Meetings Africa is a two-day trade show dedicated to providing Africa’s business events professionals with a platform from which to showcase their diverse services and product offerings. Recognising Africa’s growth as a sought-after business events destination, Meetings Africa is focused on encouraging and stimulating collaborative African growth. Over the past 13 years, it has also given the smaller business a unique opportunity to engage with international markets and buyers and a chance to stand out from the crowd.
“We are given a platform to meet people, to network, and to forge relationships,” says Namhla Mayeki, business relationship manager, Tsheola Dinare Tours and Transport. “Last year we were hosted by SA Tourism and were among a number of other small, medium and micro enterprises (SMMEs) that benefitted from the exposure. You can schedule meetings or you can simply engage with walk-ins and take in the variety of products showcased across the event.”
Mayeki says one of the biggest challenges that the company faces is in finding the right people to partner with to provide client travel solutions. With Meetings Africa, there is ample opportunity to walk up to people who provide relevant solutions and get to know them, to network with them, and to forge relationships.
“At the event itself you can network with representatives, negotiate pricing and schedule meetings,” she says. “It really is a superb platform for allowing us to gain access to the different products available in South Africa. We are firm believers in building relationships — this is something we focus on when it comes to both partnerships and clients — and Meetings Africa gives us the ideal space in which to do just that.”
Tsheola is a tour operator that provides customised travel solutions for the leisure and business sectors. The company was founded in 2007 and has grown to 116 staff members and a national operation, with branches in Durban, Cape Town and Johannesburg. Over the past three years, Tsheola has also expanded into the shuttle and chauffeur market, with a fleet of 62 vehicles. These are based nationally and range from 22-seaters to sedans and special needs vehicles.
“We mostly work with corporates for our shuttle and transfer service, but this is being expanded into our tourism part of the business,” says Mayeki. “We also do ground handling for major events and we cater for a variety of different client requirements and requests. What’s also really important to us, and our clients, is that we ensure that the same quality of service is carried throughout every part of a client’s journey. If you travel from one city to another, there is no change in the quality, even if there is a change in driver.”
Tsheola has been working with both local and international clients. The company has recently travelled to India to form relationships there and has already developed strong ties with Germany.
“When I went to India, I was assessing whether the market had an appetite for what we can offer and I was overwhelmed with the response,” says Mayeki. “They are interested in what the South African market offers and are looking for alternatives and options. Thanks to our quality of service and willingness to go beyond what people expect, I believe that this is a significant opportunity.”
The company has invested into creating a variety of solutions that cater to different tastes and budgets. Beyond the shuttle and transport offering, Tsheola Dinare Tours and Transport can offer anything from a city break in Gauteng to shark diving in Cape Town to bungee jumping in the Tsitsikamma. The company has packages that span most South African provinces and that are tailored to different tastes.
“We can take you anywhere in South Africa, no matter how many people or where you want to go,” says Mayeki. “We create travel experiences in the same way that you would go shopping. We customise every step of the journey to what the client feels like doing. We always ask them what they are interested in, their hobbies, their age and their budget. These questions are crucial to creating experiences that leave lasting memories.”
For Tsheola, these questions also refine the tour. Some people would love to go on a nightlife tour of South Africa while others would prefer to go on an adventure. Not knowing what the client wants from the outset means that the package isn’t always going to suit. The way the company sells its tours is to first find out who the client is, and then to create a customised experience from there.
When asked what Tsheola Dinare Tours and Transport is hoping to achieve at the upcoming Meetings Africa event in Johannesburg, Mayeki says: “I am hoping it will be bigger and that there will be even more opportunities for us to network and work together with international tour operators. We want to create synergies that allow us to build better experiences. Our goal is to look for different players in the industry and see how we can better partner with them.”
It is one of the biggest advantages offered by Meetings Africa, according to Mayeki; the ability to connect with other service providers and forge beneficial relationships that are often hard to come by in the market.
“You can’t be everywhere all the time, and if you have trusted partners who work with you and understand your line of business, then they can help you really deliver exceptional customer experiences,” she concludes. “We have met with service providers in cities such as Bloemfontein and the Eastern Cape who have really connected with our ethos and line of business and they have all come from Meetings Africa.”
Tsheola Dinare Tours and Transport is one of numerous SMMEs attending Meetings Africa. Each one bringing a unique flavour to the market and a different opportunity for their peers. The event has grown from strength to strength over the years and it looks set to deliver on its promises yet again in 2019.
