Saturday, November 25th 2017.

Destinations

Dries Jacobus
MEETINGS AFRICA: A THOUSAND AND ONE THRILLS!

 

By Karin de Graauw

 

Invited by Bangu Masisi Director South African Tourism for Holland and Belgium and Trade Relations Manager Jacqueline van den Broek a small group of MICE professionals took off to the African continent for an 8-day trip to Johannesburg and its surroundings. The reason? To visit Meetings Africa: Southern Africa's biggest meetings, incentives, conferences and events platform for business tourism.

We were going to find out what the country has in store for meetings and incentives. It proved to be a candy box filled with unique possibilities. The pre-tour was a mouth-watering program hopping from highlight to highlight.

As the KLM flight from Amsterdam arrived at Oliver Tambo International Airport late in the evening, nothing felt better than a comfortable bed. A bed like the one at the Intercontinental Hotel, right located across the airport: a good night’s sleep before the adventure started.

South AfricaThe next morning, after a bus ride on the new highway – it’s amazing how the infrastructure improved after the World Cup - we were about to meet and greet the first locals: elephants! We made a quick stop at Bela-Bela http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bela_Bela for some elephant cuddling, hugging and feeding. Groups can also go swimming with them, or go for a ride on their backs. The original Zimbabwean born owner who started this concept is building a new future in South Africa. Nature freak Sean Heusman grew up in the jungle. The pictures on his laptop prove his fantastic and adventurous childhood. He knows everything about elephants. He trains them not only to please tourists, but also to do detective police work: like an overweight Sherlock Holmes these creatures look for thieves of electric wire or even help out the American army tracing landmines in Angola and Mozambique. We had to wave him and his cute elephant herd goodbye though. It was time for lunch at Zebula Country Lodge http://www.zebula.co.za : a well equipped golf hotspot with its own private small airport.

 

Thrill seekers United & Combined

We arrived at Entanbeni at the Legend Golf and Safari Resort http://www.legendgolfsafari.com  late in the afternoon. It’s the place-to-be for thrill seekers, raising the heartbeat to an incredible level. The resort is located in the Provence of Limpopo and a 4-hours drive up North from Johannesburg. This is where golf fanatics find the one and only extreme 19th hole! The only one in the world! To increase the fun: it’s only reachable by helicopter. But another kind of beat teased our ears too. What a welcome-ceremony! Three percussionists standing on top of the dark red stone towers that look like some sort of enormous termites hills. This is how the Legend Golf and Safari Resort welcomes the international hosted buyers and media: a colourful mixture of meeting, incentives, wellness and lifestyle professionals. All groups happened to arrive at the same time. Therefore the registration process was somewhat chaotic in order to get our room numbers, cocktails and a hot towel to prepare for the busy programme ahead. So many possibilities: several game drives, quad biking, golf, a helicopter flight and spa treatments outside with a view on the river. When the choice is difficult, there’s only one option: ALL of them!

 

South Africa South Africa South Africa

 

The resort is surrounded by beautiful natural scenery in the majestic Waterberg, malaria free and is perfect for game drives and for golf as well. During the first night of our stay everybody could show off his or her handicap. Funny and hilarious, to play night golf under the stars, with balls that glow in the dark.

 

South Africa

 

With almost 250 comfortable suites, tastefully decorated in the trendy tones of the bush, the Legend Golf and Safari resort has a lot to offer conference and incentive organizers. One small remark though: transport by minivans to and from your bungalow to the venues is a bit of a hassle. The territory of this complex is enormous. Don't expect a cosy hotel bar for a last drink with your group. On the other hand, one can see it in a positive way, your privacy is guaranteed.  

South AfricaThabiso Magodielo, the charismatic Director of Corporate Affairs, told us about his expansion plans for the coming ten years, during our last breakfast in the open air under an impressive fig tree, with a ranger with a gun close-by for the ultimate 'safe' feeling. They will buy more ground and build a lot more venues. A new airstrip will open soon, although Polokwane airport is only 45-minutes away. Their brand-new conference centre (for 500 people in theatre style) opened on 18 March of this year. This new Queen of Sheba joins the already existing Sofala centre, able to hold 300 people.

