THE Southern African Association for the Conference Industry (SAACI) will take over the beautiful town of St Lucia in KwaZulu-Natal when they will host their annual Congress and exhibition from 17-19 August 2014, boosting the local economy with more than R5-million.
This will be the first time that the Congress has been held outside of Durban and will be attended by almost 400 delegates from all over the country. The Congress will also be attended by the Minister of Tourism, Derek Hanekom, who will give a welcome address to the attending delegates.
Commenting on the SAACI Congress, head of the Durban KwaZulu-Natal Convention Bureau, James Seymour, said: “SAACI KZN and the Convention Bureau have a strong desire to involve smaller communities and towns in the business events industry. This will also give these smaller communities a better understanding and awareness of how they too can play an integral role in the economic success and upliftment of KwaZulu-Natal.”
SAACI will also make use of the local suppliers and crafts people where possible to ensure the local communities benefit from hosting this Congress. Some 350 conference bags have been commissioned through the local Siyabonga Craft Centre, a local tour operator will conduct pre- and post-conference tours for the delegates, and a local school choir will keep the guests entertained during the gala dinner.
Tourism KwaZulu-Natal chief executive officer, Ndabo Khoza, said: “The key focus for this is to spread awareness among our stakeholders and members of SAACI about KwaZulu-Natal beyond the major cities, and highlight other gems of our beautiful province. This event will increase awareness of the region and its potential from a business events perspective. Some 20-40 per cent of delegates at a Congress will actually come back as leisure tourists. Congress delegates become word of mouth ambassadors for a destination, increasing the tourism flow. Tourism product owners will be able to promote their business and related offerings within the conference village. This way, we will ensure the Congress leaves a very tangible legacy in St Lucia.”
The town hall has been upgraded for the Congress and will then remain as an asset for St Lucia to host similar events in the future.
SAACI has also partnered with the Kingsley Holgate Foundation’s Rhino Art Project and two local high schools, where learners can enter their rhino artwork in the local competition and winners will go forward to the national competition. This is intended to create awareness among the youth on the importance of protecting wildlife; particularly the rhino that is currently being plagued by poachers and the impact this is having on the tourism sector.
A local Community Tourism Organisation was involved in all the negotiations to ensure that as many of the local businesses as possible benefit from hosting the Congress.