The Ballito Exhibition and Events Centre – the largest conference centre north of the Umgeni River – launches in Ballito early March 2014.
Lerina McCall, director and co-owner of African Insignia Hotels and African Origin Hospitality Management, said the Ballito Exhibition and Events Centre would fill an important gap in KwaZulu-Natal’s conference offering. It is the second largest coastal venue after Durban International Convention Centre and, with 1 000sq/m of exhibition space, can accommodate conferences and events for up to 600 delegates or exhibitions comprising up to 90 stands. African Insignia Hotels and its management arm, African Origin Hospitality Management, will both market and run the venue.
Up until now, Ballito and its environs has been restricted to very small venues or forced to put up a marquee to host larger events. Given that Durban is rapidly expanding northwards thanks to the relocation of the King Shaka International Airport in 2010, the creation of new business and industrial parks in the form of the Dube Tradeport and Aerotropolis and Cornubia, she said that current conference and event facilities left a gap in the market for the Ballito Exhibition and Events Centre.
“The key is location. The new centre is close to the highway and airport, so delegates will not have to travel long distances to and from Durban. There is also plenty of parking. At the same time, this venue is close to the Ballito town centre, shopping and restaurant venues and accommodation,” she explained.
The Ballito Exhibition and Events Centre was created out of the Ballito Home Gallery in Moffat Drive, which housed an eclectic mix of exterior and interior décor, interior designers/decorators, architects and developers under one roof.
An investment of R1-million will see it completely transformed into an exhibition and conference venue in just one month. The outer shell remained in place while the interior was refitted with moveable panels to facilitate a wide range of events and meetings of different sizes. Display panels will also be on hand for those hosting exhibitions.
Jessica Nhleko, director and co-owner, said the Ballito Exhibition and Events Centre would also be hosting its own lifestyle exhibitions. Regular exhibitions ranging from food and wine fairs, to boating and car shows, are already planned.
“Most importantly of all, the Ballito Exhibition and Events Centre is expected to attract additional revenue to Ballito. According to the National Convention Bureau, business tourism generates more value than other tourism categories in terms of average spend per trip. Business travellers are estimated to spend, on average, three times more than their leisure counterparts which will benefit local businesses such as restaurants, entertainment venues and tour operators,” she said.
The opening of the Ballito Exhibition and Events Centre is also expected to boost demand for accommodation. “Ballito has a wide choice of accommodation from upmarket hotels and guest houses to affordable bed and breakfast establishments which will suit a range of different conference and event organisers. Up until now, Ballito has been extremely busy in season. Conference delegates will allow the local hospitality industry to fill in the gaps during off-peak periods,” Ms McCall pointed out.
In addition, because the Ballito Exhibition and Events Centre is also an ideal venue for weddings, family and corporate celebrations and dinners, it is expected to open up opportunities for caterers, event organisers and decorators and boost the surrounding hotel occupancies.
The Ballito Exhibition and Events Centre is also expected to create jobs, both in the form of cleaning staff and managers related directly to the venue, and in related businesses such as catering.