The Critical Outlook and Keys to Success in the Exhibition Industry
Written by Jamie du Plessis
According to the Industry report, the critical developments in the MICE Tourism market in 2021 brought a 36% loss in South Africa, given the changing economy.
There was considerable upset nationally and globally, with little to no financial support for many. The taxing disruption that took a significant toll is seeing a new path everyone has been looking forward to, alongside an exciting outlook for the exhibitions industry and supply chains.
The MICE series has brought the voices of female leaders in the industry that have pointed to impactful developments in 2022 for business tourism.
The gradual growth in the sector brings exciting results in the cautious outlook that everyone who has been strategically rebuilding has been looking forward to post-covid.
Devi Paulsen-Abbott is the Vice President of DMG events and Chairperson for AAXO. Devi and our leading females in the exclusive series with Tourism News Africa and their teams have successfully established flagship events.
Key developments in the exhibition industry
Devi lets us know that the growth of MICE tourism is a result of the exhibitions industry and is a substantial economic pillar. It brings with it enormous opportunities for diversifying Africa economically.
“Most governments, as part of their recovery plan, have touted tourism to be a big part of that. Business tourism, specifically, has a huge impact. So, I think some opportunities have come from a development perspective.”
“Especially on the South African side and even in Africa, we’re seeing a lot more focus on smaller towns being posted as venues for any meeting, centre, or exhibition. I know South African Tourism (SAT) is doing quite a few incentive programs for funding. To bring events and this economic opportunity into some smaller parts of South Africa,” said Devi.
Critical impacts & considerations
She notes that events should expect lower attendance rates this year because of budget cuts.
“The challenge is airline links because we’ve seen so many casualties in the air, and the transportation sector is becoming increasingly harder for people to get to places. As a result, it makes it much more expensive. I mean, flights are currently just incredibly ridiculous,” she says.
The emphasis on the prices for flights and ground transport skyrocketing is something that Devi and many nationals can agree on. The sentiment toward over-the-top costs is backed by Statistics South Africa’s Consumer Price Inflation Data.
Inflation had surged to a 13-year-high, with a monthly rise of fuel prices sitting at 14.3% in June and transport having a YoY increase of 20.0%. These included airfares monthly increases, which sat at 7.1% in June.
With rising expenses, events need to be incredibly well-thought-out, and the health of everyone involved needs to continue to be evaluated. Devi continues to point out to Tourism News Africa, “all programs and policies to support the event sector rebound must be considered with these points in mind. Hybrid events are still ongoing and continue to help with attendance. However, it does bite into operational costs.”
Devi’s perspective looks at the sector’s current outlook. The potential in the pre-pandemic recovery involves shaping our own narrative as a country. It means pushing increased strategies that attract both inbound and outbound tourism.
That comes with government intervention and support in terms of infrastructure. Alongside health and safety in our public transport, or our sharing economy like Uber, to name a few.
“If there is a narrative, you need one not-so-nice incident to hit international news, devastating the industry. Very importantly, our government also needs to increase access to visas. Especially for our African delegates and travellers,” she further elaborates.
The difficulties in obtaining visas drive business tourism away from South Africa. It has been noted that when it becomes increasingly difficult to attend events, you turn to other countries and choose to go there instead.
On a global scale, exhibition marketing indicates that 51% of geographical regions strongly focus on their markets. UFI exhibition marketing reports echo Devi’s sentiments. However, they suggest that Africa has the lowest marketing focus compared to other parts of the world at 11%.
Positive developments fostering opportunities
When looking into the marketplace’s new pricing and model approaches, the exhibitions industry had been slowly recovering with their customers, where it’s indicated that pricing flexibility and sensitivity are critical.
“We see a little bit more international and African participation. I think the opportunity for South Africa and Africa as an industry is to increase cross-border and continental participation. I think that’s what we should be focusing on developing,” she says.
“It’s going to be a marathon, not a sprint. Still, we have been seeing significant momentum in Q1 and Q2,” says Devi, reflecting many other leaders’ sentiments.
With 26 million people employed in the events industry, tourism still needs more workers in various regions. The Global Association of the Exhibition Industry identifies that not many governments facilitate business events, making the pandemic’s effects more difficult.
She shares how the industry and the South African government currently support event exhibitions in the long term.
“South African tourism has incredibly generous funding and incentive schemes for organizers to move their events. So, anybody can go to their local convention bureau and apply for funding to host an event. The same applies to the trade investment promotion agencies and even the cities. If you talk to the right people, do it early enough, and understand how they navigate. Events can get funding from government entities.”
“The South African tourism equity fund that is a part of this tourism recovery plan is R1.2 billion. It will drive the reconstruction of the industry as part of the recovery to advance transformation and make it a much more enabling environment for all parties and players. I think that’s going to be an exciting opportunity for our sector,” she concludes, placing us a step in the right direction.
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