SITE Summit debates Africa’s potential for corporate travel

Society of Incentive Travel Executives (SITE)
Society of Incentive Travel Executives (SITE)

THE potential for and obstacles preventing corporate, conferencing and incentive travel growth throughout Africa were the hot topics of debate discussed at the 2014 Society for Incentive Travel Excellence delegates summit recently held in Johannesburg.

Africa still represents somewhat of an enigma for corporates with doubts regarding transport logistics, availability of accommodation, financial risks and safety and security scuppering efforts to position the continent as an attractive corporate and incentive travel destination.

A survey run among SITE South Africa members revealed that the biggest challenges to sending travellers in to Africa included the affordability and availability of accommodation and customer service, while safety and security remained the biggest threat to the destination’s attractiveness as a business events destination.

Panel participant and African Business Travel Association founder Monique Swart said in many cases corporates have themselves not visited the destinations to which they are sending their business travellers or conference delegates, and thus have a limited understanding of the environment.

Corporates are also increasingly under pressure to cut costs and are thus trying to cut out the middlemen and destination experts such as Destination Management Companies and Travel Management Companies, booking directly with suppliers and seeking all-inclusive deals.

The expense of airfares to African destinations due to high demand raised further debate regarding the need for more competition on African routes. Daryl Keywood, Walthers DMC managing director, said: “If Africa is to reach its full potential as an incentive and conference destination, both for South African outbound as well as African inbound markets, then costs need to be competitive with other destination options.

“Our continent enjoys many existing as well as potential incentive quality destinations, and with shorter flight times these should not cost more than for example those to Thailand.”

Air Mauritius regional manager Southern Africa and Latin America Carla da Silva believes the value proposition needs to translate in to value for money encompassing value-added benefits that can be quantified resulting in a memorable experience for all business events. Ms Da Silva has committed to working with trade partners to showcase Mauritius’ appeal as a MICE destination.

Working together, all members of the travel channel from suppliers to intermediaries such as DMCs, TMCs and PCOs were urged to work together to improve perceptions about the destination with the example of Dubai highlighted as a case study on the successes that can be achieved when all destination stakeholders work and bid together to position a destination as an attractive business events option.