Middle East and Africa region expected to return to pre-pandemic levels of business travel spend by 2024

Business travel in the Middle East and Africa (MEA) is recovering more rapidly than in any other region, according to the most recent Business Travel Index Outlook annual forecast and outlook (2022), from the Global Business Travel Association (GBTA), the world’s largest business travel association. MEA business travel achieved 86% of its 2019 levels during 2022, outperforming the recovery in Americas, Asia Pacific and Europe.

The strong performance of the sector and future opportunities will come under the spotlight during Arabian Travel Market (ATM) 2023, which takes place at Dubai World Trade Centre (DWTC) from 1-4 May.

Danielle Curtis, Exhibition Director ME, Arabian Travel Market, said: “The business travel sector is a key component of the Middle East’s wider travel and tourism industry, and it is encouraging to see that it has bounced back so strongly since the pandemic. The Global Business Travel Association (GBTA) will present an in-depth analysis of how technology can support this return to travel and the ways in which this can be done sustainably in two education sessions with key insights from leading industry professionals.”

According to the forecast, business travel spending reached $933 billion globally in 2022, 65% of the USD $1.4 trillion business pre-pandemic travel spend, with the MEA region accounting for $23 billion or approximately 2.5% of overall spending within the sector.

“The MEA region is an important growth market for business travel and benefitted from a prompt Covid-19 vaccination roll-out in key markets such as the UAE and Israel, as well as increased economic activity driven by the rising price of crude oil to accelerate the business travel recovery. The region is expected to return to pre-pandemic business travel spend by 2024 and continue its growth trajectory” said Catherine Logan, Regional Vice President EMEA & APAC, GBTA.

GBTA will be hosting two sessions at ATM 2023. The first entitled, ‘All Hail the Innovators’ will be taking place on the Global Stage, discussing how transformational technologies can be harnessed and incorporated into corporate travel program effectively. High-profile speakers include, James Britchford, Vice President Commercial IMEA, IHGJordan Bray, Vice President of Plug and Play, and Mohammed Halawi, Global Travel and Journey Risk Management Director, Firmenich FZ LLC.

The second session entitled ‘Implementing Sustainability in your Travel Program’ will be taking place in the brand-new Sustainability Hub and will feature GBTA’s Catherine Logan, Regional Vice President – EMEA & APAC. Logan will provide insights on how corporate travel programs can become more sustainable.

Aside from restricted travel, an increase in remote working globally has had a dampening effect on business travel growth. However, now that travel is almost restriction-free, employees have revealed an increased likelihood to travel more for work, whether long-term or overnight business trips according to the latest business travel outlook poll from GBTA.

Curtis commented: “After the turbulent period we have experienced over the last two years, it will be very interesting to assess current market conditions and find out how business travel can continue to grow, particularly with the recent relaxation of travel restrictions in China.”

ATM 2023 will explore the future of sustainable travel in line with its theme of ‘Working Towards Net Zero’. Having officially initiated its journey to net zero, the conference programme will explore how innovative sustainable travel trends are likely to evolve, allowing delegates to identify growth strategies within key vertical sectors while providing a platform for regional experts to explore a sustainable future ahead of COP28, which will take place in November 2023 at Expo City Dubai.

The conference will also feature a sustainability category at its annual exhibitor awards for the first time. Exhibiting organisations will be recognised based on the extent to which they have considered the environmental impact of their stands, as well as their efforts to reduce their carbon footprint.

ATM 2023 is held in conjunction with Dubai World Trade Centre and its strategic partners include Dubai’s Department of Economy and Tourism (DET) as the Destination Partner, Emirates as the Official Airline Partner, IHG Hotels & Resorts as the Official Hotel Partner and Al Rais Travel as the Official DMC Partner.

Source: TravelDailyNews

ITB Berlin – Tourism Faces New Risk: Finding Staff

The world’s travel and tourism sector is facing a new risk after Covid 2019finding staff, revealed a recent study presented during a press conference at ITB Berlin this week.

