http://www.engineeringnews.co.za/article/2010-spells-opportunity-for-conference-venues-service-providers-2008-10-17

2010 spells opportunity for conference venues, service providers

Published 17 Oct 08        By: Jonathan Faurie
Conference venues and related services provision companies should take advantage of the opportunities presented by the 2010 FIFA World Cup says Southern African Association for the Conference Industry (Saaci) national chairperson Thomas Overbeck.

He says that although there will be a dip in the number of con- ferences and meetings held during the event, there are a number of opportunities that companies can capitalise on.

Overbeck says that between June 11, 2010, and July 11, 2010, there will be significant focus on South Africa, especially in the media. With most of the action taking place on the Highveld, many international journalists will be based in Johannesburg. Overbeck reports that on nonmatch days, these journalists will want to take in the sights and sounds of South Africa, which presents conference venues the perfect opportunity to offer uniquely South African experiences.

During this period, hotels that have conference venues attached to them should be able to make the most of the opportunities presented by the event, especially if the hotel has a participating team staying there. However, Overbeck says that venues which are not attached to hotels can also make the most of the 2010 opportunities.

“There will need to be an intensive marketing drive for venues which are not attached to hotels during the event. Although FIFA will be establishing fan parks, where tourists can watch matches on TV, not everyone will get the opportunity to experience this. In this regard, conference venues could host FIFA parties where the match will be shown on a big screen,” says Overbeck.

Current State of Industry
Commenting on the current state of the conference venue industry, Overbeck says that the industry has developed significantly since 1994.

He says that since the move to democracy in 1994, there has been a significant amount of exposure given to South Africa, which was enhanced by the IRB Rugby World Cup, in 1995, the United Nations World Summit on Sustainable Development, which was held in Johannesburg, in 2002, and the ICC Cricket World Cup, in 2003.

“Since the successful hosting of these events, many international concerns about South Africa’s ability to host significant events have been put to rest. Although the sporting events are not conference events in the traditional sense of the word, there are press conferences and media briefings associated with the event,” says Overbeck.

He reports that there is a current trend in South Africa to improve the standards of everyone in the point of contact chain.

Saaci GM Bashni Reddiar reports that this is a worldwide trend, which was started in Singapore. She adds that this has given rise to a set of international service standards that many companies adhere to.

Reddiar says that the South African conference industry is one of the country’s most sustain- able industries despite the economic downturn being experienced in the country. She adds that the fact that conferences are generally planned well in advance means the conference industry would not have been affected by economic stresses. “Even in periods of economic downturn, companies still need to hold results presentations and to have product launches,” says Reddiar.

Saaci Establishment and Growth
Overbeck reports that Saaci was established in 1987 in consultation with the South African Tourism Board, which expressed an interest in improving the convention industry sector, which, in turn, improved the media coverage of South Africa.

After its establishment, Saaci established a specific code of conduct, which provides guidelines on a number of issues. These issues include the conduct of a professional conference organiser (PCO) during the initial negotiations to acquiring a conference contract, the conduct of a PCO in the execution of a conference, and the conduct of a PCO subsequent to organising and executing a conference.

The company currently has 820 member companies and hopes to grow this to 1 400 member companies by the end of the 2008/9 financial year. Overbeck says that Reddiar has been appointed by Saaci to achieve this goal.

“Saaci is more of a networking tool than an administrator. The company organises regular networking events where industry members are put in touch with one another. Saaci encourages an open flow of communication between industry members,” says Reddiar.