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KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) is set to stake its claim as Africa’s most coveted business, meetings and “bleisure” tourism destination at Meetings Africa 2024 starting in Johannesburg today.

Acting CEO for Tourism KwaZulu-Natal (TKZN), Mr. Sibusiso Gumbi, said the KZN Convention Bureau (KZNCB) will be going all out to lobby for more conferences to come to the Zulu Kingdom which has many large and small conference facilities, including the Durban ICC, which has won several global awards.

TKZN is looking to take full advantage of developing trends such as “bleisure” travel – a hybrid of leisure and business travel – a perfect fit for the province’s ability to meet the growing demand for authentic cultural and nature-based experiences.

‘Bleisure’ is likely to drive up KZN’s potential earnings from the Meetings, Incentives, Conferences and Events (MICE) segment of the travel and hospitality sectors.

According to Allied Market Research, the global MICE industry was valued at $345.8 billion in 2021 and is projected to reach $2.1 trillion by 2031, with Africa expected to be one of the fastest-growing MICE industry regions.

Business travellers are buying into the “bleisure” trend, adding a little extra leisure time to the end of a business trip to extend the experience and save on travel time and costs. An increased number of business travellers are including their partners in excursions – something that many big corporates are now using to incentivise employees.

“KZN, with its diverse tourism offering, short travel distances between major cities and the revival of small airports like Mkuze, Ulundi and Margate make the province the ultimate “bleisure” tourism destination. This will ultimately drive a greater tourism impact in the economy of the province benefiting the entire tourism value chain including community-based tourism, Mr Gumbi added.

He noted that , the KZNCB has so far secured 11 high-profile conferences and meetings which will attract attendees from across the globe. Amongst these are the African Union – AfCTA Council of Ministers Meeting, IUCN World Leaders Forum, Ecocity World Summit, and the XIX World Water Conference 2025, which alone is estimated to bring as much as R430 million to the KZN economy.

According to the Durban ICC 2022/2023 annual report, it contributed R5.7 billion to South Africa’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and has created or sustained almost 11000 jobs. Mr Gumbi pointed out that by attracting mega business events and many smaller conferences across the province, the KZNCB plays an important role in the recovery of the KZN tourism sector.

To ensure that buyers get a good sense of the spread of facilities, from business to leisure, offered by the province the KZN Convention Bureau Pavilion includes iLembe Enterprise Development Agency, Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife, Olive Convention Centre, Moses Mabhida Stadium, Ray Nkonyeni Municipality, uMhlathuze Local Municipality and an SMME conference planner Hot Toffee Communications.

Post Meetings Africa, the KZNCB will be hosting international buyers from the USA, France, Spain, Italy, Germany and Azerbaijan, on a tour of Durban and the South Coast.  Post  tours provide interested international buyers with an opportunity to experience the destination and its conference venues first hand.
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