January 23, 2022 | 19 min read

South Africa as a conference destination

Reasons to consider South Africa as conference destination

English is the primary language
and is spoken throughout the country. When you organize an event, it's good to know that the suppliers, banks, and other vendors all speak English as their primary language, and it is the language that all documentation gets done in.
Excellent climate
South Africa has an enjoyable climate. Winters are mild compared to Europe and North America.
Good restaurants at affordable prices
Steak houses are favorites and are good value for money. The fish restaurants are well-known and often frequented by both locals.
Modern infrastructure.
South Africa, arguably, has the most advanced communication and transport infrastructure on the continent.
Excellent Hotels
Hotels are on a high standard with excellent customer service being the norm , friendly and accommodating staff. Plenty of amenities and much more space are typical in South African accommodation. Prices are reasonable because of the weak currency, the Rand.
Warm and pleasant in October and November
These important months for hosting events are during the warm and pleasant South African spring and early summer times. In sharp contrast to the colder climate experienced in Europe and North America during these months. Accordingly, it gives delegates a break from the colder weather and allows them to attend conferences in ideal weather conditions.
Medical care
South Africa has comprehensive medical care with a good network of hospitals and clinics throughout the country.
Value for money
The currency of South Africa is the Rand, which is relatively weak, so South Africa is often inexpensive regarding meals, accommodation, restaurants and shopping.

South Africa is a unique conference destination

A major unique factor in South Africa is the combination of first-world facilities and infrastructure combined with the wildness and beauty of the African continent.

South Africa has been the leading economic hub of the African continent for more than half a century. It has a GDP of $351 billion and was traditionally known as the world's leading exporter of gold and diamonds in the 1900s. It has an "easy-to-do" approach to business and is globally seen as the gateway to business in Africa.

What is also attractive is the large variety of tourist options to see African nature at its very best. Renowned for some of the best safaris in the world, the options extend to endless coastlines along the Atlantic Ocean and Indian Oceans accompanied by rugged mountains and breath-taking scenery. The scenery is wild and majestic and vast in its scope. Delegates attending conferences in South Africa enjoy the wide variety of conference facilities and normally book time off to enjoy the beauty of the country.

Some global conferences of interest that have taken place in South Africa are the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Durban, 2011, and the 21st AIDS conference also in Durban, 2016. In addition, innumerable medical, engineering and scientific conferences get held all over the country. South Africa has also hosted some of the world's largest sporting events - the 2010 World Cup Soccer, the 1995 Rugby World cup, and the 2003 World Cup Cricket.

So the country is no stranger to hosting events, and a sophisticated industry to cater for this demand has naturally developed.

South-africa-map

Cities to consider for a conference in South Africa

What are the options for holding conference facilities in South Africa?

Conference facilities are available in all the major business centers of South Africa, such as Johannesburg, Pretoria, Cape Town, Bloemfontein, or Port Elizabeth as well as in more remote regions such as safari lodges.

Depending on the goals of the event organizer, many options are available such as hotels, beach resorts, convention centers, game reserves, safari destinations, and golfing facilities. Below are some popular choices which an event organizer can consider:

Johannesburg

johannesburg
Johannesburg

Johannesburg, the financial and business hub of South Africa, has many hotels, conference facilities and is the "heart" of the economy in South Africa. It is a metropolis with a metro population of over 10.5 million people.

Johannesburg is a favorite for many business travelers and has a lot of accommodation, dining, and conference facilities.

Most local headquarters of international companies, as well as the most prominent local companies, are situated in Johannesburg.

