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All Roads To The Economic Powerhouse

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Home to Sandton, Africa’s richest square mile, Gauteng is gearing up for more action as a world-class hub for business tourism. And Nonnie Kubeka is driving it.

Gauteng, one of South Africa’s nine provinces, is a sought-after address for global brands and some of the continent’s biggest businesses. As Head: Gauteng Conventions & Events Bureau, Nonnie Kubeka, who has 21 years of experience in marketing across several sectors, has the tough task of developing business tourism in the province through lifestyle events and the MICE (Meetings, Incentives, Conferences, Exhibitions) sector, which makes a sizeable contribution to Gauteng’s economy.

Describe the landscape of Gauteng and its offerings?
We don’t have the sea or the mountains or iconic leisure [sites] where people come for holiday. We are a business destination, therefore business-related events are 70% of Gauteng’s push. Social beneficiation, social cohesion and job creation are a bigger part of the events.
We have more than 400 venues that can accommodate the MICE space in Gauteng. In that, we have top heritage sites people are interested in. We have the Constitution Hill and Apartheid Museum, but when we bring business tourism to the destination, we don’t just bring business tourism according to market segments, but in terms of sectors. We are big on research that attracts people to come do business here.

How does Gauteng differ from the rest of Africa?
We are the economic powerhouse and that is why when we do business tourism, it is for the benefit of the economy. For us to maintain our status in business tourism, we don’t grow the market, we draw the sectors so that everybody from all over the world can come and contribute to our economy.

READ MORE: Why We Need ‘Hard Cash In The Economy’

As the richest square mile in Africa, what does Sandton attract?
We have got the Sandton Convention Centre that in the whole of Gauteng can accommodate more than 30,000 people at a time and we utilize that particular center to attract more business into Sandton and the nice thing about it is that it’s a precinct. People want to walk from the center itself to the hotels and the bed nights we get out of Sandton are more than 15,000 at a time, so it becomes much easier to host a big conference. The combination of shopping, convention centers, hotels and dining is a unique offering.

Are there any trends you have picked up in the last year?
We have had disruptors in the digital space where people join conferences through web-streaming. They have not succeeded on a bigger scale. Conferences are about networking. Face-to-face gatherings are important. We are gathering people in business – that is where they share deals and ideas. Instead of going to golf courses for networking, they would rather go to a conference where they will gather knowledge and meet the relevant people they can leverage on. Business tourism will not be affected by the digital space.

What are the objectives of the Gauteng Conventions & Events Bureau?
Township revitalization, meaning giving business to the township. The inclusive economy includes small businesses and women-owned businesses. Business tourism is about inclusive economy and transformation of disadvantaged people. Women take leadership in organizing professional international conferences. Business tourism is not as big as leisure tourism in our country; it has just started so we are using it to revitalize what women can do within that particular space.

How does South Africa benefit from medical tourism?
We are like India and the UK, and especially in South Africa, you get a lot of specialists. We package it in a way that friends and family can also come and visit through the process. Most people who come for medical tourism stay on in the country or the province for three months or more. Sometimes, they take the whole bed-and-breakfast [options] with their families especially when [they are] next to the hospital. We have an example in Tembisa where a guesthouse [hosts] patients and their families. We have packages for them to go to the botanical gardens to de-stress for instance. This tourism also includes the doctor conferences.

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