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The programme of the 2013 national congress and exhibition of the Southern African Association for the Conference Industry (SAACI) is taking shape.

Congress chairman Andrew Stewart says the organising committee has been hard at work to ensure that it reflects the theme of the event Create. Debate. Innovate.

To take place at the newly opened Boardwalk Convention Centre in Port Elizabeth from 28 to 30 July, the congress will explore ways for businesses to manage the challenges faced by the business events industry.

According to Stewart delegates can expect in-depth discussions about topics related to, among others, marketing, hybrid events, legal aspects and human resources. Presentations will address the heart of the matter and not just brush over important points, giving delegates real take-home value. Some presentations will include practical case studies and the debate between venue operators and professional conference organisers will no doubt be a highlight.

Tourism Minister Marthinus van Schalkwyk has in principle agreed to deliver the keynote address on 29 July.

Prof Matthew Lester of the Rhodes Business Schools presentation titled South Africas inconvenient truth will look at the South African economy and the challenges of 2013 and beyond. Among others it will encompass the National Development Plan, tax considerations and interest and exchange rates.

Alec Gilbert, past CEO of the Durban ICC and current CEO of the Adelaide Convention Centre will compare the South African and Australian business events industries, while James Rees of the Excel Convention Centre in London will take a behind-the-scenes look at the 2012 Olympic Games.

SA The Good News Steuart Pennington will deal with South Africas major challenges namely crime, unemployment, labour relations and health and identify the red and green flags to look out for over the next four years.

The question of legally pursuing an issue versus walking away from it will be addressed by a legal expert and South African Airways will elaborate on what it is doing to help grow business events tourism in South Africa.

But the congress wont be all work and no play, says Stewart. Memorable social and networking events, reflecting the well-known Eastern Cape hospitality and friendliness are planned and the pre-event tours will definitely be worth booking.

On Saturday, 27 July a fully sponsored, full day outing to the five-star Pumba Private Game Reserve is on offer. On Sunday, 28 July delegates can choose between a Port Elizabeth city and township tour or a visit to the Addo Elephant National Park, both sponsored by Nelson Mandela Bay Tourism and Budget Rent a Car.

Delegates can register online on www.saaci2013.co.za. Early bird registration closes on 28 May.

The congress is open to anyone with an interest in the business events industry including venue owners and managers, professional conference organisers, corporate marketing and event professionals, event planners, public relations practitioners, exhibition organisers and suppliers of products and services.

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