Pros:

  1. The largest economic hub holding the greatest wealth in Africa
  2. Headquarters of the largest banks in Africa
  3. A 30-minute drive from the Johannesburg International Airport (Oliver Tambo International Airport) – South Africa's largest international airport
  4. Ideal for medical conferences as well as financial conferences, due to being a major center in both of these fields, including multiple universities, corporate headquarters, medical institutions and hospitals
  5. Very close to Pretoria (about 40 km), which is the capital city and has a large population. Pretoria also has a major university, and hosts many specialist medical hospitals such as the Eye Hospital, the Mediclinic Heart Hospital and more
  6. A vast array of restaurants, coffee shops and mall – very cosmopolitan

Cons:

  1. Has been infamous for crime, so it is advisable to travel in guided groups
  2. Does not boast beautiful scenery such as what is available at the coast and other locations in the country

There are many conference centers to choose from. Some options are the Wanderers Protea Hotel, which is well located and can host up to 100 delegates. Another one is the Holiday Inn, Sandton, which is a four-star hotel and can host up to 70 delegates.

Here are some weather charts for Johannesburg courtesy of Climates to Travel

Johannesburg - Average temperatures & precipitation
Month Min(℃/℉) Max(℃/℉) Mean(℃/℉) Milimeters Inches Days
January 15℃/58℉ 26℃/79℉ 20.4℃/68.8℉ 125 4.9 14
February 14℃/58℉ 26℃/79℉ 20.4℃/68.6℉ 90 3.5 10
March 13℃/56℉ 25℃/77℉ 19.1℃/66.4℉ 90 3.5 11
April 10℃/56℉ 23℃/73℉ 16.4℃/61.1℉ 50 2 8
May 7℃/45℉ 18℃/64℉ 13.7℃/56.7℉ 15 0.6 3
June 4℃/39℉ 18℃/64℉ 11℃/51.9℉ 10 0.4 2
July 4℃/40℉ 18℃/64℉ 10.7℃/51.3℉ 5 0.2 1
August 6℃/43℉ 21℃/69℉ 13.4℃/56.℉1 5 0.2 2
September 9℃/49℉ 25℃/76℉ 20.1℃/68.1℉ 25 1 4
October 11℃/52℉ 26℃/79℉ 18.7℃/65.6℉ 75 3 9
November 13℃/55℉ 26℃/78℉ 19.2℃/66.5℉ 105 4.1 14
December 14℃/57℉ 26℃/79℉ 20.1℃/68.1℉ 110 4.3 13
December 10℃/50.1℉ 23℃/73.9℉ 16.65℃/62℉ 705 27.8 91

Sun City

Sun City Convention Center is a conference venue in the Sun City resort. 2 hours drive from Johannesburg. The Convention center has 27 conferene rooms for 12 to 140 people and two auditoriums for up to 1,200 people.

Their offer a full day conference packages that includes venue, AV, refreshments, coffe breaks and lunch for $40 to $55 per person.

Sun City is a well-known resort complex in South Africa. Sun city was designed for entertainment, sporting events, leisure, events, and conferences. It is nearly 20 km in circumference.

In the Sun City complex there is a selection of hotels, entertainment centers, eateries, restaurants, conference halls, casinos, discos, shops, and gardens. In addition, right outside the city, there is a reserve called Pilanesberg National Park which caters for safari lovers.

Pros:

  1. Relatively close to Johannesburg – about 200km – so travel from the Johannesburg airport is convenient.
  2. Safari excursions for the delegates in the adjacent Pilanesberg National Park can be taken advantage of.
  3. Golfing facilities - the complex has two 18-hole, par 72 golf courses where international golfing events are often held.
  4. Casino facilities, eateries, shops and a wave pool, numerous swimming pools, cascading gardens all adjoining each other so delegates can walk from one to the other in ease.
  5. Can host up to 2000 delegates in conference facilities.
  6. Plenty of accommodation – Sun City has about 1310 rooms and the more exclusive Palace of the Lost City Hotel (also in the complex) has around 336 rooms
  7. All facilities are close by, convenient and a car is not needed once inside the Sun City complex.

Cons:

  1. If an event organizer does not want his delegates to travel more than a few kilometers after landing in South Africa, it should be considered too far.

