Business tourism, including the conference industry, is booming in South Africa. Offering first-world infrastructure, excellent all year round climates, breathtaking scenery and world-class hotels, South Africa is an ideal location for international congresses and conventions.
South Africa offers over 1 000 world-class conference, available across the country, ranging from intimate bush hideaways to hi-tech city centre convention centres, all offering a range of leisure tours, from walking with elephants, experiences of African culture to luxury shopping and relaxation.
The Cape Town International Convention Centre (CTICC) recently announced an expansion project that will see the CTICC double in size with an additional 10000 square metres and is estimated to raise the CTICC’s job creation capacity from 7000 to 10000 a year, making Cape Town the world’s best long-haul conferencing destination by 2020. The Eastern Cape is becoming an increasingly popular conference destination, boosted by government investment in the business tourism market. East London recently opening its own exhibition centre and the Board Walk Casino in Port Elizabeth has added a conference venue to its premises.
Meetings SA has identified a few current trends in the South African conference industry: Greening, video conferencing for smaller meetings, less-expensive accommodation options, changing programme structures and decreasing delegate numbers.
These trends can be attributed to increased attention to sustainability and greening as well as the impact of the financial crisis and subsequent recession. Trends show that there are an increasing number of clients who are now aware of conference-greening policies.
While the South African setting is unique, conferencing is globalised and as a developing economy, South Africa will always be subject to global economic factors.
Many South African conference venues have significantly increased their sustainability by instituting on-site recycling facilities, limiting the use of bottled water and implementing automated light and temperature controls to reduce electricity consumption.
The worldwide financial crisis has seen an increase in the demand for more affordable accommodation. It was noted by a leading event organizing company that at a recent international conference in Cape Town, over half of the delegates were South African, despite an international marketing campaign – proving that local businesses still budget for conferencing despite the global economic situation.
We spoke to a few of South Africa’s Hotel and Resort Spa’s to find out what role their spa plays in conferencing and whether there is still a place in the market for the spa to increase turnover by through their conference delegates.
Taffryn Kinsey, Spa Director of the exclusive Delaire Graff Lodges & Spa in Stellenbosch told us that they host approximately 10 conferences a year with 8-20 delegates. Their conference packages all include lunch and/or spa treatments and all of their delegates take the opportunity to lunch and spa, with massage being their most popular treatment. Kingsley added that “People are becoming more “wellbeing” driven and the combination of spa and conference versus dining and conference is more attractive to the health conscious and they love it because they leave feeling good versus over “wined & dined”. The average spend per person is R1000 for a 2 course lunch and 40 minute back massage.
Cindy Jansen Van Rensburg, Spa Manager of Mount Grace Country House & Spa in the Magaliesberg, told us that they host about 300 conferences per annum with between 20 -200 delegates per conference. They currently do not offer a conference/spa package; however, they do offer conference delegates a discount on spa treatments and have seen a big increase in spa turnover since this was introduced, with 40% of conference delegates now visiting the spa. They currently plan on including a spa voucher in every conference package.
Kievits Kroon Country Estate in Polokwane holds about 435 conferences per year with an average of 35 delegates attending each conference. Trish Lawrence from Kievits Kroon told us that they offer a residential “Corporate Wellness” package which includes conferencing and spa treatments with “Back, neck & shoulder” treatments being the most popular. About 20% of Event Organizers include this package into their conferences as incentives or if the programme allows for “leisure time”. The revenue of these packages for the spa is between R500 – R1250 per person with very positive feedback from the delegates who enjoy the relaxing element of the treatments and facilities offered.
The Vineyard Hotel and Spa in Newlands hosts around 120 conferences during the year with on average 50 delegates attending each conference. Conferencing and Events Manager, Robyn van Oudtshoorn told us that The Vineyard does not offer a specific Conference and Spa package for delegates. She finds that many of the companies do not have budget for a Spa/Conference Package and delegates book the Spa at leisure when they have free time or extend their stay. Around 5% of conference guests book spa treatments when staying at The Vineyard Hotel.
Christine Coetzee, Conference Coordinator of Sante Hotel Resort & Spa in Stellenbosch told us that they hold about 40 conferences a year, each with 50 delegates. They offer conference and spa packages, with around 30% of conferences booking spa packages. Approximately 50% of conference guests overall book treatments (mostly women), with the Dr Fish nibble being the most popular. Coetzee says that the spa is a great sales tool for the entire estate and believes that leisure plays an important role in conferencing.
Although the global recession has affected certain aspects of conferencing, it appears that many businesses still have the resources to encourage wellness packages and reward their staff for their hard work. It appears that the South African Spa industry can still benefit from conference delegates, it all depends on the marketing strategy between the spa and the hotel and how it is presented to Event Organizers.
By Sarene Kloren – Les Nouvelles Estehtiques