National Convention Bureau: briefing by SA Tourism

Committee: Tourism

Chairperson: Ms D Gumede (ANC)

Date of Meeting: 05 Sep 2011

Summary

SA Tourism briefed the Committee on developments in the establishment of the National Convention Bureau to promote South Africa’s under-exploited potential as a host of big events and meetings. NCB would be a new business unit of SA Tourism. The idea was for a South African convention and events bureau to lead development efforts in order to position SA as Africa’s leading centre for regional and international conventions, exhibitions, incentives, arts, cultural and sports events. The imminent establishment of the NCB would further consolidate and coordinate improving SA’s capability and capacity to bid for even more business-tourism related events. There was a three phased approach to achieve this. The first phase was to enhance and refine the current NCB strategy, securing stakeholder and partner engagement through road shows/involvement in the implementation process. The second phase involved the production of key frameworks, policies and guidelines for SA Tourism Board and National Department of Tourism approval, and continued relationship building and consultation with key stakeholders and potential partners. The third and last phase was to roll out guidelines and to oversee activation of operational NCB services.

As the NCB was still at its foundation stage, engagement was limited to points of clarification. The Chairperson did emphasise that stakeholder engagement, cooperation and partnerships was key to the success of the NCB. The Committee agreed that another NCB briefing would be scheduled within 12 months to check on the progress made.


Minutes

SA Tourism briefing on the National Convention Bureau (NCB)
Mr Tim Scholtz, Chief Operating Officer: SA Tourism, accompanied by Mr Victor Tharage, Deputy Director General: Policy, Research, Monitoring and Evaluation, updated the Committee on developments in the establishment of the National Convention Bureau. The aim of the National Convention Bureau was to promote South Africa’s under-exploited potential as a host of big events and meetings. NCB would be a new business unit of SA Tourism which had the mandate to promote South Africa as a leisure, events and business tourism destination internationally. The idea was for a South African convention and events bureau to lead development efforts in order to position SA as Africa’s leading centre for regional and international conventions, exhibitions, incentives, arts, cultural and sports events. A budget of R5 744 000 would be approved for 2011/12 and it would be funded through savings on SA Tourism’s 2010/11 budget. The NCB would assist in achieving SA’s 2020 National Tourism Sector Strategy goals of 15 million arrivals, a GDP of R499bn and R225000 new tourism sector jobs. The goals of the NCB was to achieve a 50% increase in the number of international conventions occurring by 2020, to have 100 exhibitions occurring by 2015 and to add 50 new events to its annual calendar by 2015.

July 2011 marked the active participation of SA Tourism in a crucial business tourism conference, the South African Association for the Conference Industry. With over 200 confirmed meetings and conferences scheduled, bringing in excess of 300 000 delegates over the next five years, SA Tourism continued to grow its business tourism offering as a critical pillar in its sector. The imminent establishment of the NCB would further consolidate and coordinate improving SA’s capability and capacity to bid for even more business-tourism related events.

To achieve these deliverables, a three-phased project running over a period of 18 months was planned:

Phase 1: Strategy Consultation and Development
The aim was to enhance and refine the current NCB strategy, securing stakeholder and partner engagement through road shows/involvement in the implementation process. Some of the deliverables for the first three months (October 2011 - December 2011) would be consultation with key stakeholders, partners, industry, and government potential clients to ascertain views, ideas, and concerns regarding a South African NCB and to conduct research on world-class best practice for NCBs. Some of the deliverables for the second three months (January 2012 - March 2012) was to prepare a draft strategy for the SA Tourism Board and the National Department of Tourism for approval and to develop a budgeted activation plan for the NCB.

Phase 2: Development of key frameworks, policies and guidelines
This involved the production of key frameworks, policies and guidelines for SA Tourism Board and
National Department of Tourism approval, and continued relationship building and consultation with key stakeholders and potential partners. Some of the deliverables for the next sixth months (April 2012 - September 2012) was to put a national bidding policy and an event selection framework in place.

Phase 3: Operational National Convention Bureau
The aim was to roll out guidelines and to oversee activation of operational NCB services. Amongst the
deliverables for the last six months (October 2012 - March 2013) was to have national bidding policy guidelines and event selection guidelines.

Discussion
The Chairperson stated that it was evident from the briefing that the NCB was at its foundation stage.

Mr G Krumbock (DA) referred to the 15 million arrivals mentioned in the briefing and asked whether it was those forming part of the broad definition of arrivals or were they tourists.

Mr Scholtz responded that the arrivals mentioned could be interpreted as foreign arrivals.

Ms M Njobe (COPE) asked if the purpose of the NCB was to attract more visitors, why SA Tourism could not perform the NCB’s function. What was the relationship between the NCB and SA Tourism?

Mr Scholtz stated that SA Tourism’s mandate was a destination market aimed at the leisure tourist. Business tourism needed to be looked at differently. The requirement was that a country had to bid for conventions to be hosted by it. Hence SA had to make a bid. SA Tourism’s unit could not handle this. SA had to raise the bar in order to get noticed. Convention bureaus were the way to go internationally. In the same way that grading was handled separately so would conventions be handled separately. The issue was about how best to coordinate SA’s efforts as a business tourism destination. In Africa medical conventions were common but SA was often overlooked. These conventions were often planned five years in advance. One had to bid for the right to host a convention. Sometimes money had to be put on the table.

Mr Krumbock referred to the jobs to be created mentioned in the briefing and took it to be direct jobs that would be created? He asked the Committee to note that the increase of arrivals from 10m in 2010 to 15m in 2020 was not a great increase. The growth was only 4% when it should be 8%. Tourism should be an economic sector driver. He felt the growth to be too low. The creation of 225 000 new tourism sector jobs by 2020 was also too low when one considered unemployment figures.