Cape Town

johannesburg
Cape Town

Cape Town has been voted the best city in the world at least seven times by the Telegraph Travel Awards list of 20 best cities in the world. One major reason for this is its natural. scenic beauty.

Cape Town, the capital of the Western Cape Province of South Africa, is renowned for its beautiful mountains that run alongside kilometers of sandy, pristine beaches. Its mountains often have clouds that sit on top of them - appearing like giant masses of cotton wool enveloping the mountains. Table Mountain – which is the shape of a table, and an iconic site and tourist destination, is the most famous of them all, alongside the Apostle Mountains.

Pros:

  1. The second-largest city in South Africa
  2. Renowned worldwide as a famous tourist destination
  3. It has an international airport so delegates can fly directly
  4. Ideal for medical, financial or sports conferences
  5. Close to many wine farms for travel excursions
  6. It has a well-known university and boasts Groote Schuur Hospital, where the first heart transplant was successfully done by Professor Chris Barnard, a South African cardiac surgeon, in 1967

Cons:

  1. It is a slightly further flight than Johannesburg – about 1-2 hours more

The Bay Hotel can be used for smaller conferences and is located in Camps Bay which is really at the heart of the famous scenery of Cape Town. Another interesting facility is the Sports Science Institute Conference Centre, which can host up to 200 delegates. The Cape Town International Convention Centre, an award-winning venue that is seen as Africa's leading convention center, hosts a large variety of conferences with topics such as solar energy and science.

Here are some weather charts for Cape Town courtesy of Climates to Travel

Cape Town - Average temperatures & precipitation
Month Min(℃/℉) Max(℃/℉) Mean(℃/℉) Milimeters Inches Days
January 17℃/62℉ 28℃/82℉ 22.2℃/72℉ 12 0.5 2
February 16℃/66.2℉ 28℃/83℉ 21℃/72.3℉ 8 0.3 2
March 15℃/59℉ 27℃/81℉ 21℃/69.7℉ 17 0.7 3
April 12℃/54℉ 25℃/75℉ 18.4℃/65℉ 45 1.8 6
May 10℃/50℉ 22℃/71℉ 15.9℃/60.6℉ 85 3.3 9
June 8℃/46℉ 19℃/66℉ 13.5℃/56.3℉ 80 3.1 9
July 7℃/45℉ 19℃/66℉ 13℃/55.3℉ 85 3.3 10
August 8℃/56.1℉ 19℃/66℉ 13.4℃/56.1℉ 70 2.8 10
September 9℃/49℉ 21℃/69℉ 14.9℃/58.8℉ 45 1.8 7
October 11℃/52℉ 23℃/74℉ 19℃/63.1℉ 30 1.2 5
November 13℃/56℉ 25℃/80℉ 19℃/66.2℉ 17 0.7 2
December 14℃/57℉ 26℃/79℉ 20.1℃/68.1℉ 11 0.4 2
Year 11.8℃/53.2℉ 23.5℃/74.2℉ 17.6℃/63.5℉ 505 19.9 68

Safari Lodge Options for a conference

It is impossible to discuss organizing conferences in South Africa without mentioning the option of hosting it at a safari lodge. Africa is the premier continent for safaris, and South Africa is the leading country in Africa for that. Many local South African companies host their conferences and think-tank meetings at safari lodges.

The options are private safaris adjacent to the Kruger National Park or in the Kruger National Park itself. The Kruger National Park is the largest and most well-known game reserve in South Africa. To understand the size of it, it is 19,485 square kilometers which is roughly the size of Israel; or about 1/3 the size of Ireland. Many of the photography and films shown on National Geographic and other nature channels are filmed and taken in it.

Other options are lodges around the Pilanesberg National Park, which is about 200km from Johannesburg as well as the Madikwe Game Reserve.

Due to safari lodges’ styles and appeal, they generally don’t cater for large amounts of delegates and so are more appropriate for smaller conferences.

