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    Exhibitions industry looks forward to innovation and growth

    The exhibitions industry is rediscovering its talent for innovation and creativity as it emerges from a difficult economic period and the resultant decline in traditional exhibitions.

    Reviewing the status quo of the industry well into 2013, Sandton Convention Centre’s executive director, Mati Nyazema, says the industry is adapting to changes and is focusing on ways to add value to events and to attract new target markets.

    Nigel Walker, chairman of the Exhibition & Event Association of Southern Africa (EXSA) echoes this observation, and says that the industry is characterised by being in a constant state of flux. “It is not a static industry, and with each of the participants seeking out product and service offerings that will differentiate themselves, it tends to be an early adopter of new technologies and applications.”


    Nyazema says that creativity and new ideas are now a hallmark of the local industry. “In the early years at Sandton Convention Centre, we saw a flurry of activity, with many new and innovative exhibitions in a variety of sectors, from lifestyle to fashion to trade shows. Recently, exhibition organisers are becoming increasingly creative about what they offer and how they engage with their audiences. We are even finding that the style of exhibitions is reflecting new lifestyles; it’s more informal, more interactive, more experiential, and visitors are more participative.”


    Nyazema says Sandton Convention Centre has had enquiries about shows that go beyond the basics and have elements of aspiration and lifestyle. “Traditional household goods shows have declined in popularity, but people are looking for a better quality of life – and shows that have a lifestyle component allow consumers to identify products and services that can enhance their lifestyles. Sandton Convention Centre’s location in Sandton lends itself to a quality lifestyle environment; it’s a venue that is easily associated with a consumer lifestyle show. This trend applies to all aspects of lifestyle, whether beauty, travel, home, outdoor, and others.” She cites WineX as a successful consumer lifestyle show that is now in its 14th successive year in Sandton.


    This trend is also reflected on the global exhibition scene, according to the tenth Global Exhibition Barometer. It states that while the most important business issues have remained consistent over the last three years, which include ‘general economic considerations’ related to the state of the national or regional economy or global economic security, as well as ‘local competition’ and ‘internal management challenges’, 75 percent of the barometer’s respondents are planning new activities in either the classic range of exhibition activities or in live or virtual events, and 54 percent plan to expand exhibition operations to new countries. In the Africa and Middle East region as measured by the Global Exhibition Barometer, these percentages are 72 percent and 67 percent.


    Nyazema says Sandton Convention Centre is finding this to be an accurate assessment. “An exciting development for us is the interest shown by owners of international exhibitions to have a footprint exhibition in South Africa, which indicates a growing confidence in the business performance of South Africa as an exhibition industry and a positive medium to long-term outlook for our exhibition industry.”


    This presents a potential new avenue for the future of exhibitions in South Africa – for local exhibitions to align with international exhibitors to the benefit of international marketing and product, and increasing the captive market.


    The trend is playing out for Sandton Convention Centre with several brand new to the country exhibitions in its schedule for 2013, including The Wine Show and Wedding Whiz in May; Totally Concrete in June, showcasing the manufacture, transport, processing and use of concrete; International Food Exhibition (IFE) Africa in September; and ChemExpo Africa.


    Natalie Naude, vice chair of EXSA, agrees that there is a definite movement on the exhibition platform with regard to the launch of new exhibitions this year. “Whether it is that the African soil is ready for the influx of new ideas or whether Europe is just not in a growth phase I am not sure, but what is sure is that the world players leading the largest exhibition companies are suddenly attracted to us. This is reassuring that growth is on the horizon.”


    Another trend Nyazema reports experiencing at Sandton Convention Centre is one of show that were previously rotating across Africa now finding their home in Johannesburg. “As Pan African support of exhibitions taking place in Johannesburg has increased, organisers have given their exhibitions roots in our city, which is recognised as the epicentre of Africa,” she says.


    Reassuringly, one of Sandton Convention Centre’s first-time shows in 2013, Totally Concrete, was such an overwhelming success that exhibitors were booking their space for next year before the show had even ended. “It’s about hooking into what’s happening in the economy and the issues of infrastructure, power and energy are taking centre stage at the moment. Organisers should invest in finding topical issues that people want to engage on.”


    Says Nyazema, “This is an exciting time to be a part of this dynamic industry. These new event developments, together with the return of shows and conferences that have been taking place at our venue for many years, are a tribute to our effortsto achieve and maintain the highest standards in service excellence throughout our facilities. We commit to continue doing our part to ensure that innovation is at the core of development within our industry and to work harder than ever to capture a broader market.”


    For more information on Sandton Convention Centre, log on to www.saconvention.co.za, join the Facebook page on http://www.facebook.com/groups/39739504327/ or follow on Twitter at @SandtonEvent.



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