Taking a Strategic Approach to MICE Tourism and Events in South Africa

Written by Jamie du Plessis

The Meetings, Incentives, Conference, and Events industry (MICE) is expected to grow even further in the coming years, providing unique experiences to local and foreign business delegates travelling to Africa. With time and efficient strategies in conjunction with the necessary appropriate measures adopted in key development drivers, this makes the MICE industry a lucrative investment for companies and entrepreneurs.

The current state of the MICE industry

Looking at the key developments in MICE Tourism and the Events industry given the changing economy, Carol Weaving, the Managing Director at Reed Exhibitions, provides in-depth insights into the strategic perspective and changes.

“Many predicted that business travel recovery would be slower than that of leisure travel as a result of video conferencing – and that was certainly true in the beginning. However, a few months into the recovery, that picture is starting to change,” Carol says.

She further elaborates, “Research conducted by the Collinson Group shows more than four in five (81%) business travellers have, despite video conferencing technology, seen their job negatively impacted by a lack of cross-border business travel. A third went as far as to say that not seeing their clients and prospects face-to-face had negatively impacted the way they do business. Meanwhile, another third said not being able to travel for business has made their company less productive, with 28% saying they’ve felt unable to do their job effectively.”

She adds, “The reality is that corporate travel budgets remain restrained. As a result, business travel has become more intentional, with corporates looking to maximise the return of investment on any MICE travel. The MICE industry is therefore working hard to optimise future events’ value, effectiveness, and sustainability.”

She concludes saying, “We can expect the hybrid approach to MICE to continue for quite some time, although it has become clear that online meetings and events will not replace in-person physical events. MICE will remain a key pillar of tourism development across Africa.”

Carol notes that value-based selling and transparency are key when looking into the marketplace’s new pricing and MICE model approaches. The outlook showcases growth when looking at the key decision drivers for MICE events. She indicates that the current key driving factor for MICE events is the globalisation of businesses, which drives a need for information exchange and face-to-face meetings.

“Companies increasingly recognise the value of internal meetings, and internal conferences and training are predicted to grow the most in 2022. Meetings help bring people together, facilitate a platform for contributing or exchanging ideas, sharing information amongst people, and support discussions and problem-solving,” she says.

She further elaborates, “Despite the increase in face-to-face meetings and events, virtual and hybrid meeting formats will continue to play an important role.”

Positive developments fostering opportunities

Carol informs Tourism News Africa of the MICE sector’s current outlook and potential in the pre-pandemic recovery. She stated that according to the recently published MICE industry market report, the global market is expected to hit $1,619.3 billion by 2028, rising at a CAGR of 5.9% from 2021 to 2028.

“The Global Meetings and Events Forecast 2022, the eleventh edition of the annual report from American Express Meetings & Events, a division of American Express Global Business Travel (GBT), further shows that the number of meetings & events with in-person attendance will grow in 2022. With 81% of events expected to have at least one element of in-person attendance,” she says.

“In another indicator of MICE industry growth, 64% of global meetings & events professionals report increased budgets in the coming year. Despite these positive figures, we do not expect a complete return to business-as-usual just yet,” she says.

Critical impacts & considerations

When we asked Carol about the types of sustainable programs and policies that were in place to support the event sector rebound, she confirmed that the government was a significant driver of development.

“Government needs to partner with private sector companies to grow the industry. Event subvention funding is essential to win business for SA. Event owners need to provide post-event information & stats related to the value of an event & the economic impact on tourism but also on the trade Industry. This includes direct and indirect jobs that are created in the event & sector,” she says.

She looks at fundamental elements mirrored in many other markets while examining the challenges, restraints, and risks encountered in the MICE industry.

“The advent of virtual and hybrid opportunities remains a challenge for the MICE market, especially in light of the current price of fuel. As mentioned before, however, hybrids are unlikely to replace in-person events,” she says.

“The current skills shortage in the greater tourism industry as a result of the COVID pandemic has put pressure on service delivery across the industry. Post-COVID staff shortages severely impact service delivery across the travel and tourism industries. The pandemic forced many in the travel industry to make drastic staff cuts to survive. Hundreds of thousands of aviation, hospitality and tourism workers were laid off, with years of experience and technical expertise removed from the industry. When travel demand returned this year, a hiring frenzy began. However, talented individuals laid off in 2020 found employment elsewhere and are not in a hurry to return to the travel industry. The lack of knowledge and expertise is acutely felt throughout the industry,” she says.

“Lastly, there remains a level of anxiety in the market following the pandemic.” As a result, she mentions that last-minute bookings remain rife, which puts pressure on suppliers and event organisers.

Future outlook

Carol emphasises the significance of the global market while examining which prominent players are fostering industry growth in the sector.

“Many international groups with local offices can attract global projects & events to come to SA and the rest of Africa. There should be greater support for these companies as these events are well known globally and have a proven track record with global reach & data,” she says.

She shares how the industry and South African markets are currently benchmarked against the rest of Africa.

“South Africa continues to play a leading role in the MICE industry in Africa. However, important challenges such as the current electricity loadshedding will have a negative impact on the industry,” she says.

“Rwanda and Ghana are currently important developing MICE markets. Rwanda has announced it has set a target of increasing its MICE receipts to US$74 million this year alone, up from US$42 million last year. The country is investing heavily in its MICE sector and sees it as an important driver of economic growth,” she says.

To participate in our MICE series and get intriguing insights, read, and follow Tourism News Africa. Our next industry expert will continue to share their thoughts on the South African and African MICE sector in the next part of the series.

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