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World cup creates boom year for conference centres and events - Brits name SA top 10 destination for 2010
01 February 2010

Conference centres are reporting very high demand this year as local businesses try to squeeze in conferences ahead of the high-travel cost months created by the World Cup of June and July.

But too conferences and events around the World Cup from local and foreign businesses have added to very high bookings beginning in April and running through to the end of August. Conference bookings in Gauteng alone are expected to exceed R1bn.

Demand has also been fuelled by South Africa being named as a top 10 destination for 2010 in the highly influential British ABTA Travel Trends Report. ABTA represents more than 500 travel associations and more than 9 000 travel agents in the British Isles alone. ABTA has hailed the quality of South Africa’s conference destinations and said that for business and holiday travellers South Africa leads with ‘x-factor destinations’ – those with something new and unique to offer – and ‘chadventure’, a combination of adventure and raising money for charity, or ‘voluntourism-based’ breaks, as key trends in British travel behaviour for 2010.

Late last year too both Conde Nast Travel and high-society magazine Tatler had a cluster of South African game lodges and hotels in their top 100 hotels in the world.

Liza van Wyk, owner and CEO of the AstroTech Conference Centre in Parktown – which is two doors down from the Oppenheimer home Little Brenthurst and less than a kilometre from major highways said: “the year has started off fast and very busy with a significant number of queries and bookings from foreign and South African companies booking conferences and events.

“Many of the South African companies seem to be concerned about high travel prices during the Soccer World Cup and too the fact that universities will close during that time, so are moving bookings forward. There has been significant interest from foreign organisations that are having events here because of the World Cup and we hope that they will be sufficiently impressed with high quality service at globally competitive rates to return again in future.

“We are certainly not a company that is hiking rates during this period; we believe people return to companies and service providers that give quality service and good rates.”

In the third quarter of last year (October to December 2009) the Cape Town Convention Bureau submitted association bids with the possibility of attracting 22 900 delegates with a potential economic impact of R228 million to the local economy in 2010.

Van Wyk said that another trend that seemed to be emerging was many companies scheduling increased staff training during June and July. “There seems to be a perception that there could be considerable disruption not just around travel and so many companies are examining ways to use this time most constructively and boosting staff training is a natural alternative.”

She said that they had noted increasing numbers of online bookings. Web analysts confirm this saying that South Africa is following the online travel booking trends of more established internet markets such as the United States and Western Europe. In those markets, more than 40% of all hospitality revenue is generated on the Internet. In the US, 84% of travel research and planning is conducted online. The introduction of cheaper bandwidth locally and the use of more cellphones with internet browsing is making the internet more accessible to South African’s and this is expected to drive online sales.

ABTA in its report noted that sustainable tourism has grown over recent decades to become something of a South African specialty, it fitted well into increasingly eco-conscious tourist schedules. Eco-conscious tourists – very often high income tourists – like that fact that in South Africa the interests of wildlife and communities are balanced but too, that many hotels and conference centres are introducing significant ‘green’ factors into the way they are managed and what tourists can experience, whether organic food and toiletries, recycled paper and glass, solar heating and lighting and indigenous planting.

Lebo Mokhesi, country manager for South African Tourism in the UK said: “We thank ABTA for this recognition, and are gearing ourselves up for what they quite rightly predict is going to be a very busy 2010. We are delighted to see that the World Cup is not only throwing the spotlight on to our world class sporting facilities, but that it is highlighting new experiences to first time and repeat visitors alike.”

Mokhesi said; “The ‘chadventure’ trend is perfect for us – anyone with a passion for wildlife and adventure will love the South African culture. There are an enormous variety of experiences on offer, whether visitors want an action-packed itinerary including trekking, surfing, wildlife tracking, canoeing, bush walking, safari, bungee jumping, paragliding, diving and hot air ballooning, or are just looking to get a taste of our food and wine or are interested in health and wellness – South Africa offers something for everyone.”

Van Wyk said, “South Africa has long been known as one of the top global conference venues, this year we have a new opportunity to show those visitors who have never been here before precisely what good value and high standards we offer.”

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT:
Liza van Wyk 011 582 3200 OR 082 466 8975 or liza@astrotech.co.za www.astrotech.co.za

Issued by Charlene Smith Communications (Pty) Limited
011 646 7637 or mediaonline@global.co.za www.charlenesmith.net