At this year’s Meetings Africa, Kongres magazine was granted an exclusive interview with Amanda Amanda Kotze-Nhlapo, Chief Convention Bureau Officer at the South Africa National Convention Bureau (SANCB). With South Africa a richly diverse and multi-faceted destination offering great value and solid organisation for events across the country, Kongres wanted to begin by asking about the elephant in the room when South Africa is being discussed for either leisure tourism or business events: security.

“The issue of South Africa and security is an issue of perception,” said Kotze-Nhlapo. “Over the years we have done more than a thousand events and I can’t tell you of any incidents or any unsuccessful meetings. I just can’t tell you of any. There may have been some petty incidents, but no different to anywhere else in the world, yet because of the perception we always have to prove ourselves.”

“What we do as an organisation is simply to say beforehand that safety and security is important as a part of any meeting – we give it up front, but not in a way that you must have security because it’s in South Africa,” added Kotze-Nhlapo. “It’s the issue of perception and in tackling this perception from our side – and it doesn’t matter which city in South Africa you are going to – we with our national convention bureau organisation expertise are absolutely bringing in everyone to assist, so it’s a one-stop-shop, one-stop solution; just come in and we’ll bring the service providers and make sure of everything. People have come to us with at times ridiculous requests for an event and I promise you there has not been a single one that we didn’t actually adhere to.”

“Europe is still important for us, but Eastern Europe is exciting and it’s not the traditional delegate, because we have the traditional source markets – mainly USA, UK and Germany – and especially for holidaymakers,” said Kotze-Nhlapo. “Looking forward I think for the Eastern part of Europe, the Middle East, China and India the potential is so huge for the industry, for corporates and businesses that actually have that link.”

“With our ruling government the historical link with China has resulted in a very good relationship,” added Kotze-Nhlapo. “And it doesn’t matter in which language you want to do business, because we’ll bring them to you. We don’t have any challenges with Chinese groups who are coming, because we have a thriving interpreter scene here already and it’s better to add another person to the meeting group. Our offices are also very good and with Chinese staff who can understand South Africa, so we are there to make a difference.”

“We are absolutely committed to greening and sustainability, as if we want to be the leader in business events then our show needs to be a leader in that field,” said Kotze-Nhlapo. “Meetings Africa got the award for the best greening and sustainable show in South Africa, so we compete with the biggest, like Indaba. We have also received so many SITE Crystal awards for DMCs that actually did sustainability and CSR projects and for South Africa, in any proposal bid that we do, we always have it as part of our offer.”

“I think the story of South Africa is in Johannesburg; the richness of the story is here, the diversity of the people is here and the friendships are authentic,” said Kotze-Nhlapo. “The African story is different in different parts of our country – I may look like a European but I am absolutely an African and there is stuff in me that makes me so African. It’s people like yourselves, who come to the city and tell the story of what you expected and what you actually got, and then keep on saying so. For us it’s really important that you have an authentic experience when you come to South Africa.”

South Africa’s complete commitment to nurturing its MICE industry and elevating it to among the world’s best is evident, no matter through which angle of the industry prism it is viewed. On top of everything else is the story of South Africa – or rather, its many stories that make it such an alluring destination, and especially that of Meetings Africa’s home of Johannesburg.

The story of South Africa is undoubtedly a good one with authentic experiences at every chapter. To tell too much of the story would be to spoil it for others who want to write their own – all we can say is go and create your own story. You won’t regret it.

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