Sustainable business events are stepping into the spotlight, and the Meetings Africa Trade Show is championing this trend. This commitment was shown through several initiatives, such as encouraging attendees to go digital and use the event’s app to reduce paper use, offering easy access to recycling points, and featuring the Sustainability Village, which showcased locally produced goods, further demonstrating their sustainable business events focus.

The event facilitates interactions between buyers and tourism enterprises, including hotels and service providers. It also seeks to create business opportunities for both buyers and sellers, contributing to the growth of the African business events industry. Lastly, the event serves as a platform for knowledge sharing through educational sessions, workshops, and networking opportunities. This allows industry professionals to learn and grow together.

Fostering Green Practices and Community Empowerment

Bronwen Auret, Chief Quality Assurance Officer at the Tourism Grading Council of South Africa (TGCSA), emphasises the crucial role of sustainability in business events, encompassing everything from green initiatives and practices such as using local, seasonal food, reducing single-use plastics, and utilising renewable energy. Community engagement and empowerment is also a key component of sustainability. Local communities must benefit through employment opportunities, revenue generation or local procurement of goods and services. “Involving local vendors and small businesses is really important, from a community perspective, the sustainability of our people is critical,” Auret states.

To support this mission of fostering SME participation in the tourism industry, this year’s trade show featured a dedicated Development Zone for tourism SMEs. As Auret explains, “the zone provides crucial market access to relevant small businesses who wouldn’t otherwise have the opportunity. Ten tourism SMEs from various economic sectors including tourism, hospitality, and cultural and creative industries, were hosted by the Department and Gauteng Provincial Government . “They get to exhibit at Meetings Africa and meet buyers,” she adds.

Auret also highlights the Sustainability Village where attendees could purchase locally made products from vendors. This year’s event features 20 vendors who showcased their unique and eco-friendly products.

Making Strides in Sustainability

Sharing sustainability success stories is crucial . While there is room for improvement, there are tourism businesses that are making incredible strides in this regard, says Auret. An example of such a success story is Thaba Legae Guest Lodge  in the North West. The establishment was one of the beneficiaries of the Green Tourism Incentive Programme (GTIP). The fund is aimed at promoting the sustainable management and use of electricity and water resources. “Through that programme they are now almost completely off the grid”, she shares.

Witsieshoek Mountain Lodge is another local project that deserves recognition, says Auret. “It was voted as one of the most sustainable products in the world.” In 2022 the was voted the best Responsible Tourism destination in the world in the WTM Responsible Tourism Awards. The mountain lodge is in the Northern Drakensberg of South Africa. It provides accommodation and is well known for its hiking and access to the region’s most famous trails.

The concept of sustainability will continue to be a major consideration for business event organisers going into the future, says Auret. “The goal, particularly in South Africa and Africa, is to ensure travellers leave destinations better than they found them. This, in essence, is what sustainability is all about.”