The news was announced as part of the newly formed Tourism Employment Expansion Mandate (TEEM) project – an initiative of Jamaican Tourism Minister Edmund Bartlett and the Global Travel and Tourism Resilience Council, which he co-chairs.

According to data presented at ITB, the travel and tourism industry is facing its biggest challenge yet: finding employees. Indicatively, World Economic Forum data reveals that Covid-19 led to the loss of more than 62 million workers in the sector.

Additionally, according to the first phase of the global survey carried out by Arvensis Search on behalf of TEEM and presented during the Global Tourism Resilience Conference in Kingston, Jamaica last month:

-68 percent of travel and tourism businesses polled said they are currently understaffed.

88 percent of the industry acknowledges a workforce deficiencies

-62 percent said the 25 to 45-year-olds are the most difficult talent to attract for work in travel and tourism. They are now opting to pursue jobs in technology and pharmaceuticals rather than the in travel

-80 percent of those surveyed said they now leave jobs open for longer periods of time compared to the past and 82 percent leave jobs open overall

-the majority of shortages found are in “critical” roles, including food preparation, technologyAIsales and reservations

-according to TEEM, tourism and travel will require 8.4 million new recruits by 2025 who must be more specialized in areas such as data analysisdigital marketing and advanced customer service.

According to TEEM, which is global initiative working towards post-Covid recovery of the industry’s workforce, the next step will focus on understanding the talent sentiment and identifying reasons for migration to other industries. The current survey was conducted across Europe, the Americas, Australasia, Asia, the Middle East and Africa, and included professionals from tour agencies and operators, airlines, airports, cruise lines, and hospitality companies.

Resilience is not a destination…it’s a journey. We all must be on this journey together in collaboration with each other to ensure that economic parameters and the social conditions are improved, while climate and the environment are addressed. Resilience means we prepare for crises rather than react to them,” said Bartlett.

In mid-June last year, tourism businesses in Greece were still short of staff with at least 2,430 job openings listed on the Public Employment Service (DYPA) portal open to all jobseekers.

With the slogan “Open for Change”, the world’s leading travel trade show ITB Berlin opened its doors on Tuesday for the first time after a three-year hiatus caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. ITB Berlin wrapped up on Thursday.

Source: GPT

Air India to Bid Goodbye to Vistara Brand in Airline Merger

It’s still way too early to tell whether it was the right decision to nix the Vistara brand, but Air India clearly has its work cut out for itself as the brand name also comes with a lot of baggage.

The Tatas will let go of Indian full-service carrier Vistara as they look to merge the airline with the more “internationally-recognized” Air India, Air India CEO Campbell Wilson said on Monday.

Wilson told news agency Press Trust of India that efforts would be made to retain some of the “Vistara heritage in that new manifestation.”

He added that the process of Vistara’s integration with Air India is awaiting regulatory approval from the Competition Commission of India.

AirAsia India will also be merged with Air India Express. “In the next couple of months we will start deploying more public facing steps that will indicate the coming together of these two airlines,” the Air India CEO said.

Once completed, the Tatas will end up with one full service and one low-cost airline, Wilson said, while reiterating the aspiration of attaining that 30 percent aviation market share objective in India both domestically and internationally.

Calling it an amalgamation of the existing assets, Wilson said, “We are picking the best from each of those airlines to carry forward and using the combined economies of scale and combined knowledge to elevate the proposition beyond what’s offered by any of the existing airlines currently.”

The mergers would also help the group to tap a market segment that it previously hasn’t been quite equipped to take full advantage of, according to the CEO.

Air India’s Record Aircraft Orders

While there have been talks of Air India’s record order of 470 aircraft from Boeing and Airbus, Wilson said the task is more than just buying aircraft. “It’s the absolute and complete transformation of Air India,” he said speaking to Indian media.

