Southern African Association for the Conference Industry (SAACI) presentation on its role in respect of tourism development, growth and job creation

Committee: Tourism

Chairperson: Mr D Gumede (ANC)

Date of Meeting: 07 Feb 2012

Summary

The Southern African Association for the Conference Industry presented on its role in respect of tourism development, growth and job creation. The initial part of the presentation covered the background on the organisation and its structure. The latter part of the presentation elaborated on its role in respect of tourism development, growth and job creation in terms of growth and development, quality assurance, people development, service excellence, responsible tourism, business and events tourism and transformation.  Some of the challenges experienced by the Association were a lack of accurate statistics for business tourism, on B-BBEE the Services Seta had slow processes for funding applications and there was no feedback. The Association felt that the current punitive regulatory environment was not conducive for small businesses. There were also issues that affected competitiveness. There should be a closer working relationship with South African Airways for competitive group fares. Excessive transport costs brought on by toll roads also affected competitiveness. The issue of a visa waiver should also be addressed. Another challenge was the presence of a public and private sector divide when bidding and hosting took place. Business tourism was not fully recognised by all government departments as a bona fide GDP contributing sector of tourism. The Draft Tourism Bill and Draft Domestic Tourism Growth Strategy excluded business tourism. The emphasis was more on leisure tourism. There was a lack of collaboration within all government departments, tourism authorities and agencies and the Association.

Members asked what the Committee could do to assist the organisation, why it only had branches in three provinces, if it helped people to start businesses, if it had specific concerns over the Draft Tourism Bill and whether it worked with women’s organisations


Minutes

Southern African Association for the Conference Industry (SAACI)
The SAACI presented on its role in respect of tourism development, growth and job creation. Ms Nina Freysen-Pretorius National Chairperson and Ms Adene Pringle Chief Executive Officer/General Manager represented SAACI. Ms Freysen-Pretorius did the presentation.

SAACI was formed in 1987 and its members were representative of all role players and service providers in the business tourism industry. It had four provincial branches situated in Kwazulu-Natal, Northern Territories Branches, Western Cape and the Eastern Cape.  The mission and vision of SAACI was touched on. SAACI membership comprised of 300 individual members- 277 Company A members, 14 Company B members and 7 patrons. On its organisational structure, its national board had 16 members the composition of which was a national chair, vice chair, treasurer, general manager, secretariat, 4 branch chairs and 7 forum chairs. SAACI comprised of an conference and events forum which dealt with accreditation and professionalism, a venues forum which dealt with pricing and standards, a destination forum which was responsible for educating provincial bodies, a technical forum which handled training and marketing expertise, a transport forum which looked at the contribution within the conference market and the importance of the relationship, a services forum which saw to the education of the market and looked at small entrepreneurial possibilities and lastly an exhibition forum which considered the importance on Confex and the affect on a congress.
Growth and Development- SAACI provided input into the National Tourism Sector Strategy. SAACI also provided input into the Draft Tourism Bill. It would also provide input into the National Events Strategy draft.
Quality Assurance-SAACI in co-operation with the Tourism Grading Council of SA reviewed the minimum grading criteria for conference facilities and including universal accessibility.
People Development-SAACI was involved with the Services SETA (SSETA) and the development of certification and designations for event co-ordinators and event managers. SAACI was also involved in youth development through SAACI branches by way of annual industry student bursaries.
Service Excellence- SAACI hosted educational sessions alongside Meetings Africa on ways of addressing service excellence in the industry. The Department of Tourism had been invited to participate.
Responsible Tourism-SAACI was a signatory to the Fair Trade in Tourism SA (FTTSA) Code against Child Sex Tourism and Trafficking in SA. It was also a founding member of the Events Greening Forum.
Business and events tourism- SAACI members continuously bid to attract international events/meetings. It also supported the newly formed National Convention Bureau. The Bureau’s Executive Manager served on the SAACI Board.
Transformation- SAACI promoted that all SAACI company members become Broad Based Black Economic Empowerment (B-BBEE) compliant. Its membership application form requested a B-BBEE certificate.
Challenges faced
There was a lack of accurate statistics for business tourism. Business tourism research was fragmented and there were issues of quality. According to the International Congress and Convention Association (ICCA) rankings for 2010, SA was ranked 36 out of 93 countries.
On B-BBEE, the Services Seta had slow processes for funding applications and there was no feedback. The current punitive regulatory environment was not conducive for small businesses. An education fund could be established which could be used for the development of identified students/ graduates in the industry.
There were issues that affected competitiveness. There should be a closer working relationship with South African Airways (SAA) for competitive group fares. Excessive transport costs brought on by toll roads also affected competitiveness. The issue of a visa waiver should be addressed.
Another challenge was the presence of a public and private sector divide when bidding and hosting. Business tourism was not fully recognised by all government departments as a bona fide GDP contributing sector of tourism the Draft Tourism Bill and Draft Domestic Tourism Growth Strategy excluded business tourism. The emphasis was more on leisure tourism. There was a lack of collaboration within all government departments, tourism authorities and agencies and SAACI.

Discussion
The Chairperson asked what the Committee could do to optimise the performance of SAACI. Some of the issues like visa waivers, problems with the SSETA and youth development in the industry needed to be addressed. Could more students not be helped other than the single internship offered?  He was pleased that SAACI had a good working relationship with Mexico which had a good tourism sector.

