South Africa is an award-winning incentive destination with all its cultural offerings, its traditions and range of activities and attractions. With such a reputation and having never been there myself I headed out there to check it out and to see what South Africa has to offer for MICE planners.
I was hosted by the South African Convention Bureau and Into Africa; a Destination Management Company, based in Cape Town but who cover both Southern and East Africa. The week was split into two parts with the first spent attending an industry event held in Johannesburg and the second part on a post conference trip to Cape Town.
For the first part, the event was held in Sandton, Johannesburg which is a beautiful suburb of manicured lawns behind high, white walls and in front of gleaming housing.
OR Tambo International Airport which is just outside of Johannesburg, is approximately 20 miles southeast of Sandton. Flights there come from all over the world, including from the United States and there are multiple airlines that fly direct from London. It’s also easy to get to the city centre with the Gautrain; a state-of-the-art rapid rail network which meant I was at my hotel within 30 minutes!
The two-day event itself was held at the prestigious Sandton Convention Center; South Africa’s leading event venue and located in the financial hub of Johannesburg. The Convention Centre has 220,000 square feet of function space on four levels, catering to up to 10,000 persons and including The Pavilion, which can host up to 4,500 on its own.
Sandton event venues include some of the best hotels in South Africa. The 334-room Sandton Sun, which adjoins the Sandton Convention Center has 15 of its own function rooms, the largest able to host up to 1,200 people. I stayed at the 231-room InterContinental Johannesburg Sandton Towers which is also linked directly with the convention center and the City Shopping Mall.
There are some wonderful restaurants in Sandton and many are able to host groups; which include Moyo Melrose Arch, a multi-level modern restaurant which is clad in copper with pressed pebble walls and embodies Africa’s finest music and urban cuisine offerings. I highly recommend the food here and If you are feeling brave try the Mopane Worms in true African style!
During my time in Johannesburg we visited the Maboneng Precinct which is an absolute must! Maboneng is a unique mix of developments that form a part of the city’s exciting regeneration. These include studios, art galleries, boutique shops, restaurants and coffee bars that are fueling an inner-city lifestyle with entrepreneurship and creativity. As you explore, you really get a feel for this neighborhood and it’s a great way to take in the culture – the perfect afternoon activity for an incentive trip.
For the second part of the week I headed to Cape Town; the capital of South Africa’s Western Cape province and the parliamentary capital of the country.
Cape Town is a remarkable city and has a very laid back feel. It was voted Favourite Worldwide City by readers of the UK Telegraph Newspaper and Cape Town is exceptionally picturesque with its beautiful coastal setting dominated by Table Mountain – practically unbeatable from an aesthetic point of view.
In addition to its stunning natural beauty, Cape Town also offers a range of activities and experiences which are great for incentive trips! One of the highlights for me was a trip in a cable car to the top of Table Mountain. The panoramic views (and the ‘selfie’ opportunities) were fantastic. If heights aren’t for you, we also did a tour on motorcar side cars which is a unique and fun way of getting out and about and seeing the city by road.
For a more historical perspective you can take a trip to Robben Island, where Nelson Mandela was imprisoned for 18 of his 27 years of incarceration. Alternatively head off on a Cape winelands tour of Stellenbosch, Paarl or Franschhoek. Here you can indulge in wine tasting, go on vineyard cycling and horse riding tours, explore markets and enjoy luxury spa treatments.
In Simon’s Town you can see penguins along the pristine golden beaches that stretch for miles. You can also enjoy whale watching, mountain biking, hiking, kite boarding and kayaking, among other activities. Further afield shark cage diving is a popular activity and further south, along the scenic Garden Route, gourmet safaris are a great option. Here you’ll also find luxury golf estates with championship golf courses designed by some of the world’s best golfers.
A safari in South Africa is on most people’s bucket list and is also a particularly good incentive idea. Both Cape Town and Johannesburg offer relatively easy access to viewing game in their natural habitat.
During the trip we visited a local township which a real eye opener. We ate at a local restaurant where we sampled typical African cuisine whilst listening to the unmistakable sounds of township percussion and Jazz-like music.
If you prefer to stay local there are many great places to hang around Cape Town with its wonderful galleries, museums, restaurants and attractions. If shopping is your thing, then a trip to the V&A Waterfront is an absolute must, while Long Street is great for window shopping in the day and partying at night – especially on the First Thursday of every month.
If you are looking to combine an element of business into your trip, Cape Town has many renowned event venues and conference centers to choose from. I stayed at a couple of hotels; The Cullinan and The Westin, both located in the city centre. The Cullinan Hotel has 394 bedrooms and is a colonial styled building located in the heart of Cape Town and minutes from the Waterfront. For something more contemporary The Westin Cape Town is a large hotel with 483 guest rooms and suites with stunning views over the V&A Waterfront and Table Mountain. The hotel’s conference and meeting facilities include 19 meeting rooms that boast state-of-the-art conference facilities and the Cape Town International Convention Center is adjacent to the hotel and able to cater for larger conventions, events or exhibitions.
For something different you can host a Conference on a historic wine farm; Spier Hotel and Wine Estate has views of Eerste River and the Helderberg mountains and is located just 40 minutes from Cape Town. Or Shimmy Beach Club a premier ocean-front venue fronting the harbour with its breathtaking backdrop of Cape Town’s iconic Table Mountain.
Over the course of the week I learnt that South Africa is able to provide adventure, history and cultural experiences that are hard to find anywhere else in the world. With an extensive range of choice, South Africa truly has something for everyone, even for the well-travelled guest. Thank you to the South African Convention Bureau and to Nick & Alex at Into Africa for hosting me over the week and giving me an insight into all the wonders that South Africa has to offer.
To host your next event in South Africa contact Zanna Events for more information.