Meetings Africa is a pan-African business trade show that has been running for 13 years, providing the travel and tourism industry with opportunities to network, collaborate and engage with peers and prospective clients. Described as Africa’s business tourism lekgotla, Meetings Africa runs for two days and provides attendees with a platform from which they can showcase their services and create partnership opportunities. In a tightly-wound economic climate, with concerns around growth and the impact on tourism, the event provides a much-needed space for small businesses to expand their footprint and their markets. This has also informed the 2019 theme of “Shared Economies”, which emphasises the need for tools that boost and stimulate collaborative African growth.
For Incredible Tours and Travel, Meetings Africa is an opportunity to continue its own legacy of growth and to build on the connections it already established when they attended the event in 2018.
“The 2018 event was our first, and it was a fantastic experience,” says Nono Shabalala of Incredible Tours and Travel. “It was a learning curve for us at the time, but we have seen growth in our business since we exhibited. It allowed us the chance to network with international clients and to engage with industry experts, while providing us with the space we needed to showcase who we are and what we offer as a company.”
Incredible Tours and Travel is a tours and transport company that offers clients a customisable bouquet of tours and destinations. Its goal is to create experiences by taking people on adventures across Africa that showcase the diversity and beauty of this remarkable continent.
“We sell experiences. We draw up itineraries for different kinds of people and for their unique requirements,” explains Shabalala. “We create safaris, cultural trips, adventures and overland journeys, and we can tailor-make tours to client specifications. From individuals to groups, single-day tours to weeks-long options, our teams of qualified tour guides and tour creators go out of their way to create travel experiences that are tailored precisely to what our clients want.”
Incredible Tours and Travel primarily works with international travellers, providing transportation and support throughout their stay. The tour guides are passionate about the work they do and offer in-depth experiences that allow visitors to truly understand and enjoy the fantastic African landscape. The company is focused on authentic African voices and going the extra mile. It also spans all aspects of South Africa and surrounding countries, creating tours that take clients to Soweto, Durban, Swaziland, Cape Town, Kruger Park and more.
At Meetings African in 2018, Incredible Tours and Travel used the event as a platform from which to obtain exposure and build its reputation in the right markets, both locally and globally.
“We are a small business and we found that the event gave us the same opportunities to network and engage as the larger companies,” says Shabalala. “This was of inordinate benefit to us as a company — we have seen growth since we exhibited. This is definitely down to our ability to engage with industry experts, letting them know who we are and what we have.”
The company’s goal was to become known in the industry — a complex hurdle to leap when the business is small and the industry huge — and to increase its footprint. Both were boxes that Shabalala says were easily ticked, thanks to their success at the event.
Incredible Tours and Travel learned from its first run at the event; this year it plans to have more meetings and to really drive the opportunities for customer and stakeholder engagement.
“I have a better understanding of the event and have already invited numerous relevant individuals for meetings while we are there this year,” says Shabalala. “We didn’t know much about diaries and scheduling last year, so this year we’ve made an effort to get as many people booked in advance as possible. We have also been invited to several engagements and believe that this is due to the industry perception of us as a stable and reliable organisation.”
For Shabalala, the fact that Meetings Africa has continued to invite them to the event is as much a stamp of approval as her increasingly full diary. The preparation put into the event for 2019 from both her side and that of Meetings Africa gives her confidence that it will allow the company to take its growth even further.
“We turned many of the meetings we had in 2018 into tangible business results,” says Shabalala. “So this year we have taken this to the next level. From potential clients to industry leaders to international tour operators, we are going to be developing our groundwork of contacts at the event. Our goal is to show other organisations how we can efficiently handle the groundwork of their tours in South Africa and to collaborate with them on creating new and exciting adventures for their customers.”
Meetings Africa gives the small, medium and micro enterprise (SMME) a platform to become a part of the global business community. It gives companies that would previously have fallen between the cracks a connection to the international community and exposure to international markets and organisations that delivers real results and opportunities. This commitment to uplifting local talent is carried through in the Shared Economies 2019 theme for the event.It embodies the potential that was realised by innovative companies such as Airbnb and Uber. The idea is that any business can benefit from the concept of the shared economy and tha tno company is too small to participate in gaining these benefits.
“Meetings Africa is a great platform for the SMME,” says Shabalala. “I really cannot emphasise how much benefit we have had in our previous engagements and how confident we are that 2019 will prove to be just as beneficial. It not only adds the value of international connection and collaboration, but it gives our buyers confidence in what we do when they see our global presence. We have professional relationships with numerous international companies and are currently working closely with a Japanese client to create an extraordinary experience for an international nongovernmental organisation.”
The group that Incredible Tours and Travel are working with today happen to be the result of meetings that the company held at Meetings African 2018; relationships forged over the year are now delivering financial and reputational results. It has cemented their commitment to the event and given them plenty of impetus for 2019.
“They are not just helping us as an SMME to grow, but they are changing the benchmarks around who can participate at events and how they can play a role in changing our economy,” concludes Shabalala. “These are opportunities that few SMMEs can ignore, especially in our industry, and they are opportunities that small business owners and entrepreneurs shouldn’t miss out on.”
Meetings Africa will be taking place from February 25-27 2019 and includes a business and opportunity networking day that will be held on February 25 at the Sandton Convention Centre in Johannesburg.