The Monomotapa venue (400 seats) is something special, a very 'unusual’ location based on the Shebeen dinners during the Apartheid when black Africans could not enter a pub or bar reserved for whites, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shebeen . Picture this: it looks like a shed, a big farmers barn with a typical African corrugated roof. It’s filled with long wooden tables, benches, stylish cushions, plastic tablecloths, enamel cups and plates, a great African food buffet, even entertainment singers and dancers with their typical gumboots. They made us, spoiled incentive pro's, dance and sing. Truly a feel good evening, African style! The African warmth touches you straight from the heart. I Loved it.

 

Commitment

South Africa South Africa

 

Irish born Lisa Taggert, Sales Executive at The Legend, lost her heart to and in Africa, also to the animals. With pleasure she gave us a site-inspection and showed us the amphitheatre for 600 people. She took us to the cheetahs and white lions they keep here. The Legend Wildlife and Cultural Centre has pledged to become the home of the world's first dedicated Rhino Orphanage as well. Approximately 600 people work at the Legend. Lisa explains: "When you book your conference or meeting with us you help one person or one animal, even without knowing it." The CSR or 'social face' of this company can also be seen in a recently started project. They show commitment by helping a school, rebuilding it and providing it with running water and electricity. We visited the old one too, quite embarrassing and shockingly poor. So half an hour later, sweating all over, we enthusiastically started digging in the African red clay, South Africaon property that the Legend bought. One day, on that soil, if other visitors like corporate and incentive groups alsohelp, a modern school will rise from the ground, for the 27 pupils of miss Lizzy and miss Yvonne.

 

Sun City and Ivory Tree Lodge

Our next stop was Sun-city: a world of pleasure with its palace, Cascade hotel and lots of possibilities and facilities for a pleasant stay for big incentive groups. It was Chrystal Events http://www.crystalevents.co.za  hosting us, and owner Tes Proos tes@crystalevents.co.za took us by the hand. Sun City, you love it, or you hate it.

 

South Africa New president for SITE South Africa
During a very early SITE SA Annual General Meeting on the second day of the fair, Tess Proos took over from Darryl and became President of Site South Africa chapter. She announced that Site SA is looking forward to an exciting year ahead. For the first time, Site SA will be sponsoring a student on a 3-year travel and hospitality degree: a scholarship for one of the 20 students that walked around in red T-shirts during Meetings. Nice initiative!
 

 

 

South AfricaClose to Sun City lies Pilanesberg National Park: in fact there is a gate close-by. But we needed another bus ride to visit one of Pilanesberg’ fabulous 5 star resorts: the Ivory Tree Lodge http://www.ivorytreegamelodge.com . What a beauty: idyllic, romantic and great for game-drives. It consists of 55,000 hectares, not offering the famous big 5 but the big 6. The famous African wild dogs deserve a number too. This stylish lodge holds 2 conference rooms with natural daylight that can hold 100 people in theatre style.

South AfricaRanger by heart
The crew of rangers at Ivory Lodge counts 12 members. We’ll focus on one here, and a special one: William. As a child he was more interested in spiders then in schoolbooks. He wanted to become a ranger despite his handicap, suffering from a serious illness. And he did: he even sold his car to pay for his 2 year training. He is crazy about nature, he knows everything about it. When he puts on his transparent goggles so his eyes won't tear, he sees everything. The wind blows and he hears a lion roar. He tracks an owl but we don't, because it's stone dark. He’s handy in the bush and can make a fire out of elephant dung. And he keeps it burning for 5 hours! His enthusiasm, knowledge and humour made us addicted to game drives. William is the only man in the world who woke up us women at 4AM (!!) to push them in his open vehicle for an extra game-drive on the day we left Ivory Tree Lodge. We salute you!

 

Meetings Africa: Johannesburg Chic for Meetings

Bye bye safari clothes, time for the Joburg chic dress code. Meetings Africa http://www.meetingsafrica.co.za/ ! The Meetings Africa8th edition of this very well organized event platform, was held at the Sandton Convention Centre. When the exhibition closed after three days, the overall attendance (3,452 visitors) grew 20% compared to 2011 (2,637). The number of registered international visitors nearly doubled from 106 in 2011 to 205 in 2012.

A major success for what is primarily a business-to-business trade show was that a total of 8,906 meetings were requested during the three-day show through the Meetings Africa match-making electronic diary system, giving real substance to the show’s usefulness as a business-enabling and revenue-generating environment. They even send text messages to confirm and remind, a perfect diary-system!

