Business tourism is booming

The Western Cape is cementing its place in the top rank of business tourism destinations.

Steenberg offers intimate settings and luxury surroundings. Photo: Steenberg Farm

Many parts of the Western Cape, and the city of Cape Town in particular, have the ideal combination of conference and exhibition infrastructure, adequate accommodation and unique settings to succeed in the meetings, incentives, convention and exhibitions (MICE) sector.

The 30th edition of the Investing in African Mining Indaba in February 2024 showcased the ability of the Cape Town International Convention Centre (CTICC) to host large events. With about 10 000 delegates from more than 100 countries, hundreds of stands and a cornucopia of talks, events and presentations, the conference was a logistical marvel with the Hyve Group seemingly handling the increased numbers with ease.

The CTICC itself celebrated its 20th anniversary in 2023 with a near doubling of revenue over the previous year.

At the other end of the scale, wine farms such as Steenberg offer intimate meeting rooms in a pretty setting. With its own golf course, Steenberg nicely illustrates the concept of Bleisure, the idea of combining business with leisure.

Business tourists routinely spend at least twice as much money during the course of their trips as regular tourists, so the market is an attractive one. The Cape Town and Western Cape Convention Bureau, a division of Wesgro, is devoted to attracting conferences and events to the province. Wesgro is the tourism, trade and investment promotion agency for Cape Town and the Western Cape.

Cape Town has routinely been ranked as the top African city in terms of hosting international association meetings. The subject matter of these conferences has tended to be centred on the medical sciences, technology, economics and education.

Events

The 46th riding of the Cape Town Cycle Tour in 2024 expected to attract about 35 000 cyclists, confirming the event’s reputation as the biggest timed bike race in the world.

The Knysna Oyster Fest, which was held in the Southern Cape town for the 40th time in 2023, attracts huge numbers of cyclists, marathon runners and oyster eaters every year.

The Cape Town International Jazz Festival became a mega-event over time, earning a solid reputation for musical excellence and excellent attendances. Suspended during the Covid epidemic, it was due to return to the events calendar in 2024 but details are still to be confirmed.

South Africa Sevens is an annual rugby sevens tournament that has become a popular part of the roster of events held at the Cape Town Stadium. The tournament is part of the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series run by World Rugby.

The country’s premier Afrikaans language festival, the Klein Karoo Nasionale Kunstefees (KKNK), presents more than 1 000 visual and performing artists in more than 200 productions and exhibitions over eight days in Oudtshoorn.

CTICC celebrates 20 years

When the capacity of the Cape Town International Convention Centre was doubled in 2017, there were some who wondered how the additional space would ever be used. Instead, the eastern extension, now known as CTICC-2, has been working just as hard as the original space that started operating in 2003.

The Cape Town International Convention Centre Company (Convenco), the holding company of the CTICC, was formed in 1999 by the City of Cape Town, the provincial government of the Western Cape and the business sector. Shareholding in Convenco, which owns and manages the business of the CTICC, is made up as follows: City of Cape Town (72.7%), the Provincial Government of the Western Cape (22.2%) and SunWest International (Pty) Ltd (5.1%).

A skybridge connects the CTICC’s two venues on the Foreshore.
A skybridge connects the CTICC’s two venues on the Foreshore. Photo: CTICC

In the 2023 financial year, the CTICC hosted 427 events, up from 225 in the previous year, and nearly doubled revenue to R278-million. This returned the company to profit after the tough years brought on by Covid-19. In addition to a significant contribution of R5.4-billion to the Western Cape’s gross geographic product (GGP), the centre sustained or created nearly 11 000 jobs nationally.

Some 275 000 people attended events at the venue in the financial year, including more than 25 000 who came looking for design ideas at Decorex Cape Town and 12 000 techies who tuned in to the Africa Tech Festival.

The CTICC was also the proud winner of the 2023 Clean Audit Award, Municipal Finance Management Act.

Among the big international conferences to be held at the CTICC in 2024 are the FIP World Conference of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences and the Meeting of the International Society of Pneumonia and Pneumococcal Diseases (ISPPD-13). WTM Africa, “Africa Travel Week ”, will be at the CTICC in April 2024 and the 25th hosting of FIGO World Congress of Gynecology and Obstetrics will come to Cape Town in 2025.

Cape Town highlights

    • Number one city in Africa for business events, International Congress and Convention Association, 2010 – 2022
    • World’s Leading Festival and Events Destination, World Travel Awards 2018
    • Best Destination in Africa, World Tourism Awards 2019

Source: Wesgro

CTICC: 20 years in numbers

    • 9 000 events
    • 700+ international events
    • 9.5-million visitors
    • R60-billion cumulative contribution to national GDP
    • R51.5-billion cumulative contribution to Western Cape GGP
Netball World Cup 2023 Cape Town
International indoor sporting action came to Cape Town in 2023. Photo: CTICC

Varied venues

A short walk separates the Castle of Good Hope and the Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa (Zeitz MOCAA) in central Cape Town but the ambience of the two venues could not be more different. Both are available for hire for conferences, performances and exhibitions.

The Castle oozes history and has no fewer than three museums within it walls, the Military Museum, the William Fehr Collection of paintings and decorative arts and a permanent ceramic exhibition, FIRED. The grassed quadrangle lends itself to events and cocktail parties.

Zeitz MOCAA is the epitome of modernity and it promises an “otherworldly venue hire experience”. This promise is based on the repurposed buildings’ “understated eccentric interior design and artwork that embody what modern Africa has to offer”. The atrium offers exceptional acoustics while the elegant Scheryn Collection Arena lends itself to panel discussions and conferences

A few minutes away from the CBD along the N1 highway, the Century City Conference Centre (CCCC) can accommodate 1 900 delegates across 20 different venues, 11 meeting rooms and four halls. There are 540 hotel rooms within walking distance.

Visit Stellenbosch lists 34 conference venues on its website, ranging (in the theatre configuration) from the 600-seat Cavalli Estate to the Rupert Museum, which has room for 30 delegates. Almost all of the area’s wine farms and hotels are equipped to host conferences and Stellenbosch University has a large range of venues.

George’s position at the heart of the Garden Route makes it a popular conference destination. The fact that the town has no fewer than five golf courses within the city limits and several more nearby adds to its appeal.

The Fancourt complex has several venues and the Protea Hotel King George regularly attracts repeat customers. The Oubaai Hotel, Golf & Spa on the coast at Herolds Bay has few competitors when it comes to dramatic settings.