Mr Tharage noted that the targets which Mr Krumbock was referring to were those outlined in the National Tourism Sector Strategy. The Strategy had been initiated before the 2010 FIFA World Cup. After the World Cup everything went back to normal and the Department realised that tourism needed to grow. At the time of setting the targets, a 4% growth was considered reasonable. The
National Department of Tourism was mindful of the fact that conditions did tend to change. A scenario based approach was needed.

The Chairperson stated that the issue was about product development. Engagement with stakeholders was needed. SA Tourism had met with the Department of Sports and Recreation. He asked whether SA Tourism engaged with universities and technicons on their sports activities and conventions and suchlike. What was SA Tourism’s relationship with the Department of Arts and Culture? He asked what SA Tourism’s promotional strategy regarding the hosting of events was. What was SA’s leading selling proposition or selling point? Why should people come to SA? He pointed out that SA had both political and economic alliances. For example there was the BRICS alliance between emerging economy countries, which SA had with Brazil, Russia, India and China. There was a strong economic alliance with Brazil for example. A cultural alliance also existed with the Netherlands. Was SA Tourism taking advantage of these alliances and how? Greater alignment with provinces and local government was also needed. What was required to ignite business tourism to SA’s advantage?

The legacy of the 2010 FIFA World Cup also needed to be maximised. He asked whether the alignment of programmes and projects was likely to bear fruit optimally. He asked whether the weaknesses in the unit of SA Tourism that had previously dealt with this work had been identified. What work had been done by the unit? Had the NCB looked at the work that had been done? Were small players such as schools taken into consideration? How was the role of small players, like schools, to be maximised?

Mr Scholtz responded that the Ministry of Sport as well as academia had been present at a convention of sport. Academia had assisted SA Tourism to position sports tourism. Academia was indeed part of the process.
He stated that the conclusion had been reached that the SA Brand led South Africa. Individuals needed to know what SA offered before and after an event. During the 2010 FIFA World Cup, South Africa positioned itself as a lifestyle destination. The aim now was to attract the business person to SA and, after concluding his business, for him to spend more time on leisure afterwards. SA Tourism had its focus on Europe and Africa as its target markets. He added that there was a close working relationship with Brazil. The relationship with China was not as successful but talks were taking place. There was also a relationship with India as was evident during the Indian Premier League matches held in SA. Sometimes attracting too huge an event could cost too much for SA. SA Tourism was trying to attract engineering and medical events to SA over the next five years. SA Tourism had business tourism staff in regions such as Europe.

Mr Scholtz responded that alignment with provinces fell within the ambit of his work. The idea was not to have a duplication of work with the provinces. Attempts were being made to align SA Tourism’s and provinces’ work. Coordination was necessary in order for SA’s bid to be winnable. Small players were part of the plan but they were not a priority at present. Small players were being kept in mind. Referring to the legacy of the 2010 FIFA World Cup, Mr Scholtz reiterated that Brand SA was important and SA Tourism focussed on it. SA Tourism’s Leisure Campaign was about maximising what SA had to offer.

Mr Tharage stated that there was no multilateral event as yet which would require government departments to work together. In order to get an event, policy aspects had to be considered. Coordination between government departments would be better with the NCB in place. Provincial and city bureaus would remain as they were.

Mr Scholtz stated that culture was taken into consideration by SA Tourism. Work was being done in music and fashion events. Indabas with the Department of Arts and Culture had also taken place. The aim was to link culture with events that SA Tourism already had.

Ms Njobe stated that it looked as if more funds would be needed by the NCB. She asked if SA Tourism had already started the process of requesting more funds. She asked if there were any constraints attached to the appointment of an executive manager to the NCB.

Mr Scholtz conceded that yes more funds were needed for the NCB. Close to R100m was needed. It was what other bureaus internationally had budgeted for. It was difficult to obtain more funding for the NCB as SA Tourism’s domestic tourism and African strategies competed for increased funding as well. The funding was limited to what was budgeted for. The filling of management posts, in particular that of executive manager had already started in May 2011. Both local and international applicants had applied for the post. There were limitations in as far as the salary offering was concerned. It was more likely that a local applicant would be successful. It was hoped that the process would be finalised by the week’s end.

Mr Tharage stated that all candidates had gone through the processes and no candidates had been disqualified. The reality was that international candidates expected more money. All processes had been followed and ultimately the best candidate would get the job.

Ms J Terblanche (DA) referred to SA being ranked number 34 and asked how many countries were part of the ranking. SA was number 34 out of how many countries?

Mr Tharage responded that SA was ranked 34 out of most probably 134 or 135 countries based on price. Norway was ranked number 134 based on price. USA was in the lead. The African share only amounted to 3.8% and the bulk was almost all of SA. In Africa, Egypt had been SA’s major tourism competitor. He was not sure how the political upheaval in Egypt had affected the country’s tourism. SA had the best of both worlds. For example, at the Kruger National Park, you had state of the art conference facilities for business and had the wildlife experience for leisure.

The Chairperson stated that the Committee would within a year have another briefing on the NCB in order to check on its progress.

In closing, Mr Scholtz said the NCB was new and an exciting challenge. SA Tourism was working closely with the National Department of Tourism on it. All attempts would be made to get more conventions to be held in SA. There should be a continual flow of events throughout a given year. The efforts on business tourism would eventually equate to efforts put into leisure tourism.

The Chairperson emphasised that in order for the NCB to succeed, proper staff should be put in place.
He informed the Committee that SA Tourism’s Annual Report 2010/11 had been tabled in Parliament. The National Department of Tourism’s Annual Report had not yet been tabled but it was ready. It had to first be tabled in Parliament before members could peruse it.

The meeting was adjourned.