Meetings Africa 2014 has been a success, says Thulani Nzima, Chief Executive Officer at South African Tourism. As the turnstiles closed on the first day of the two-day show, delegates report brisk business being done on the exhibition floor.

Meetings Africa 2014 welcomed about 200 qualified international buyers to the trade show, 117 of them had never been to South Africa before. At 262, there are 11 percent more exhibitors at Meetings Africa this year than there were last year. Local hosted corporate buyers had grown from 99 last year to 461 this year marking a 78.5 % increase. Journalist numbers are up to 188 this year from 136 last year.

“Given the enormous potential and success of African destinations, and of South Africa in particular, it’s not at all surprising that there’s strong interest in our destination, and that various interest groups and multinational businesses seek to capitalise on the growth of our continent.”

Increased competition in the tradeshow space does not surprise South African Tourism, Nzima said. “In fact, we welcome this competition. When all is said and done, any exposure for our destination is of great value to the sector and the South African, and greater African tourism industry.”

The Thebe/Reed Exhibitions application to attend Meetings Africa 2014 as exhibitors was refused. The delegation then applied online to attend as visitors. However, online application does not guarantee entrance to the tradeshow. On arrival at Meetings Africa this morning, the delegation was refused entry.

“It was clear to us that the Thebe/Reed Exhibition delegation intended using its visitor status to recruit Meetings Africa exhibitors and buyers. The delegation comprised salespeople in the main. In the interest of our exhibitors and hosted buyers, a decision was taken to not give them access to the trade floor as this would have been disruptive to the business of Meetings Africa.”

“In refusing the delegation entry into Meetings Africa we were protecting the interests of Meetings Africa exhibitors and buyers. We were also protecting our investment in this tradeshow that is Africa’s biggest, best established and best represented business event tradeshow.”

“We have no problem with competitor trade shows. Competition, in fact, is affirmation that South African Tourism and the South African National Convention Bureau have worked well with numerous partners and stakeholders to create an enabling, productive and profitable business events sector.”

Nzima added that South African Tourism and the South African National Convention Bureau (SANCB) wish Thebe/Reed Exhibition the best for their tradeshow that takes place in Cape Town in early May. However, he added, Meetings Africa is not available to that show’s organisers and hosts as either an exhibitor or a buyer recruiting ground.

“Both Meetings Africa and INDABA are platforms for the industry. Bona fide exhibitors and buyers are welcome, in terms of free market economy principles, to support these trade shows and any other trade show they deem fit.”

“Neither Meetings Africa nor INDABA have a commercial imperative. It’s our sole ambition in both these tradeshows to offer the trade and buyers an excellent platform to do business. This year in particular, in response to the feedback received from the industry, concerted effort has been made to increase value for both buyers and exhibitors participating in these South African Tourism-owned shows.”

“We are more committed than ever to ensuring that both Meetings Africa and INDABA remain acutely focused on core business: to trade, to contract, to engage and to give buyers and exhibitors an unparalleled platform to refresh and build relationships for continued arrivals growth and for the benefit of the national, regional and continental economies.”