As 2021 draws to a close, the Business Events industry is witnessing a boom with several in-person or hybrid events and exhibitions on the books. The industry is therefore optimistic in its recovery hopes but warns that pre-COVID levels may only be achieved by 2023.
The recent announcement of dates for Meetings Africa 2022 and Africa’s Travel Indaba 2022 has stimulated even more optimism.
SAACI National Chairperson, Kim Roberts, said: “Corporate South Africa is using this 2021 window to meet in person or have a year-end event.”
But, she added that due to the restrictions placed on the Business Events industry – via the Disaster Management Act, which is still in place – the capacity limits on venues remain a frustration for corporates who would like specific spaces, but find that now these cannot work for them. Nor can the venues themselves make their spaces work as they did pre-COVID.
Now that individuals are ready to leave their PC screens and meet in person, there is more interest being shown in national destination events, where there is the opportunity to travel in South Africa.
Roberts continued: “Programme formats are shorter all-round, allowing more free time, as delegates have yearned for wellness time. Many programmes include wellness and health segments.” Roberts highlighted a challenge in the services sector - low staff numbers supporting events. “Lots of training on-site is needed,” she said.
SAACI CEO, Glenton De Kock pointed out that events such as Intra-African Trade Fair (taking place this month in Durban), African Energy week last week in Cape Town, the Cape Town Cycle Tour and Cape Town Marathon, as well as the Ironman event the Ironman held last weekend in Gqeberha, added to the awareness globally that Destination SA is open for business.
“While we are seeing optimism as we approach 2022, and while things continue to improve, the industry views 2023 as the year we will be close to returning to 2019 activity (which was not a great year),” cautioned De Kock.
He encouraged players in the sector to hold smaller in-person business events that occur regularly. “This will aid the Business Events industry's drive to a sustained recovery. Confidence over the past 20 months continues to build as the industry has demonstrated that it can meet safely and responsibly when it is allowed to work,” said De Kock.