitable accommodations that not only cater to leisure travellers, but have also stepped up their game as formidable MICE destinations. (Also read: What the global MICE industry needs to learn from the Meetings Africa 2018 show)
For instance, the Diamant Estate can host up to 100 guests for events, amidst a dramatic background of the Paarl mountains, while also providing organizers with projectors, boards, and refreshments required for any meeting. On the other hand, a venue like Nantes Estate can host close to 200 people in an exquisite historical setting, at affordable full-day rates of R460 for each delegate. Paarl has more than 20 such event venues that cater to every need of event organizers and business travellers, including leisure activities to keep them thoroughly engaged.
The meetings industry is now evolving around developing events that integrate business needs and entertainment, and engage delegates in new ways. From pushing innovation to acting as brand marketing platforms, business meetings and events are moving away from being simply networking hubs to becoming more experiential centres. Paarl’s unique appeal and its booming infrastructure are coming together to fulfil all these needs and develop as a comprehensive MICE destination.