SA political, economic instability could affect conventions

The volatile political and economic situation in South Africa could affect the country’s possibility of hosting international conferences in the future.

From credit downgrades to political scandals, the impact of South Africa’s political and economic situation has impacted many industries. While it has not affected inbound conferencing yet, it could do so three to four years from now, says Rudi van der Vyver, Saaci ceo.

“We are still an attractive destination to host international conferences but we need to be mindful of the concerns of international conference owners and attendees when we bid to host big congresses in South Africa,” he says, adding that convention associations and bureaus need to be aware of how the political landscape will affect conferencing.

Says Van der Vyver: “Although we have been successful in bids, the future of hosting large congresses can be affected because there are other countries in Africa that are close behind us in hosting successful international congresses.”

International conferences are bid at least 18 months in advance, and what is happening today in the country can affect the outcome of those bids, thereby affecting the number of conferences hosted in South Africa in the future, Van der Vyver explains.

For now, though, there is not much to worry about within the industry, explains James Seymour, convention bureau manager at the Durban Convention Bureau. Since the rand has dropped, conferencing in South Africa has become cheaper compared with other destinations. “Durban, KwaZulu Natal, and the rest of the country are still securing quite significant congresses, some of which are still coming up this year, while others have been secured for next year. This can be attributed to the fact that South Africa has become a cheaper destination for people to spend their currency.”

Seymour says the decision to bring conferencing to a destination like South Africa is largely defined by cost. “When it comes to attending a congress, the expense of accommodation and venues is cheaper, which gives us a competitive edge.” He does, however, agree with Van der Vyver in saying the constant negative publicity would be a deterrent for international conferences.

Even with the political and economic issues the country faces, Van der Vyver and Seymour agree that South Africa is still a relatively safe country to host a congress. Says Van der Vyver: “South Africa is not as dangerous as other countries experiencing terror attacks. Delegates are likely to travel here instead of going to a country that is in constant threat, or somewhere like the United States where entrance to the country has been made increasingly difficult.”

Similarly, Seymour adds that people are more concerned about safety and security. “The risk of a potential terrorist attack is much lower here than what it would be in Europe,” he says.

While the current political and economic situation could very likely affect conventions in the future, Seymour believes that it’s not something to be too concerned about because, “a lot of professional associations want to network with their peers in South Africa and that might deter them from staying away from the country”.