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Trends and Opportunities in South Africa’s Business Tourism Sector

Business tourism, which focuses on delegates attending meetings, conferences, and other business events, is a lucrative and fast growing segment of the world’s largest industry sector.

What does it take to tap into this industry?

Septi Bukula is Director of the Seeza Destination Network, a business acquisition and sharing network of SMEs in the tourism industry. According to him there are many opportunities available for SMEs in this industry and the Seeza Destination Network was established to help increase market penetration for SMEs in the sector. Its primary focus is on business events.

Seeza Destination Network is the brainchild of Osiba Management, an SME that specialises in bringing international conferences to South Africa. International conferences they have hosted include the 37th International Small Business Congress, Africa Waste Week, and the 19th World Association for Small and Medium Enterprises’ International Conference on SMEs.

Bukula tells us how SMEs can utilise this part of the tourism sector.

SME South Africa: To tap into the business events industry, what type of services can be provided (pre- and post the event)?

Septi Bukula: It ranges from venues and accommodation, to airport transfers, suppliers of branding, registration, translation, speaker management, entertainment, medical, security, cleaning, catering, and various other services, plus pre- and post-conference tours.
This is not an exhaustive list, but it gives an indication of the variety of opportunities available.

We have found that many tour operators are individually very small and so lack adequate capacity to handle large numbers of people. By collaborating, they are able to overcome this challenge

How can SMEs tap into business events like Meetings Africa?

Meetings Africa (an annual showcase of Africa’s meetings, incentives, conferencing and exhibitions (MICE) industry) is quite active in promoting SMEs in various ways.

Firstly, SMEs are used for ground handling. This involves airport transfers and pre- and post-tours. Every year Meetings Africa invites hosted buyers from different parts of the world. They are typically taken on educational trips after the event, and these are serviced by SMEs.

Also, the event itself has a development section, a dedicated exhibition area for SMEs. Exhibiting in this section is free of charge to selected SMEs.

Lastly, provincial and city convention bureaus invite SMEs to exhibit free of charge at their own stands.

What advice do you have for entrepreneurs who want to become service providers for business events?

Firstly, be part of the Network – there is strength in numbers. Secondly, SMEs should do their own research to find Professional Conference Organisers in their area and forge relationships with them so that they can access business directly from these key role players in the business events industry.

What do you look out for when considering collaborating with another business?

The main thing is mutual commitment to the same set of values and principles, because the foundation for any healthy collaboration is mutual trust between the parties.

The collaborating businesses should ideally complement each other. Even if they are direct competitors, if the project requires capacity that the collaborating companies do not possess individually, then collaboration makes business sense.

For instance, in tourism, we have found that many tour operators are individually very small and so lack adequate capacity to handle large numbers of people. By collaborating, they are able to overcome this challenge and therefore access more opportunities they wouldn’t be able to individually

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