With the Tatas taking over Air India, the erstwhile Indian state carrier, in 2022, the transformation has been focusing on three phases, Wilson said.

In the current take-off phase, Wilson said they have been putting a comprehensive effort to address some of the issues that have accumulated over many years of underinvestment, addressing system shortages and restoring aircraft to flying service.

Wilson said despite the challenges the airline has so far announced 16 new international routes and capacity has been increased on nine others.

United Arab Emirates’ national carrier Emirates is also reportedly looking at a codeshare pact with Air India, according to reports in Indian media.

Having already put significant capacity into North America from both Delhi as well as Mumbai and some from Bengaluru, the airline has also added capacity into Europe — Milan, Copenhagen, Vienna, and now has 12 services into Gatwick.

The airline is also looking to establish direct connectivity with New Zealand. No airline currently offers direct flights between the two countries. 

The Investments

The Tata Group is not shying away from investing in the Indian aviation sector, Wilson said. “The aircraft order requires a significant sum and how that will be funded is a matter of internal deliberation but there are many sources.”

The group plans to fund its $70 billion order for a record 470 aircraft with internal cash, equity and through sale-and-leasebacks, according to a Reuters report.

The group has also committed $400 million in refurbishing the existing aircraft and more than $200 million in upgrading and improving the IT systems, according to Wilson.

He said the group is also investing significantly in a training academy and is in deep discussions with a number of potential partners to set up what will be one of the world’s largest training academies in India.

“As time progresses, we can build our own talent pipeline clearly for Air India as the first priority. But secondly, and perhaps more significantly, for India as a whole,” he said.

And with all that investment, profitability is definitely an objective for the group. But Wilson said the group is not putting any time to any milestones, as it is a work in progress.

“There’s a lot of growth that we need to invest in, a lot of capabilities that we need to strengthen and deploy,” he said.

Source: Skift

Business Travel Poses Biggest Challenge Globally for Hoteliers — Survey

Hotels have mixed feelings about business travel in 2023.

On one hand the corporate travel and groups segment is the main area of focus for hotel revenue teams this year.

But rather than staffing issues, business travel also represents their biggest challenge, according to a new Outlook & Trends 2023 Survey from revenue management software company Duetto.

When hoteliers were asked how they planned to optimize business mix in 2023, the top responses were group business (59.5 percent) followed by corporate business (51.9 percent).

Channel management (48.1 percent), online travel agencies (38 percent), then tour operator, wholesale and fully independent travelers (30.4 percent) followed.

Business travel is returning this year, but Duetto believes the fact it’s unlikely to return 2019 levels weighs heavily. for example, only half of companies located in North America are seeing international bookings recover to their pre-pandemic levels according to the Global Business Travel Association.

When it comes to the challenges hotels face in 2023, business travel came top at 60.8 percent.

Staffing followed at 55.7 percent, ahead of increased costs, government restrictions, lead times and cancellations.

As expected, seeking out sales digitally is a priority when it comes to channel management efforts — but revenue execs could be focusing on the wrong channel if they want to boost their business travel bottom line.

Their top focus for channel management in 2023 are metasearch websites such as Google, TripAdvisor or Kayak. This came out highest at 75.9 percent.

Other areas including loyalty (57 percent); online agency (55.7 percent); “own website” (54.4 percent); and global distribution systems (53.2 percent). Yet it’s these global distribution systems that are commonly used by corporate travel agencies.

Duetto’s survey was carried out from Dec. 1, 2022, to Jan. 16, 2023.

Respondents worked in leisure hotels, business hotels, casino resorts and hostels. Geographically they came from North America (39.5 percent), Europe (21.1 percent), Latin America (21.1 percent), Asia Pacific (14.5 percent), and the Middle East & Africa (3.9 percent).

Source: Skift

Emirates exploring codeshare possibilities with Air India

Emirates has been exploring options to codeshare on flights with Air India, as the Indian flag carrier continues to pivot its brand to offer a more premium service since it was acquired by Tata Sons. 

