Relentless innovation is vital for conference providers to succeed in current times.

So says Angela Lorimer, Spier’s Commercial Manager who was recently ranked by Meetings magazine as among the Top 40 Women in the Meetings, Incentives, Conferences and Exhibitions (MICE) sector 2017.

Fierce competition, in-house meetings and technological advancements have all combined to create a challenging environment for this industry.  While the South Africa’s MICE sector is competing against global alternatives, Lorimer is bullish about its ability to continue to attract foreign bookings.

“By offering great value and unique experiences, South African conferencing providers can still thrive in these conditions,” she says. “Clients know what they want and are exceptionally budget-conscious, so competition is high.”

Lorimer explains that corporates are curbing travel and conference spend, choosing to host many in-house.

This is forcing event planners to promote their unique offering to corporate bookers in an innovative way.

“For example, we position Spier as an all-in-one destination – which, with its food, wine and exquisite setting, it offers so much more than just a place to meet,” she shares. “With the weak exchange rate, this is incredibly good value for foreign conference organisers.”

They are also looking at sustainable venues that have a story to tell, adding value to the conference experience as a whole.

With sustainability at the heart of Spier’s conferencing offering (encompassing a 430-seater auditorium to intimate meeting rooms), the farm recently installed Water From Air™, a system that converts air into water, thereby reducing dependence on the municipal water supply. In the conference room, delegates can now use its instant call system, BellMe.

Lorimer says that Skype conferencing has become popular. “It’s essential for organisers to easily facilitate this hybrid kind of eventing.”

Innovation extends to marketing too. “If people cannot come to you then why don’t you take the destination to them?, she shares.  “Our virtual tours give faraway planners a sense of our offering which makes all the difference.

“Spier is known for its friendly people: we are hospitable and nothing is too much trouble,” she says. “This in itself is a huge opportunity.”

“A challenge we have is the lack of education in the tourism segment, but WESGRO, SAACI, FEDHASA and South African Tourism (through their We all do Tourism campaign) amongst others are working hard to overcome this,” she concludes.