Bleisure Events: Africa's Sav­ing Grace

Tourism Tattler - - EDITORIAL - By Elzaan van Rhyn.

With the global econ­omy ex­pected to grow by just 2.7% in 2017 and the African econ­omy by 2.9%, live events have main­tained their rel­e­vance in a time of cost-cut­ting. This is de­spite the po­ten­tial chal­lenge from tele­con­fer­enc­ing tech­nol­ogy, which is de­liv­er­ing a much higher im­age and sound qual­ity than ever be­fore. While the global vil­lage is re­ly­ing more and more on tech­nol­ogy to con­nect peo­ple, noth­ing beats a live event where peo­ple can in­ter­act with each other for longer pe­ri­ods of time and in gen­uine ways.

Long-term re­la­tion­ships and con­tacts can be built with­out the worry of los­ing In­ter­net con­nec­tion or elec­tric­ity, and noth­ing could ever re­place the sub­tle nuances of face-to-face con­tact that are lost even though the most ad­vanced dig­i­tal con­tact. Along with a vi­brant grass-roots econ­omy, the con­ti­nent's unique cul­tural and tourism ex­pe­ri­ences mean the Meet­ings, In­cen­tives, Con­fer­ences and Ex­hi­bi­tions (MICE) in­dus­try in Africa is start­ing to boom, de­spite bud­get cuts.

In fact, while com­pa­nies and gov­ern­ment de­part­ments might cut mar­ket­ing, ad­ver­tis­ing and pro­mo­tion costs, bud­gets are be­ing di­verted to con­fer­ences and ex­hi­bi­tions, as the mea­sur­able re­turn on in­vest­ment is more sub­stan­tial and im­pact­ful. In­creas­ingly, con­fer­ence or­gan­is­ers are look­ing for fresh lo­ca­tions that leave at­ten­dees in­spired and en­er­gised – es­pe­cially where team build­ing, sales, strat­egy and cre­ativ­ity are crit­i­cal el­e­ments to the event process.

Global con­fer­ence or­gan­is­ers also want to host their events at the best lo­ca­tions, where their del­e­gates won't be dis­tracted by the hus­tle and bus­tle of big city life. The grow­ing trend to­wards ‘bleisure' hos­pi­tal­ity, where com­pa­nies seek to com­bine ‘busi­ness' and ‘leisure' el­e­ments, is serv­ing to cre­ate mem­o­rable, in­for­ma­tive ex­pe­ri­ences in stress-free en­vi­ron­ments.

De­vel­op­ers are pick­ing up on this trend and lead­ing leisure prop­er­ties are be­ing ren­o­vated to in­clude world-class con­fer­ence cen­tres to cater for busi­ness and in­dus­try events, along with en­ter­tain­ment. In this way, vis­i­tors to African des­ti­na­tions are of­fered the ben­e­fit of so­phis­ti­cated cor­po­rate fa­cil­i­ties along with the nat­u­ral beauty and ex­cite­ment of the African con­ti­nent.

There's no bet­ter time than now for own­ers of tra­di­tion­ally leisure­fo­cused as­sets to boost their con­fer­enc­ing ca­pa­bil­i­ties. While up­grade costs might be daunt­ing, the long-term ben­e­fits are im­mea­sur­able. Own­ers ben­e­fit from re­fer­rals and mar­ket­ing their prop­er­ties while the sur­round­ing econ­omy is stim­u­lated through job cre­ation and new sup­ply chains.

The Grand Palm in Botswana and the Umodzi Park in Malawi are two ex­cit­ing prop­er­ties that are at­tract­ing peo­ple who might oth­er­wise have not even vis­ited the con­ti­nent.

In 2016, The Grand Palm Re­sort, lo­cated in Gaborone, erected a new multi-pur­pose mar­quee to add ver­sa­til­ity to the re­sort, es­pe­cially for large scale events. Since then it was picked as host to the widely tele­vised World's Strong­est Man con­test, per­for­mances by mu­si­cian Monique Bingham and the Royal Moscow Bal­let, among oth­ers.

In 2017, The Grand Palm's four-star Wal­mont ho­tel be­gan up­grades to cre­ate a world-class aes­thetic qual­ity, in­clud­ing a com­plete re­vamp of its Oka­vango and Moremi con­fer­ence rooms. With new in­te­rior de­sign and a full re­fur­bish­ment of the main con­fer­ence hall and break­away rooms, the Con­fer­ence Cen­tre re­ceived a mod­ern facelift that ri­vals lead­ing venues abroad. With the casino also be­ing com­pletely over­hauled, del­e­gates will ex­pe­ri­ence the same stan­dard of ex­cel­lence across the en­tire re­sort. In Malawi, con­struc­tion on Umodzi Park com­menced in 2009 and was com­pleted in 2012 as a mixed-use fa­cil­ity. It is the ideal busi­ness get­away, fea­tur­ing the 130-room Pres­i­dent Wal­mont Ho­tel, the only five-star ho­tel in Malawi. Ad­ja­cent to this is the Bingu Wa Mutharika In­ter­na­tional Con­ven­tion Cen­tre, which has 15 dif­fer­ent venues and the ca­pac­ity to host 1,500 peo­ple in its main au­di­to­rium.

The Con­ven­tion Cen­tre was picked to host events such as the 2017 Miss Malawi pageant and the suc­cess­ful African Land Forces Sum­mit, which re­ceived del­e­gates from 44 coun­tries in May, in­clud­ing the US, France, UK, Brazil and lead­ers from across Africa.

These prop­er­ties are rare jewels in the African hos­pi­tal­ity in­dus­try, and as more peo­ple en­joy their state-of-the-art fea­tures, they will con­tinue to at­tract in­ter­est from global con­fer­ences, in­ter­na­tional mu­si­cal per­for­mances and mega trade ex­hi­bi­tions. About the au­thor: Elzaan van Rhyn is the Groups and Con­ven­tion Man­ager at Peer­mont. For more in­for­ma­tion visit www.peer­mont.com

African con­fer­ence and event fa­cil­i­ties are be­com­ing more than just venues for lo­cal gath­er­ings. By com­bin­ing busi­ness with leisure (bleisure), they and are now at­tract­ing ma­jor in­ter­na­tional events. The con­ti­nent’s breath-tak­ing nat­u­ral beauty, rapidly de­vel­op­ing in­fra­struc­ture and vi­brant multi-cul­tural peo­ple of­fer an in­creas­ingly at­trac­tive des­ti­na­tion for some of the big­gest global strate­gic events.

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