Remarkably, there was a noticeable heightened interest from the emerging markets, with a lively BRIC panel discussion on the show’s penultimate day highlighting the interest in South Africa from China, India, Brazil and Russia. It’s not a coincidence that South African Airways recently announced a direct flight connecting Beijing and Johannesburg.

“There is no doubt looking at the numbers that this has been the most successful Meetings Africa show yet. It shows that there is keen interest in South Africa as a destination and bodes extremely well for our plans to grow business tourist arrivals, confirm our status as Africa’s leading business tourism destination and increase our share in the global business tourism market,” said South African Tourism Chief Executive Officer, Thulani Nzima afterwards.

 

World-class convention centres

Marthinus van SchalkwykAs usual, Minister of Tourism Marthinus van Schalkwyk opened the event. Years ago he spoke out the ambition that South Africa would be in the world's top 10 of meetings destinations one day. Now it is 2012 and his ministry invested 800 million rand (approx 80 million euro) in South African tourism, with a strong focus South Africaon business tourism. Last year a special established function/position was created for an equally special woman: Amanda Kotze-Nhlapo. Her business card reads: Executive Manager Convention Bureau. Her C.V. says: Head Convention Bureau and Events at Capetown, Member of the Board of the Southern African Association for the Conference Industry (SAACI). A professional with a wealth of experience. She has an important challenge ahead of her, to increase the number of meetings and conferences in the future. And she’s determined to make that happen, as South Africa has a lot of qualities. Fantastic hotels, wildlife, wine, the infrastructure and world level PCO's and DMC's. “We have world-class convention centres: Durban, where the latest VN climate conference was hold, Capetown with 10.000m2, Johannesburg, Kimberly and the recently opened Boardwalk at Nelson Mandela Bay. We have proven to be an innovative country, but we have to be smart. The South Africameeting industry is not market related. Over the next five years we have already secured over 200 international conferences, which is estimated to attract 300 000 delegates."

And of course there were great networking moments. Like hundreds of delegates taking off on the Gautrain, a state-of-the-art high speed rail network in Gauteng, to have sundowners, accompanied by live music and dance, at the Union Buildings in Freedom Park in the hills of Pretoria. Or a sky-high moment at Randlords http://www.randlords.co.za/ , a joint networking event between SAT and the Johannesburg Tourism Company. On top of that building, with a wonderful view on the brightly lighted  'rainbow colours ' of the Nelson Mandela Bridge, the internationals working in the MICE industry showed their best dance moves.

www.meetingsafrica.co.za

 

Yo man! Let's cycle

South AfricaOur last day was a day full of goosebump-moments. We first visited the very impressive Apartheidmuseum. A must for everybody. Afterwards we visited Soweto, the well-known township. In fact it consists of 50 townships in one: housing 3,5 million inhabitants. At Lebo's Backpackers a surprise awaited us. We got mountain bikes, – even a tandem – and went cycling http://www.sowetobicycletours.com/ . Our guides were two heart-warming youngsters with a smile from ear to ear and on top South Africareal professionals, we were all impressed by their knowledge and enthusiasm. Talking gangsta-style they taught us all the ins and outs of Soweto. They took us to an illegal bar, where we drank horrible tasting locally brewed beer. We saw the street where Tutu and Mandela lived: two Nobel prize-winners in one street. They are proud of their history. Proud about Soweto, where so much changed and became better during the last ten years. They learned us how to greet the locals, how to deal with the kids that ran barefooted next to that silly, sweating (it was over 30 degrees!) group of cyclists, walking their way up to the hill. Thomas and Philly took us to the major monuments and learned us Xhosa, the click-language. With a well deserved Coke we discussed their future. Both of them were clear: they want start their own business in tourism and become an entrepreneur. Yo man, just do it!

 

Soweto Soweto Soweto
Soweto Soweto Soweto

 

 

South AfriccaBesides SAT representatives Bangu Masisi and Jacqueline van den Broek our group consisted of:
Corine Rosenbrand - Touch the World
Ellen van Ree - EventBranche Magazine
Ingrid Haye  - Incentive Travel
Lia Rosenbrand - Atlantic & Pacific Exchange Program
Rika Strik - KNMG
Ykelien Monking - Incentive Wise

 

For more information:
www.meetingsafrica.co.za

South African Tourism
Jacqueline van den Broek
Trade Relations Manager
Tel + 31 20 570 9076
Jacqueline@southafrica.net
www.southafrica.net

 

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