A focus on Africa
Meetings Africa is a pan-African business events trade show focused on providing business events professionals with a platform to showcase their diverse services and products. The event has been running for 13 years and, in that time, has given organisations of all sizes a space in which to network, expand, build relationships and learn more about the industry. Meetings Africa 2019, set to take place from February 25-27 at the Sandton Convention Centre in Johannesburg, is set to the theme of “Shared Economies”, which examines how to boost and stimulate collaborative African growth. It is focused on how to connect diverse minds with a shared goal and to demonstrate how sharing an economy can transform the industry going forward. For Boyang Gape Tours and Travels, Tsheola Dinare Tours and Transport, Zimasa Travel and Wow Travel & Tours, the event is an opportunity to build relationships, expand operations and showcase their abilities in an increasingly competitive market.
One of the small, medium and micro enterprises (SMMEs) attending Meetings Africa 2019 is Boyang Gape Tours and Travels, an agency that specialises in inbound tours, corporate transportation for local and international clients, and hotel services. Boyang works closely with Scandinavia, the United States, the United Kingdom and several Asian countries, and has been running under its existing name since 2004.
“I rebranded the company from Africa Excursions to Boyang Gape Tours and Travels, as it allowed us to really expand our offering and embed our new identity,” says Chris Ndlovu, managing director at Boyang. “We provide our clients with a myriad of services, acting as an information centre that allows them to gain insight into the country and the culture. We also engage closely with our partners and share information about their capabilities with potential clients so that everyone benefits from working with us.”
For Ndlovu, one of the most important aspects of the work that Boyang does is in personalising client services. He believes that this is a crucial aspect to any business tour offering, as it ensures that every part of the experience is managed according to customer expectations. This goes right down to transport, personal interactions and destination planning.
“Our drivers and guides stay with clients from the moment they start their excursion to the moment they leave,” he explains. “We don’t swap guides and drivers in the middle of a trip as we believe that this is crucial to having a consistent experience. If a group is going to the Kruger, for example, the same guide will take them through from the airport to the park and back again. This way we know that the client feels comfortable throughout. It builds relationships. This has seen us gain a lot of business, thanks to word of mouth — our commitment to people pays off.”
Meetings Africa has provided Boyang with an opportunity to extend these relationships into new areas. At the 2018 event, the company met with international tour operators and spent time networking and building contacts.
“Many of the international operators are tired of working with the larger companies as they don’t respond on time and don’t care about service,” says Ndlovu. “Small companies tend to personalise experiences and respond well — this is our ethos and has seen many operators return to the business and recommend us to others.”
For Ndlovu, Meetings Africa has proven to be an excellent marketing partner. The event has allowed for Boyang Gape Tours and Travels to put its name on the travel map with plenty of opportunity to engage with new organisations and individuals.
“The best thing about it is that people remember our name from the networking and the visibility offered by the event,” says Ndlovu. “For Meetings Africa 2019, I have the same vision. The goal is to the same level of networking, selling the company as a product and getting the name in front of the right people.”
It is also important, according to Ndlovu, that the company represent the country as well. He doesn’t believe that the networking, meetings and opportunities should exist within the bubble of Boyang, but should showcase Africa and its potential.
“I represent our country; when I talk about South Africa I show how not only we can create amazing experiences, but that we can only create these experiences within the context of Africa,” he adds.
Meetings Africa 2019 presents a chance for Boyang to meeting with more international tour operators and to showcase how the company is a reliable and sustainable travel partner. Like many small businesses, Ndlovud has experienced some resistance from buyers as many are concerned about reliability and stability at the start.
“I believe that by reconnecting with people that I have met before, and by hosting a stand, they will see that they can put trust in me as a solid organisation that’s loyal to the industry,” he adds. “My goal is to have them think more positively about my company and to impress upon them that Boyang Gape Tours and Travels has staying power.”
When asked if Meetings Africa provides the SMME with a platform that really does deliver on connecting, marketing and networking, Ndlovu adamantly agrees. Trade shows add weight to a company’s presence and allow for the SMME to stand out in a crowded market.
“My advertising and marketing budgets will never be as big as the large operators who have been around for many years,” he concludes. “But being at this show and engaging in one to one communications with operators and clients gives us an opportunity to make a success out of our business and to become more visible in the market. My belief is that it is crucial that SMMEs wave their flag, challenge the big guys and prove that they can deliver. Boyang Gape Tours and Travels certainly can.”