Pros:

  1. Creates an intimate atmosphere among the delegates
  2. Suits smaller groups
  3. Ideal for management teams
  4. Safari adventure

Cons:

  1. May not always have internet infrastructure on the same level as the metropolitan areas
  2. Limits the number of delegates
  3. More remote location so shops are not always close by

Here are some weather charts for the camp Skukuza, situated in the Kruger Park courtesy of Climates to Travel

Skukuza - Average temperatures & precipitation
Month Min(℃/℉) Max(℃/℉) Mean(℃/℉) Milimeters Inches Days
January 21℃/70℉ 32℃/90℉ 26.5℃/79.7℉ 95 3.7 9
February 20℃/68℉ 32℃/90℉ 26℃/78.8℉ 95 3.7 8
March 19℃/66℉ 31℃/88℉ 25℃/77℉ 70 2.8 8
April 16℃/61℉ 29℃/84℉ 22.5℃/72.5℉ 35 1.4 5
May 11℃/52℉ 28℃/71℉ 19.5℃/67.1℉ 15 0.6 3
June 6℃/43℉ 26℃/79℉ 16℃/60.8℉ 10 0.4 2
July 7℃/45℉ 26℃/79℉ 16.5℃/61.7℉ 10 0.4 1
August 9℃/48℉ 27℃/81℉ 18℃/64.4℉ 10 0.4 2
September 13℃/55℉ 29℃/84℉ 21℃/69.8℉ 25 1 3
October 16℃/61℉ 30℃/86℉ 23℃/73.4℉ 25 1.8 3
November 18℃/64℉ 30℃/86℉ 24℃/75.2℉ 65 2.6 9
December 20℃/68℉ 32℃/90℉ 26℃/78.8℉ 95 3.7 9
Year 14.6℃/58.3℉ 29.3℃/84.8℉ 21.95℃/71.5℉ 565 22.2 65

Doing Business

Do you need to establish a company to host a conference in South Africa?

No, you don't need to establish a company to host a conference in South Africa.

Additionally, the fact that one can talk to a workforce in this industry in English and that has a customer service-oriented culture should allow you to make arrangements with relative ease, and allow you to weigh your options efficiently

Paying for an event services in South Africa

South Africa has an advanced banking system with large banks that cater for credit card transactions and of course, wire transfers. Payments can usually be done by credit card as all the major service providers have facilities for this.

One thing should be noted that South Africa has exchange control and restrictions in place for taking gold coins out of the country. The limit is 25,000 Rand in total for items such as gold coins and cash in Rands.

For foreigners bringing in foreign currency, there is no limit, as long as it is declared. For more information click here

Bear in mind that it is not recommended to carry much cash, due to the possibility of making oneself a target of theft.

International companies in South Africa

A major unique factor in South Africa is the combination of first world facilities and infrastructure combined with the wildness and beauty of the African continent. South Africa is host to many international companies. Some of the global companies that enjoy a very large presence in South Africa are car manufacturers BMW, Toyota, and Mercedes – which all have assembly plants in South Africa, Barclays Bank, Vodafone (one of the world's largest communication companies), Volkswagen, and General Electric. McDonalds and KFC (Kentucky Fried Chicken) can also be seen all over the country.

South Africa has been the leading economic hub of the African continent for more than half a century. It has a GDP of $351 billion and was traditionally known as the world’s leading exporter of gold and diamonds in the 1900s. It has an "easy-to-do" approach to business and is globally seen as the gateway to business in Africa. What is also attractive is the large variety of tourist options to see African nature at its very best. Renowned for some of the best safaris in the world, the options extend to endless coastlines along the Atlantic Ocean and Indian Oceans accompanied by rugged mountains and breath-taking scenery. The scenery is wild and majestic and vast in its scope. Delegates attending conferences in South Africa enjoy the wide variety of conference facilities and normally book time off to enjoy the beauty of the country.

