Cape Town Shines In Global Conference Rankings – 30th May 2024

May has been brimful of good news for South Africa’s tourism industry. Hot on the heels of a splendid improvement in the latest Travel & Tourism Development Index (TTDI) rankings, published by the World Economic Forum (WEF), comes an impressive showing in the annual global rankings for the popularity of hosting conferences.

The International Congress and Convention Association (ICCA) published the latter. After an absence of two years (induced by the Covid pandemic), normalcy has returned to the meetings industry, with sufficient data available to resume these rankings, based on in-person meetings of international associations, rotating between at least three countries.

Other criteria necessary for qualification in the ICCA’s research for the rankings include a proven attendance of at least 50 participants and meetings that are held regularly. The ICCA’s research team identified over 10,500 meetings held in 2022, of which around 9,000 were held in person, either unaffected by COVID-19 or hosted in a hybrid format.

For countries, South Africa was ranked no. 41 out of 180 countries that hosted at least one meeting. For cities, Cape Town was ranked no. 63 out of more than 1,200 cities, placing the mother city within the top 6% in the world. Cape Town was a more popular convention venue than cities such as Rio de Janeiro, Washington, Miami, Los Angeles, New Delhi, Frankfurt, and Las Vegas.

Exhibit 1 |  In-person conferences by international associations – selected cities (2022)

Exhibit 1 | In-person conferences by international associations – selected cities (2022)

Source: ICCA. Report published May 2024. For illustrative purposes only and not indicative of any investment.

Only two other South African cities made the cut of more than five meetings, namely Stellenbosch and Durban. Rather predictably, South Africa also enjoys the top ranking for Africa, followed by Morocco, Rwanda, Egypt, Tanzania, and Tunisia.

Other good news on the tourism front is the welcome jump in South Africa’s recovery rate for overseas visitors (calculated as the monthly post-COVID number of tourists divided by the number for the corresponding month before the pandemic). Following a meaningful and consistent recovery since 2022, the rate stalled at around 80% during most of 2023.

In March 2024, however, the rate climbed to 92%, boosted by the traditional top-ten source countries for overseas tourists. The latter is headed by the UK, with Germany, the US, the Netherlands, and France completing the top five.

Exhibit 2 | Post-COVID19 recovery rate for overseas tourist arrivals

Exhibit 2 | Post-COVID19 recovery rate for overseas tourist arrivals

Source: Stats SA; authors own calculations. Data as at March 2024. For illustrative purposes only and not indicative of any investment.

Tourism is a labour-intensive sector that earns valuable foreign exchange. If the current growth trend for overseas arrivals continues, the number of visitors may well reach a new record high during the traditional bumper summer season, when the weather in the northern hemisphere leaves much to be desired!

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Author: Dr. Roelof Botha

Economic Advisor of the Optimum Investment Group. He navigates complex topics with clarity and optimism and with more than 40 years of experience, including  Finmedia Economist of the Year winner and Advisor at National Treasury, offers insightful perspectives on South Africa’s economic and political landscape.