Talks with Air India “are at an early stage,” said Mohammad Sarhan, the Vice President of India and Nepal at Emirates, during an interview with India-based business news publication, Mint. Sarhan said that the Indian carrier’s main priority right now is the merger with Vistara, which is why the two sides are only at the “initial-level talk” stage. “Let’s see how it evolves,” Sarhan continued.  

While Emirates has interline agreements with almost all airlines based in the country, the “best way forward” for the Dubai, United Arab Emirates (UAE)-based airline would be a partnership with a premium carrier, Sarhan added.  

When Air India and Singapore Airlines, a minority (49%) shareholder of Vistara, announced the merger between the now-privatized airline and Vistara in November 2022, Natarajan Chandrasekaran, the chairman of Tata Sons, stated that the merger would make Air India “a truly world-class airline”. 

Tata Sons finalized the acquisition of Air India from the Indian government in January 2022 and, with 51%, is a majority shareholder of Vistara. 

Emirates previously signed a codesharing and interline agreement with Indian low-cost carrier SpiceJet in November 2019. However, while the interline agreement went into effect, the two airlines have not placed their codes on each other’s flights. 

The United Arab Emirates’ national carrier has partnerships with two low-cost carriers, namely another Dubai, UAE-based airline flydubai, and the British no-frills airline easyJet. 

Source: Aerotime Hub

Dubai Accelerates Positioning as Remote Working Hub

Shayan Zaeem, co-founder and president of Revolving Games, is just one of thousands of remote workers around the globe. He has landed up in Dubai, which is ramping up efforts to pitch itself as a destination for more people like him.

His company, which is currently working on a new BattleStar Galactica game with Universal Studios, is headquartered in San Francisco but due to the pandemic scaled its operations globally.

“Most people prefer working from home in the tech industry, and Dubai was a no brainer for me,” he said, tempted by the infrastructure and facilities of the “vibrant, multifaceted city.”

Dubai, the largest city in the United Arab Emirates, launched a one-year virtual working program in 2020 that Zaeem took advantage of. It has so far received 30,000 enquiries (a spokesperson didn’t confirm the number of visas approved).

The United Arab Emirates has also introduced a raft of new longer term 5 and 10-year residency Golden Visas, 80,000 of which were issued last year.

Now Dubai’s looking to appeal to a wider demographic following a new partnership with Airbnb, among other initiatives.

Airbnb Backing

Dubai’s Department of Economy and Tourism set up an online remote working hub with Airbnb in December last year. The Middle Eastern city is one of 20 global destinations in the home-sharing platform’s Live and Work Anywhere initiative.

Airbnb also published a guide for governments outlining recommendations for how communities can benefit economically in September 2022.

“We’re delighted to be one of the 20 destinations to partner with Airbnb and we expect to see a positive uplift in remote working,” said Issam Kazim, CEO of the Dubai Corporation for Tourism and Commerce Marketing.

The remote working focus comes as the United Arab Emirates looks to boost tourism’s contribution to the national gross domestic product to $122 billion a year by 2031. Its new UAE Tourism Strategy 2031 also targets 40 million hotel guests in 2031. Dubai alone received 14 million international overnight visitors in 2022, double the amount of 2021.

A ‘Pricey’ Destination

Part of its strategy to draw more people probably also explains why it made alcoholic drinks cheaper, but there are concerns Dubai — like many fast-recovering destinations — may soon start pricing out digital nomads.

The emirate is classified as “pricey” by the well-respected Nomadlist, with members reporting an average monthly accommodation spend of $3,652.

“For well-paid remote workers that like vibrant cities, it will be one of the shortlisted countries for sure,” said Mark Phillips, founder of Nomad Stays. ”But for most digital nomads, probably not. It’s just too expensive.”

Phillips also thinks Airbnb is pushing Dubai to move upmarket to compete with Expedia’s VRBO brand.

