Africa Next Meetings Hot Spot, Study Suggests

Meetings in Africa

Because it was largely unknown and mysterious to the Western world, Africa in the 19th century was known as "The Dark Continent." Today, however, Africa is finally having its moment in the light -- especially among meeting professionals, a growing number of who see Africa as a viable and attractive destination for meetings and events, according to American Express Meetings & Events, which yesterday published a new study on Africa's growing viability as a meeting destination.

"As global companies expand and look to bring their meetings and events to emerging regions, such as Africa, meetings planners must consider a variety of factors when selecting their meetings destinations," said Issa Jouaneh, senior vice president and general manager, American Express Meetings & Events. "In looking at Africa specifically, our study provides the meetings and events industry unique insight into the perceptions and familiarity -- or lack thereof -- of planners with this region. We hope it can serve as a baseline from which the industry can consider opportunities for education and local insight."

Titled "Emerging Africa: Exploring Meetings on a Changing Continent," the study found that:

• Nearly 10 percent of global meetings held in the past two years took place in Africa;
• More than half of global meeting professionals say interest in Africa as a meeting destination is growing;
• Forty percent of global meeting professionals report at least some meetings activity in Africa;
• Although most (60 percent) are familiar with North and Southern Africa, over half of meeting planners are unfamiliar with Central, West, and East Africa;
• The number of planning hotel openings in 2015 is up 40 percent compared to 2013; and
• More than a third (36 percent) of meeting planners expect airfares to African and average group rates for African hotels to increase by 2017.

The study also noted that planners in search of meeting destinations most value having suppliers that they know and trust, and the ability to offer viable air transportation options for attendees; despite growth, many meeting professionals perceive large parts of Africa as lacking in these areas.

Concluded American Express Meetings & Events, "While Africa continues to face challenges, the economic growth and expansion of global and multinational companies continues to drive meetings and events activities to the region. To support the goals of these companies and deliver a successful meetings experience for attendees, this study can help meetings planners consider their own perceptions and gain insight to inform decision-making in the future. Suppliers -- including major hotel chains, airlines, convention centers, and local visitors bureaus -- have an opportunity to work together to clarify misperceptions and highlight those cities and countries within Africa that are strong destination candidates for meetings and events."

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