Some global conferences of interest that have taken place in South Africa are the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Durban, 2011, and the 21st AIDS conference also in Durban, 2016. In addition, innumerable medical, engineering and scientific conferences get held all over the country. South Africa has also hosted some of the world's largest sporting events - the 2010 World Cup Soccer, the 1995 Rugby World cup, and the 2003 World Cup Cricket.

So the country is no stranger to hosting events, and a sophisticated industry to cater for this demand has naturally developed.

Destination Management Companies in South Africa

There are numerous Destination Management Companies in South Africa. Examples of some of them are:
  • The Inside Edge
  • XO Events
  • McAllister Travel
  • Walthers Destination Business Solution - EUROMIC South Africa
  • ExtraOrdinary Events & Tours and Africa Travel DMC.

How to get to South Africa

South Africa has 9 international airports, the bussiset airports are Johannesburg OR Tambo Airport (JNB) and near Cape Town Cape Town International Airport (CPT).

It is advisable to arrange shuttle services to take you to your destination in the country, or as an alternative, you could hire a vehicle from a car rental agency such as Avis, Hertz, or Budget.

Requirements for entering South Africa

  • A valid and acceptable passport
  • At least one blank page in your passport for endorsements
  • A valid visa, only if required and you are not from the exempt countries.
  • Sufficient funds to pay for your expenses during your stay
  • A return or onward ticket
  • If your journey starts or entails travelling through the yellow fever belt of either Africa or South America, then also yellow fever vaccination certificates
  • Adults traveling with minors under the age of 18 need to show the child’s birth certificate which shows the details of both parents. If the child is traveling with one parent, it is also necessary to present a parental consent affidavit signed by the other parent.
NB: The last point relating to kids under the age of 18 is super important, and you need to make sure you have these required documents if you travel with them to South Africa. South Africa is strict about this documentation.

How can you brand your virtual event venue?

It's just as important to brand your virtual events as it is to share branding on your physical, in-person events. This is especially crucial for longer events since you want participants to spend a lot of time with your brand.
You want to boost your brand messaging, so make sure that your logo is prominently displayed on the backdrop behind the speaker, and on the table and/or microphones that are visible in the videos. It's a good idea to arrange backdrops, tablecloths, or other items in your brand colors, too. Depending on your virtual event, it's also possible to send branded goody bags and or props to all the participants in advance.

Citizens of most countries from North America and Europe are exempt from needing a visa.

If you are not from these exempt countries in the tables below, then you will need a visa.

Note that the first table shows countries whose citizens are exempt from visa requirements for 90 days, while the second table shows countries whose citizens are exempt for only 30 days.

Please check before your flight with your travel agent that these conditions have not changed. Note that more information can be obtained from the website of Home Affairs of South Africa

Famous international companies in South Africa

South Africa is host to many international companies. Some of the global companies that enjoy a very large presence in South Africa are car manufacturers BMW, Toyota, and Mercedes – which all have assembly plants in South Africa, Barclays Bank, Vodafone (one of the world's largest communication companies), Volkswagen, and General Electric. McDonalds and KFC (Kentucky Fried Chicken) can also be seen all over the country

Keeping safe in South Africa

South Africa does have a high crime rate, so it is important to be careful and follow these rules.

  1. Arrange security guards at the conference facility if not already provided by the event location
  2. Travel in groups
  3. Plan ahead and stick to travel destinations as recommended by your tour guide or travel agent
  4. Do not draw cash out at an ATM: rather use credit cards and a bit of cash drawn out at a bureau exchange before you land
  5. Do not wear expensive and flashy jewelry or watches
  6. Do not speed off immediately when traffic lights turn green: first watch for oncoming traffic - some residents there like to “beat” the red light

In a Nutshell

South Africa has tremendous infrastructure and is prime positioned for event organizers to facilitate exciting and professional conferences or exhibitions, while at the same time providing attendees with fantastic travel and leisure opportunities.

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