But for Zaeem, Dubai is a “melting pot” destination that can suit different budgets. “It depends on the person and what kind of lifestyle they want to live,” he said. “Yes it can be expensive if that’s the lifestyle you choose for yourself, however, if you want to live moderately and still want to enjoy a decent lifestyle you can do that as well easily.”

Apartment rentals for locals are also soaring, which could deter many digital nomads who seek out cheaper destinations to maximize their length of stay, as costs creep up to target tourists.

Portugal has seen this recently, and as a result plans to axe its Golden Visa scheme and ban new licenses for Airbnbs and other short-term rentals.

Will Dubai be able to keep its remote work allure if tourism takes over?

Source: Skift

How Africa’s luxury safaris are becoming more sustainable

Operators from Kenya to South Africa now offer more camping and walking, stressing the benefits for animals and local communities

  • Botswana’s Wilderness Meraka and Zebra Plains Collection’s Lalashe Maasai Mara and Lalashe Ripoi in Kenya all offer luxury tented accommodation and walking safaris
  • The Bushcamp Company’s Kukaya Lodge in Zambia and South Africa’s Singita lodges are being more flexible with game drives and meals while AndBeyond is educating travellers with a ‘masterclass’

If you’re eyeing up a luxury safari in Africa, expect to find more than just the traditional jeep-led experience now on offer in the likes of Tanzania, Kenya, South Africa, Zambia and Botswana.

When high-spending foreigners vanished in 2020, safari lodges were left struggling to fund wildlife conservation as well as hosting community projects. This has led some to a rethink about the kind of tourism Africa needs long-term and how visitors can better support environmental and civic goals.

Travellers, at the same time, have redefined their safari priorities to seek privacy in accommodation and on drives, flexible schedules, exclusive wildlife experiences and more cultural context.

https://f3653e6654f5bf5adb02ab5b9707c555.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-40/html/container.html Lodges and tour operators are now responding with a fresh crop of wildlife and cultural experiences and wider accommodation choices to stand out from the competition and capture the demand that’s roaring back to the continent.

Before you book your bucket-list trip, consider this:

1. Safaris are changing – fewer vehicles, more walking, better for the animals

The typical all-inclusive safari in which guests are driven from distant lodges into popular areas of wildlife reserves can quickly resemble a crowded weekend at the zoo. The rush of humans and vehicles thwarts genuine connection with the surroundings, not to mention that it’s harmful to the wildlife. That’s why outfitters are trying to put guests closer to nature, whether through private game drives, walking safaris or overnight camps away from the crowds.

At Zebra Plains Collection’s new luxury Lalashe Ripoi camp in Kenya, which opens on July 1, “you can do night safaris by car and walking safaris that you cannot do in the main reserve,” owner Alfred Korir says. The six tented suites (US$4,000 per night apiece) will open on July 1 as one of three lodges sharing more than 33,300 acres of private concession land leased from the Maasai people and sat on the edge of Maasai Mara National Reserve.

Lalashe Ripoi’s launch follows the company’s June 2022 opening of Lalashe Maasai Mara (US$3,000 per suite), which offers just five tents at a fully catered camp for a maximum of 10 people on site at one time. The camp overlooks the reserve and a watering hole that attracts wildlife. Each suite features a plunge pool and lounge area, twin outdoor showers, fully stocked bars, butler service and private game drives. Korir calls his new camps “low-density tourism” – fewer people per wildlife sighting.

“I came up with this idea because in Covid times people didn’t want to be in a congested place. It’s working for us; possibly, this year is one of our best years ever,” he says, noting that Lalashe Maasai Mara is more than 50 per cent booked for July and August already.

At Wilderness Meraka, opening in July in the northernmost Mababe region of Botswana, nine tents on raised platforms (US$1,300 per person, per night) overlook an area of wetlands. No other safari company operates this far east of the Okavango Delta. Buffalos, elephants, zebras and lions are among the residents you’ll spot on drives or walks, depending on the season.

