Glyn Taylor and Gary Koetser are Joint CEOs of the Century City Conference Centre & Hotel. Here, they share their 2018 insights. The conference centre is the largest privately owned convention and exhibition space in the Western Cape and the R1 billion development opened for business approximately two years ago.

The message is clear: 2018: Celebrate South Africa and Cement Brand Loyalty

A cloud of pessimism is permeating South Africa largely due to the stagnant economy and political decision-making that, if nothing else, has made life interesting.

Most people therefore view 2018 as a Fear Factor contestant might contemplate a hand-plunge box. It could contain a bunny, but there’s an equal chance of grabbing a snake.

It’s not easy right now to see the wood for the economically wilting trees, but our industry numbers are impressive. In June Tourism Minister Tokozile Xasa said the MICE sector employed some 250 000 people, while a study by the SA National Convention Bureau noted that we contribute a staggering R75 billion to the economy.

That’s the good news. The bad news is it’ll be increasingly taxing to sustain those numbers as corporates adopt further austerity measures. This means getting organised and making your establishment attractive to as wide a client-base as possible. On the paperwork side ensure you do what’s needed to qualify for a high BBEEE rating to procure public sector business – the Century City Conference Centre (CCCC), for instance, has a Level 2 – and think green. Growing numbers of corporates are instituting policies that prohibit the use of venues that aren’t energy-efficient and don’t offer sustainability outreach programmes to benefit local communities.

Once everything has been done to secure sparse local business, where do we source new revenue streams? We’ll have to work harder, but the answer unquestionably lies beyond our borders. Long-haul inbound business travel is steadily increasing and we must leverage doors that are already ajar, but we cannot overlook the market on our doorstep.

The CCCC has recently experienced significant interest from within Africa that has translated into firm reservations. Other emerging markets, too, remain untapped and for myriad reasons now is the time to forge lasting relationships.

A positive of our currency woes is that events here present value to the global market and perceptions of SA are changing. We now present a safer option than the terror threat in Europe, but in our international travel to promote the country, Cape Town and the CCCC as a world-class venue, the two questions we still invariably face relate to crime and political instability.

Put simply, the world is becoming more dangerous rather than us addressing these pressing issues and that’s not a foundation on which to build sustainable foreign business tourism.

We are fortunate, though, in that the destination we market abroad is Cape Town, voted best African business tourism event destination for the fourth consecutive year. At the same time the CCCC – only in its second year of operation – is justifiably proud of being named 2017’s “Best Large Hotel Conference Venue in SA”. It’s a winning combination that is clearly illustrated in our forward book.

This industry-nominated award underpins one of the CCCC’s fundamental business tenets and also comprises the most essential piece of wisdom we can offer in such a tight economy.

That advice is simple: nurture your relationships.

Someone who is a small client today might turn into your biggest client tomorrow, so always go the extra mile, train your staff well and get personally involved. That’s how you build brand loyalty and have clients return to you time and time again.

If you have a foundation of repeat business there will never be a terrible year; just some that are a little tougher than others.

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