The SANCB works for YOU | The Planner

The Meetings & Event Planner learns how the South Africa National Convention Bureau (SANCB) is forging a brighter future for the South African business events sector.

The SANCB is a division of South African Tourism (SA Tourism), focused on growing business events activities under the leadership of Zinhle Nzama, the recently appointed acting chief convention bureau officer. It is an important mandate given the economic potential of the sector.

The broader value of business events

According to the Allied Market Research, the global business events industry was valued at US$945.6 billion (R13.6 trillion*) in 2019. Of this, Africa’s share was valued at US$13.6 billion (R196.5 billion*), roughly half of which was attributed to the South African business events sector, which was valued at US$6.9 billion (R99.7 billion*).

Following worldwide lockdowns during the pandemic, the business events industry was forced to shut down for approximately two years. During this time, these benefits were sorely missed, but much is being done to rebuild the sector and recoup these losses.

The Allied Market research projects that, globally, business events will reach an estimated US$1.3 trillion (R20.8 trillion**) by 2031, showing positive growth prospects.

Creating quality connections

With over 20 years’ experience working in the tourism industry, Zinhle has a keen understanding that the value of business events lies in their ability to foster connections. For
this reason, Meetings Africa 2023 – the leading business tourism show on the continent – adopted the theme ‘Africa’s Success Built on Quality Connections’.

Zinhle explains, “We are in the business of trust, as face-to-face meetings and events allow us to connect and build trust. From there, business can happen.”

She adds that the emphasis at this year’s event has been on ensuring quality connections throughout the event planning process, from the strict vetting of hosted buyers to the selection of SMMEs that were hosted at this year’s ‘plug and play’ pavilion.

Additionally, leading South African innovators and thought leaders were also showcased to demonstrate the excellence that our continent offers. “People attend business events to find solutions. We believe that by showcasing the exceptional talent we have here in Africa – from a surgeon who pioneered new medical procedures to a mathematician who invented a groundbreaking formula with real-world applications – we can show the world that we have ideas and we offer an environment that will inspire creative solutions and innovations.”
Meetings Africa 2023 was well received, with attendees feeling upbeat about the business they derived from the show.

Zinhle Nzama, the recently appointed SANCB acting chief convention bureau officer

The SANCB has developed several strategies to achieve its ambition of growing the number and scale of business events in South Africa. These include the following:

  • Marketing: The SANCB has launched several campaigns to promote South Africa’s capacity to host extraordinary international events, highlighting its world-class facilities, warm hospitality, great natural beauty, diverse cultural experiences, as well as the accessibility of exceptional innovators and thought leaders who call South Africa home.

These campaigns run across multiple marketing platforms, including events and trade shows. Instrumental among these are SA Tourism’s two events – Meetings Africa, a business tourism event, and Africa’s Travel Indaba, which markets the leisure tourism industry – as well as three key international trade shows, namely: IMEX Frankfurt, IMEX America and IBTM World among others.

  • MICE Sales and Bid Support: This unit handles MICE sales as well as bidding on events and providing pre- and post-bidding support. The bidding phase includes offering independent advice when selecting a host city, as well as advice on local issues, lobbying and promotional support. In the 2022, the team invested R51.2 million in bid submissions supporting 101 bids and winning 66 of these. Between 2022 and 2025, these events are expected to contribute approximately R46.7 billion to South Africa’s economy.
  • Business Development and Support Services: The role of this unit is business development (including capacity-building initiatives for venues and event organisers) and to provide a range of support services. These include facilitating site inspections, convention-planning support (such as sourcing venues and suppliers, compiling cost estimates, and submitting and monitoring request for proposals), on-site event serves and delegate boosting.
  • Research and Insights: The SANCB conducts ongoing studies to gain insights into the MICE sector, including best practices and trends. Since the start of the pandemic, we found the broader events industry was turning to us for guidance and answers and we had to fill a leadership role. Therefore, it has been critical for us to conduct research into the MICE sector continually so that we can share the most recent findings and relevant solutions,” explains Zinhle.
  • Collaboration and Networking: The SANCB regularly engages with industry bodies, venues and event organisers to understand their experiences and needs better. These engagements can take many forms, from industry events to familiarisation trips, and connecting venues and potential clients. The Meetings Africa 2023 BONDay (Business Opportunity Networking Day) is another such example, where several associations held events, including the inaugural International Association of Convention Centres (AIPC) Africa Summit and the International Congress and Convention Association (ICCA) Meetings Africa Association Day.

Looking forward

Aside from growing South Africa’s share of the global MICE market, Zinhle also highlights that the SANCB and its partners – including the provincial convention bureaus – want
to ensure an even spread of events across the whole country. Historically, 93% of all international business events are hosted in Johannesburg, Cape Town and Durban. Rather than perpetuating this trend, a concerted effort is now being made to grow the capacity and desirability of small towns, dorpies and townships as host destinations for MICE events.

Says Zinhle, “We want to see the economic benefits of the MICE sector trickle into all corners of South Africa, and to all its people. We believe this is how we can help to achieve the government’s National Development Plan, which aims to not only eradicate poverty by 2030, but also create an environment where all citizens can thrive.”

*Calculated using the average annual 2019 exchange rate of R14.4496, according to Exchange Rates UK
**Calculated using the average annual 2022 exchange rate of R16.3742, according to Exchange Rates UK