2. More flexibility

On a traditional safari, you’re beholden to rigid schedules for morning and evening game drives with other guests, as well as for meals. Jet-lagged or not, you must stick to the offerings lest you miss out on what you travelled so far to experience.

An à la carte approach, from the private game drives at times your group finds convenient, to selecting your meals from an on-site deli, is the new safari model at The Bushcamp Company’s upscale Kukaya Lodge in Zambia (Kukaya means “homestead” in the local Chinyanja language). Set to open in April, the lodge is the former home of the country’s founding president Kenneth Kaunda and sits within South Luangwa National Park.

Five chalets each enjoy 2,690 sq ft (250 square metres) of space, creating an oasis of tented rooms and outdoor en suite baths, with a private plunge pool and lounge area (US$425 per night). Bushcamp also offers walking safaris – an alternative that owner Andy Hogg says was born in Zambia – which are drawing more interest.

“It’s not the same as sitting in a Land Rover, bumping along a not very good road,” he says. “It’s about the smallest things, and it’s about smelling and seeing and feeling.”

This demand for a more sensory and immersive experience is what luxury lodge and camps outfit Singita is also betting on with its new add-on overnight camping experiences inside its 33,000-acre private concession inside Kruger National Park, on South Africa’s eastern border with Mozambique. Available only to guests of Singita Lebombo Lodge or Singita Sweni Lodge (starting at US$2,300 per night), the ad hoc option is for four people at a time. You can’t book this experience in advance, as it depends on the weather and availability of two trail guides, whose stories shared around the campfire add to the atmosphere.

“People want these raw and real experiences,” says Adrian Kaplan, executive head of marketing at Singita. “Raw” at this level is, of course, relative: you still get to sleep on cots with light mattresses, luxury sheets and a cosy duvet.

3. It’s not all about wildlife

First-time safari goers often get in a frenzy over wildlife and conservation, forgetting that there are often people in the landscape too.

More travellers now want authentic African experiences and an understanding of cultural nuances, Kaplan says. Singita is consequently transforming its boutique and gallery spaces to display work from celebrated, or up-and-coming, African artists. A percentage of any sale goes into conservation work. The menu also features more local dishes following requests from guests.

It may seem superficial, but “the aesthetic makes a difference”, says Naledi Khabo, chief executive officer of the African Tourism Association, adding that it makes the safari experience a cultural one too: “That traditional colonial aesthetic is not appealing or attractive to a certain audience.”

Wilderness, which runs 60 lodges in eight African countries, recently rebranded, dropping “safaris” from its name. “The connotation that word has in the mindset of potential guests brings up all of the Out of Africa imagery,” says Hadley Allen, chief commercial officer at Wilderness. The company wants to emphasise it’s about more than just safari.

Case in point: since June 2022, some Maasai people have faced eviction from their lands in the Serengeti in a bid to create additional wildlife game reserve areas for wealthy tourists. It’s not a new phenomenon – the Serengeti National Park was established in 1951 with the eviction of locals – but it’s one that travellers heading on safari are increasingly seeking to avoid being part of.

4. Seeing the biggest picture

The need for travellers to understand the continent better and see Africa as more than just animals is behind AndBeyond’s WildEconomy Masterclass, which is running in partnership with African Leadership University. The five-day itinerary (November 3–9, US$10,000 per person) includes Tanzania’s Serengeti National Park and Kenya’s Maasai Mara National Reserve and invites travellers to “see how their safari fits in the big picture”. It includes stays at AndBeyond’s Grumeti Serengeti River Lodge in Tanzania and Kichwa Tembo Tented Camp in Kenya. It doesn’t include flights, and US$100 of each person’s tour fee goes into the university’s internship fund.

As tourism roars back to African safari destinations – the number of arrivals to the continent reached 65 per cent of pre-pandemic levels by the end of 2022 – there’s “still a lot of, ‘I just want to see the Big Five’, because it’s a lot of first timers”, Robinson continues. But the goal is increasingly to leave a positive impact from what is often a once-in-a-lifetime trip.

