Tourism: Akwaaba African Travel Market successfully hosts 2020 MICE Conference on Zoom

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Akwaaba African Travel Market, the leading Pan-African Tourism Expo added another feather to its cap by being the first Pan-African expo to successfully host its virtual event. It will be recalled that several major travel and tourism fairs across the globe had to be cancelled or postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

However, with the successful virtual hosting of its 4th African Travel and Tourism Conference on MICE with the theme: Is MICE a Viable Pathway for Tourism Recovery in Africa?, Akwaaba African Travel Market has distinguished itself as a leading tourism fair in Africa.

The MICE Conference had a brief appearance by former Minister of Tourism of Seychelles, Alain St. Ange who was the Special Guest of Honour. St. Ange who is contesting the presidential elections in his country on the platform of One Seychelles political party, expressed his delight to be on the conference, commending the efforts of the host, Ambassador Ikechi Uko.

Alain St. Ange highlighted on the importance of finding dedicated African partnerships to grow the industry in Africa. He stated that the African MICE industry needs to have visibility, be competitive and put in place appropriate safety standards to compete favourably with the global market. St. Ange also urged the panelists to explore the cruise ships travel to create a “floating MICE industry.”

Lead Speaker, Rick Taylor gave a detailed presentation of the MICE industry, tracing the history to 1714 in Philadelphia, when a group of carpet makers came together. At the beginning of his presentation, Rick lit a candle and then went on to explain to the audience that, he did that to show that “a candle loses nothing by lighting another candle.”

The highlight of Rick’s presentation was a hinged on the belief that MICE or “Business events are not dead,” but that “they need to change.” According to statistics provided by him, face-to-face meetings generate up to 14 ideas per hour, while virtual generate half of that. Also, 85% of people believe f2f contributes to stronger, and more meaningful relationships. The future of MICE has to be more results-oriented and that Victory is certain.

Contributing from Rwanda, Nelly Mukazayire of the Rwanda Convention Bureau (RCB) referring to the COVID-19 pandemic stated that “in every situation there are always opportunities.” She said that the MICE industry kicked off in Rwanda in 2015. Between 2017 and 2019, Rwanda hosted 591 MICE events, 110,000 delegates, while earning $206 million, amounting to 12% of the nation’s revenue.

Meanwhile, CEO of South Africa Tourism (SAT) Sisa Ntshona spoke on the fact that the Rainbow Nation made MICE events deliberate industry for income generation. From his analysis, a MICE event brings between 5,000 – 7,000 delegates to the country; but with one cancellation, an entire ecosystem is wiped out. He mentioned a particular sad occasion where about 19,000 delegates had registered for the World Ophthalmologists Society event, only for it to be cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This buttress his point that “in tourism, we sell perishable goods.”

The SAT Boss pointed out that of 2020, Africa had only 514, representing a mere 3% of the global market share. Speaking further, Ntshona agreed with Rick Taylor on f2f meetings. Using the example of the ongoing conference, he pointed out that the event has been hosted, but no income has come in. No one has paid for tea or coffee and all such that would have arisen from physical meetings.

On his part, the Deputy CEO of Uganda Tourism Board (UTB), Bradford Ochieng, who made the presentation in place of the CEO, Lilly Ajarova, acknowledged that MICE industry in the Pearl of Africa is quite young, but it is already listed 6th on the continent. Interestingly, he stated that 80% of MICE arrivals in Uganda are from Africa.

Also, he said that the country would reopen international flights by October 1, 2020 and there is hope that by April next year  things would have normalised.

The CEO of Ghana Tourism Authority (GTA), Akwasi Agyeman pointed out that the country is hoping to build on the success of the Year of Return in 2019, with the Beyond the Return campaign, which according to him, is a 10-year project.

He also highlighted that Ghana, which is the leading MICE destination in West Africa has highlighted key strategic point, such as: strong marketing push, regional agenda, enhanced PPP model for tourism, eased pathways (Visa policy review to boost the industry.

Meanwhile, the CEO of Kenya Convention Bureau, Jacinta Nzioka revealed that the East African country has already generated 15% profit from business travel in the past one month. She stated that Kenya had reopened domestic travel in mid-June, while international flights resumed on August 1, adding that Kenya was one of the first to launch COVID-19 safety protocols.

The country also suffered it share of loss with as much as 97 events cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, although some had been rescheduled, while others were hosted virtually. However, the KNCB, according to Jacinta has already plotted a roadmap up to 2030.

The strategy which is 3-pronged into short-term, medium-term and long-term include: 1. Consolidation and operational excellence, 2. Innovation and development, 3. Acceleration and growth. For the CEO of KNCB, as Africans, “We should complement each other, and not compete against each other.

Akwaaba African Travel Market 2020 continues tomorrow with the African Youth in Tourism Conference also on Zoom.

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