The ins and outs of city, urban, cultural and close to airport venues

Whether you’re a city slicker, culture vulture, or airport proximity and location is your number one priority, you’re in for a real treat as Meetings SA explores the top local conferencing venues and facilities.

When choosing a type of venue for a conference, event or function, it’s okay to be picky. Location is often a deciding factor. With petrol as high as it is, it may be a good idea to host your conference at a venue close to the airport for out of town or overseas delegates.

Ashlyn Griffiths, Protea Hotel OR Tambo’s marketing plan coordinator, says the hotel’s number one drawcard is undoubtedly its location. The hotel recently hosted the inaugural SATTIC (South African Travel & Tourism Industry Conference), and what a success it was.

With an airport hangar theme throughout and a spectacular view of planes landing and taking off, you’ll feel as if you’re in the airport, with the added luxuries of course. “We offer a complimentary airport shuttle service to and from the airport for guests and delegates on short-term stays,” Griffiths adds.

Griffiths continues: “Our conference venues provide top technical facilities, and rooms can be tailor-made according to the event organiser’s requirements. For medium to large conferences, the hotel offers a finger breakfast with tea and coffee. Delegates will often stay overnight, and in this case a buffet style dinner is served as well as breakfast the next morning.”

Conferencing doesn’t have to, as some people may think; take place in cold windowless halls with rows of never ending tables and chairs. In fact, gaining in popularity are venues with historical and cultural importance with entertainment facilities on their door step. One such venue is Walter Sisulu Square in Kliptown, Soweto. It’s the country’s first township entertainment centre and attracts both local and international visitors with its variety of outlets suitable for traders and event coordinators.

The Square embraces South Africa’s unique historical background; local culture at its best, combined with contemporary urbanisation showcasing the country’s cultural melting pot. Besides the 10 retail stores, six commercial offices, banks and service providers, The Square comprises a four-star hotel and three-storey multi-purpose hall to suit any function and event.

The Venue @ STIC (The Soweto Tourism Information Centre) is located within The Square, the site where the historic Congress of the People convened in 1955 to sign the Freedom Charter. It’s operated and managed by the Johannesburg Tourism Company and is a world-class, versatile, all-purpose venue perfect for medium-sized conferences and seminars, cocktail functions, themed dinners and product launches. The standard conference equipment includes handheld microphones, screens, flip charts and notepads.

The visitor services officers at Soweto Tours and Accommodation can advise, plan, and book tours as well as accommodation for delegates in and around Soweto. Over 50 homely and cosy B&Bs in the area provide excellent, yet affordable packages.

If you’re someone who likes to be in the thick of things, surrounded by the hubbub of popular restaurants, bars and shopping centres, then a city or urban venue is ideal. With the majestic Table Mountain on one side and the working harbour on the other, The Westin Cape Town is a much talked about conference venue. It’s conveniently located at the gates of the country’s biggest tourist attraction, the V&A Waterfront and is within easy walking distance from the CBD’s popular cultural and commercial attractions. It’s an approximately 20-minute drive from the Cape Town International Airport and less than 45 minutes to the Cape’s exquisite wine routes.

The 483 rooms are fully equipped for the business traveller with a voicemail message system, wireless internet connection, ISDN lines for computer and fax machines, modem points and satellite TV. The Westin Cape Town’s outstanding conference facilities feature 11 individual venues accommodating from 12 to an impressive 600 delegates. All venues are fully air-conditioned – a much needed feature in the Mother City’s hot summer days – with only the best audiovisual equipment on offer.

In December last year The Westin Cape Town unveiled its R6,5 million enhanced executive offering with seven new state of the art meeting rooms. Eben Nel executive assistant aanager at The Westin says the rooms were developed in response to the shortage of executive boardrooms in the Cape Town CBD area.

“This development showcases The Westin’s continued leadership in meeting changing executive needs, with extensive use of the latest audio visual technology, natural light and eco-friendly facilities,” says Nel.

A further high speed wireless internet upgrade of IT infrastructure to the value of R2.4 million has also been introduced. Nel notes that with their modern look and feel, the rooms are designed to cater for executive board meetings, strategy sessions and executive retreats. “They are a place to let your creativity flow and be truly outcome based.”

The rooms range in size from 17m2 to 52m2 and can cater for between six and 14 people. For ambience, the rooms rely on natural lighting with six of them having full length glass walls.

The Westin Cape Town offers uncapped high speed Wi-Fi as a standard to delegates and the new meeting rooms have 50-60 inch LCD screens, built in video projectors and screens, adjustable light settings as well as nearby access to a fully-fledged business centre.

Naming the rooms drew inspiration from the nearby Cape Town Harbour, starting with the Victoria & Alfred meeting rooms after the majestic basins. The rooms are designed to have partitioning removed transforming into one larger venue called Victoria & Alfred.

The Duncan Dock, Sturrock Dock and Robinson Dock are named after the various docking and ship repair facilities based in the Table Bay Harbour while the last two rooms are known as the West Pier and East Pier.

The hotel’s World of Wine shop provides only the finest boutique wines, for conference goodie bags, in beautiful packaging. The Westin Clutter-Free Meetings helps planners and guests stay organised and productive with an open room design and layout and socially conscious amenities. Streamlined stations provide paper, pens, glasses, water, and other thoughtful touches, keeping the main working area uncluttered and in order.

What’s more, the Cape Town International Convention Centre is a hop, skip and jump from the hotel, making it the perfect delegate stopover.

It really is all in the venue. Take your time, choose wisely and enjoy the fantastic conference venues around South Africa today.