“They’re still going on safari and have their luxury, but it’s much more immersive,” says Sue Snyman, research director for the School of Wildlife Conservation at the African Leadership University. She will lead AndBeyond’s tour. “They get to understand more about how the people living around the Serengeti and the Mara engage with wildlife and the flora, and the impact that the conservation area has on them, positive and negative.” It’s a start towards the aim, she adds, “of changing mindsets”.

5. Finding the most sustainable safari

After three difficult years, safari lodge owners and tour operators say supporting the most ethical safari operators in Africa is an even more critical aspect of your booking. It’s a daunting task for the buyer: claims of conserving vast amounts of land and promises to uplift host communities fill websites and marketing ads in a sea of travel-conscience washing.

Supporting companies that prioritise providing education and resources to people over and above food is key, says Zebra Plains Collection’s Korir. “When feeding people long term, you’re not giving them tools to get rid of poverty.”

External companies doing audits of safari lodges also have a role to play, says Snyman. But it’s ultimately up to travellers to try and check what’s being done to support conservation and the community with their holiday dollars. Only then will high-end tourism companies respond, though that awareness is already building: “There’s an understanding they have to do something more,” she adds.

Source: Style

Strong MICE sector is pivotal in Africa’s tourism drive

Africa’s tourism sector was on an upward trajectory with an average growth of 5% until Covid-19 struck with its devastating effects causing disruption for the global economy and the tourism sector to be specific.

The silver lining in the last 24-36 months has been how partnerships and collaboration for the tourism sector to accelerate recovery.

The power of tourism particularly in Africa cannot be over emphasised enough as it offers an incredible opportunity to transform the lives of many on the continent.  As the United Nations Secretary Antonio Guterres succinctly puts it, ‘’Tourism can provide decent jobs, helping to build resilient sustainable, inclusive economies and societies that work for everyone’’.

Recovery of the tourism sector is well underway and shaping up so well. Based on UNWTO’s forward-looking scenarios for 2023, international tourist arrivals could reach 80% to 95% of pre-pandemic levels this year, depending on the extent of the economic slowdown, the ongoing recovery of travel in Asia and the Pacific and the evolution of the Russian offensive in Ukraine, among other factors. The latest UNWTO barometer gives it further impetus as Africa recovered about 65% of pre-pandemic levels.

It is a positive omen that we need to maintain and further up with the needed policies to make the maximum push.

The meetings, incentives, conferences, and Exhibitions (MICE) sector which is One of the fastest-growing sectors of the global tourism industry is an area in Africa that can help sustain the continent’s sector. With the enormous benefits and ROI that it generates, with some little effort and investments, it could be gold for the tourism industry.


The World Travel & Tourism Council estimates the travel and tourism industry globally to be worth some US$7 trillion.it is estimated that the global MICE industry is worth around US$650 billion to US$700 billion, a sizeable figure. Africa is forecasted to have a paltry market share of 2% of it.

The above staggering data is just the tip of the iceberg which many other multiplier efforts beyond calculable. The illustration makes a serious case for Africa to position MICE in their strategies to drive tourism, their economies, and trade.

Prior to the covid-19 pandemic, several countries expressed the intent of making MICE a core pillar in their development agenda and went further in putting in place the governance structures to get it going. From the growing list of convention bureaus to a dedicated desk for MICE/Business events in itself is a commendable step. Uganda, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, and Zambia are few of the countries have made commitments for mice.

In Africa, powerhouses such as South Africa and Morocco and recent dominant Rwanda have been pace setters in consolidating and growing their market share of the pie.

As the tourism actors begin with their key roadshows and trade events such as meetings Africa, it is incumbent on its leaders and stakeholders to commit themselves to the progress and development of the sector and the continent as a whole.

