A golden opportunity

The Highveld, the big smoke, Egoli, whatever you choose. It may be the smallest province in the country, but with the highest number of people, it’s no wonder the business tourism and MICE industries’ are booming in Gauteng. From inner city sanctuaries to luxury hotels and indoor arenas, the options are endless.

You’ll know you’re in South Africa when you land at the country’s busiest airport, OR Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg. Lions and giraffes you won’t see, that’s a short drive away, but a melting pot of cultures, loud chatter, laughter and warm smiles is what you will come across. Everyday hundreds of business people make Gauteng their conferencing venue of choice.

With conferences, exhibitions and events on the increase there is a greater need for large venues. “The Coca-Cola dome is the largest indoor multipurpose venue in Southern Africa, renowned for staging high-quality performances and events. Its versatility and flexibility is evident in its capacity which ranges from 19 000 full standing to 13 000 for a seated concert or event,” says Warren Green, commercial manager at the Coca-Cola dome.

Since its opening in 1998, the Coca-Cola dome has hosted some of the world’s greatest super stars. Attie van Wyk from Big Concerts says: “The Coca-Cola dome is Big Concerts’ venue of choice for live music and entertainment in Gauteng. The enormous capacity – it beats London’s Wembley Arena by more than 5 000 – state-of-the-art equipment, highly efficient and friendly personnel, and an exceptional ability to host major events, have impressed the countless international production crews we’ve hosted at the venue over the years.”

According to Green, the venue can be customised to host virtually any type of event, from product launches and mega concerts to exhibitions and intimate banquets. “There are very few venues that can offer the same maximised diversity and variety under one roof like we do. This versatility allows us to always meet our clients’ needs, whatever they may be.” When it comes to catering for big events, the dome’s services are contracted out to specialised catering companies to assist clients with their specific requirements. They have two different catering suppliers: Risk Catering for the food courts and Account Catering for their cocktail and banquet menus.

“We saw a huge number of visitors pass through different events and the annual expos grew significantly last year – great in a tough economic climate!” adds Green.

For smaller to medium-sized conferences and functions in Gauteng, hotels are a great option. According to Darryl Erasmus, director sales and marketing for InterContinental Hotel Group (IHG) Portfolio, both the Holiday Inn Sandton and Crowne Plaza in Rosebank enjoyed increased interest from international corporate, NGO and leisure business in 2012. “While the year was yet again a challenging one, the general improvement in demand towards the latter part of the year was well received,” says Erasmus.

The Holiday Inn Sandton’s conference facilities were extended in 2011, “and the benefit of this conversion and extension is now in full swing,” adds Erasmus. “The location, ease of access and quality of product and service has led to the new 300 seat venue’s high demand and use.” The Crowne Plaza Rosebank remains one of the more upmarket meeting and events hotel in the area and regularly hosts high-end publicised events.

One of the biggest unique selling points for both hotels is their location. Not only are they easily accessible from all major road networks but with the Gautrain a mere few minutes away from each, their convenience has been further enhanced. “Both globally recognised brands, we find that a number of international organisations are comfortable booking unsighted as their familiar with the worldwide standards in service and product quality,” says Erasmus.

The Holiday Inn Sandton currently offers 10 conference and meeting venues and the Crowne Plaza Rosebank has seven. Both can accommodate meetings from 12 seat executive boardrooms up to 300 people in the largest venues. “Location, stringent global standards and true South African hospitality, why wouldn’t we be your Gauteng venue of choice,” Erasmus concludes.

Sharon Hunink, sales manager at the Indaba Hotel & Conference Centre, says that although the venue is a well-known conference and event destination with a wealth of experience, they need to recognise the need to be innovative in order to remain an industry leader. “With this is mind, we’re constantly upgrading the 24 multipurpose conference venues – which can seat up to 2 000 delegates on any given day – to ensure client requirements are met and exceeded,” she adds.

A new addition to the venue is the Mowana Spa, which can accommodate up to 84 people at one time. It can be incorporated into your conference package as a leisure team building activity. “This is ideal for our corporate companies that are embracing staff wellness as part of their company philosophy,” says Hunink.

When asked about the most successful events, Hunink says: “Undoubtedly the SAACI annual congress in July. It’s not easy to impress 250 hoteliers, but our team excelled and delivered a world-class event enjoyed by all.”

How about holding a conference in the middle of Johannesburg’s historical city centre? Or in one of the city’s leafy northern suburbs? The Forum Company comprises two world-class venues, The Forum The Campus in Bryanston and The Forum Turbine Hall in Newton. The Forum The Campus is a leading five-star conference and event venue that provides not only star-quality technology but exceptional food and exquisite decor too. The green, lush and beautiful outside areas are perfect for stylish events under Bedouin tents and the trendy cocktail bar can accommodate up to 200 guests.

The Forum Turbine Hall is an artistic and cultural venue perfect for private and corporate events. This five-star venue, which started out as a power station in the late 1920s, forms an integral part of the city’s architectural history and is a coveted urban chic facility. Gautrain park station is a five-minute walk from the venue, making its location a huge drawcard.

The Forum Company is also highly rated for its phenomenal food. Kim Roberts, The Forum Company’s operations director, is known for her innovation, creativity and ability to develop signature dishes that match The Forum brand and style. “I am a passionate foodie. I love everything about the process of making the perfect dish. At The Forum we’re fortunate enough to be given daily challenges of a vast array of events where we can create this art for our clients,” says Roberts.

It’s up to you. Small, medium or large, as the business heartbeat of South Africa Gauteng is filled to the brim with amazing – size doesn’t matter – conferencing opportunities.

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