Ms Pringle noted that SAACI had experienced problems with the SSETA as well as with the Culture Arts, Tourism, Hospitality and Sport Sector Education and Training Authority (CATHSSETA). She stated that years ago a decision had been made that the conference sector should fall within the SSETA. The SSETA required SAACI to comply with a different set of requirements. It was difficult for SAACI as a non profit organisation to comply with such requirements, but efforts were nevertheless made. The SSETA even asked SAACI change its Constitution. SAACI could only change the constitution with the mandate of its members and in the month of July. The new requirements precluded SAACI to participate on the level on which it previously did. The new requirements were based on a Canadian approach.

Ms Freysen-Pretorius stated that there were two certifications. The first was the Canadian approach. The second was the Certified Meeting Professional (CMP) course which a number of SAACI’s members did. The CMP course had been good enough in the past but now the Canadian approach was considered more acceptable by SSETA. There was a great deal of negativity towards the SSETA. SAACI had held a three day conference where SSETA was supposed to sponsor a programme. At the last minute SSETA had pulled out its sponsorship. She felt that more consultation and discussion was needed. SAACI supported the Convention Bureau which fell under the Department of Tourism. The role and responsibilities of the Bureau should be kept in mind. The concern of the sector was how the Bureau would work. It would be great to sponsor more students but the problem was a lack of funds. There were willing students but capacity was lacking. It must be borne in mind that SAACI was not a training institute. SAACI only facilitated and endorsed the CMP course.

Ms J Maluleke (ANC) asked why, if SAACI was formed in 1987, it only had branches in three provinces.

Ms Freysen-Pretorius stated that SAACI would have liked branches in all the provinces. There were however limitations on funds and capacity. Its offices in Gallagher Estate in Johannesburg were hugely subsidised. She explained that branch chairpersons did not get paid. Financially it was difficult to have branches in all the provinces.

Ms X Makasi (ANC) asked if SAACI had a problem with advertising itself. If it was formed in 1987 why was its membership so low after so many years? How could the Committee assist SAACI in promoting itself? She asked how SA Tourism could support SAACI.

Ms Freysen-Pretorius replied that SAACI did not sell a product. There was an official publication where SAACI was advertised in. SAACI had a close working relationship with SA Tourism. SAACI received funding from SA Tourism- an amount of R100 000. SAACI being appreciative of the funding still wished to maintain its independence from government.

Ms C Zikalala (IFP) asked if SAACI helped people to start businesses. How did SAACI raise funds? She referred to exhibition forums and asked what was exhibited.

Ms Freysen-Pretorius replied that SAACI did not directly assist people to start businesses but did assist indirectly. SAACI relied on its members to offer support. Many businesses grew by way of networking. There was a benefit when members worked together. She further stated that exhibition forums did not sell goods. Exhibitions were linked with conferences. SAACI members built and set up exhibition stands.

Ms Pringle added that SAACI members were generous people. SAACI’s head office did not raise funds- it was the branches which raised funds. Branches raised funds in their own way.

The Chairperson welcomed Mr S Farrow (DA) as a new member to the Committee.

Mr Farrow thanked the Chairperson for the welcome and said he looked forward to working with the Committee. Having come from a background in transport he noted that there seemed to be a lot of cross cutting issues between transport and tourism.

The Chairperson asked if SAACI had specific concerns over the Draft Tourism Bill. The issue of statistics raised by SAACI was a problem for the Committee as well. Statistics provided to the Committee was often 5 years old. In tourism there was also a great deal of estimations. Exact figures were needed in terms of who came to SA, what they came for and what there spending in SA was. 

Ms Freysen-Pretorius stated that the Mexican model provided accurate figures on a number of questions. She pointed out that to calculate the spending at conferences was difficult. It was difficult to get accurate statistics. Perhaps the Department of Home Affairs could work out a system of obtaining statistics when people enter into SA. SA needed a model and funding. The Mexican model could perhaps shed light on the approach that SA should take. SAACI had made inputs on the Draft Tourism Bill in 2009. The Bill was old in terms of global standards. SA’s turnaround strategy was too slow.

Ms Pringle believed that the country had a subsector of business tourism that was not recognised. She noted that the Draft Tourism Bill did not mention business tourism. Business tourism contributed more to the gross domestic product of SA than was realised.

The Chairperson responded that SAACI would be consulted when the Draft Tourism Bill is considered by the Committee. The issue of a visa waiver would be discussed with the Department of Home Affairs. There were security concerns attached to the visa waiver issue. He felt that South Africa could learn a great deal from the Mexican model and asked SAACI to forward the model to the Committee. Issues with the SSETA and the development of youth in the sector had to be discussed with the Department of Tourism. He stated that if SAACI had problems with the National Tourism Sector Strategy it should feel free to contact the Committee.

Ms Zikalala asked whether SAACI worked with women’s organisations.

Ms Freysen-Pretorius stated that SAACI was big on working with women’s organisations.

Outstanding Committee Minutes
The Committee adopted minutes dated the 22 November 2011 and 17 January 2012 unamended.

The meeting was adjourned.