There cannot be any valid reasons why the continent is still struggling to take a giant step toward the elimination of artificial bottlenecks hampering movement and trade in the region. As so long as Africans are required to travel with a visa within the continent which in itself is not an easy task, the objective of taking advantage of the African continental area is a dead-on-arrival case. There ought to be a paradigm shift from the present situation to an efficient and smart way of doing things in our quest to truly attain the goals of the ”Africa we want” Agenda.

Even though the recent 2022 Africa visa openness report by the Africa development bank indicates improvement in visa facilitation across the continent, it needs a whirlwind of a push to accelerate movement and trade to grow African economies.

African Union Commission Deputy Chairperson Dr Monique Nsanzabaganwa in reacting to the latest report said: “This edition links free movement to the development of regional value chains, investments, trade in services and the AfCFTA. There is greater recognition that human mobility is key to Africa’s integration efforts.”

Meetings Africa, a platform created by South African Tourism has been a strong voice and effervescent force in mobilizing the business events industry and offering support and knowledge for Africa to grow this significant market segment. It has with other similar platforms encouraged and supported destinations to invest and commit to mice in its quest to grow tourism.

Now in its 17th year, the event is seeing the highest number of African participants coupled with other novelties to shape the new way of doing things in the industry. It is refreshing and welcoming for the continent to at least see a surge in the appreciation of MICE by decision-makers to drive its economy.  As a private sector-led industry, the profound endorsement of the public sector is very significant as it will encourage the provision of necessary infrastructure to meet the demands of hosting small to mega events thus creating jobs for many in the ecosystem.

Three hundred and five exhibitors representing 15 African countries have confirmed their spots on the Meetings Africa 2023 trade floor. They will have the opportunity to interact with thousands of buyers from around the world expected at the event. The countries represented are Botswana, Eswatini, Ghana, Kenya, Mauritius, Uganda, Nigeria, Tanzania, Seychelles, Rwanda, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Angola, Malawi, and Mozambique.

According to South African Tourism Acting CEO, Themba Khumalo, the increase in the number of African exhibitors is an indication that leaders throughout Africa recognize the business events industry as vital to their economy. “As Africa’s economy shifts towards a technological future characterized by the Fourth Industrial Revolution, more nations are building their business events industries to attract foreign investors and businesses.”

Aside from offering the perfect avenue to trade and sign deals, meetings in Africa will unravel the many novelties and innovations developed by African entrepreneurs/groups to make businesses seamless and spur growth. An imperative to develop a robust MICE sector is the ability to be sustainable in all fronts and Africa’s enviable sustainability footprint will be on display during the show in Sandton.

Meetings Africa 2023 will be held at the Sandton Convention Centre from 27 February to 1 March bringing together 350 exhibitors and more than 1,000 buyers to the trading floor.

There will be insightful sessions across all three days at Meetings Africa 2022, with speakers focusing on creating a positive African narrative, the future of meetings, and the challenges business events face because of a lack of airlift in Africa.

Meetings Africa will once again offer the fine opportunity to accelerate the continent’s tourism recovery.

Harnessing the immense resources for the growth of the continent will require intentional and conscious efforts by all and sundry.  Aviation expert, Sean Mendis is optimistic Africa’s aviation sector could see a strong rebound this year provided actionable measures are put in place to make airlines competitive, destinations accessible and build synergies among stakeholders towards a common approach for the realization of air travel objectives.

“In many parts of Africa, notably in West Africa, you find that the taxes charged by governments and authorities on travellers often exceed the fare travellers pay to the airlines to transport them. And when the airline is making $60 while you are paying the government $150 to travel for one hour by air, it immediately depresses the ability of people to be able to travel to the neighbouring countries to do business, explore the neighbouring countries to see the highlights of what the countries have to offer.’’  Sean Mendis.

Making tourism a transformative force for good will mean collaborating with all key stakeholders to create the enabling environment for businesses to thrive.

Source: Vanguard