The expo industry in South Africa

An insider’s view By Craig Newman, chief executive officer, Johannesburg Expo Centre

The exhibition industry in South Africa is showing no signs of slowing down. Whether you’re the kind of exhibition-goer who looks forward to MamaMagic, HuntEx, the Vodacom rAge Expo or SA Fashion Week, there’s an exhibition going on at some point in the year that serves just the right niche for you.

Testament to the rising fortunes of these events in South Africa is the recent Vodacom rAge Expo, which saw thousands of like-minded people turning out to indulge their unique interests in toys, gaming, fantasy, technology and pop culture.

The niche toys and games market is rapidly expanding. In fact, PR Newswire predicts a Compound Annual Growthrate (CAGR) of 4.6 per cent in toys and games between now and 2025. There was palpable evidence of this growth at Vodacom rAge, with several exhibitors reporting that they did so well, they had run out of stock by day three of the event.

That’s just one example of a powerful niche market that’s gaining ground year-on-year. Exhibitions are uniquely focused marketing opportunities that bring the target market to exhibitors, allowing them to network with a captive audience and to nurture ongoing relationships.

Expo trends now It’s not just toys and games that are on the rise. Overall, the exhibition circuit is successfully capitalising on consumer interest, even in an economy that has seen better days.

Smaller-scale exhibitions are doing well too. For example, broadcasting, entertainment and communications technology expo, Mediatech Africa, attracted 7525 visitors to its 2019 event. That’s six per cent up from the previous year. The expo had 701 brands on display from 148 exhibiting companies – an impressive number of exhibitors, which certainly played an important role in increased attendance.

Quality exhibitors remain the key draw-card at any event. At niche events, this is especially important. If you would like to attract discerning buyers to your event, it’s imperative that you are discerning about the quality of your exhibitors, because the information age has made consumers pickier than they’ve ever been. That said, South Africans do love a good exhibition.

Testament to the rising fortunes of these events in South Africa is the recent Vodacom rAge Expo, which saw thousands of like-minded people turning out to indulge their unique interests in toys, gaming, fantasy, technology and pop culture.

The niche toys and games market is rapidly expanding. In fact, PR Newswire predicts a Compound Annual Growthrate (CAGR) of 4.6 per cent in toys and games between now and 2025. There was palpable evidence of this growth at Vodacom rAge, with several exhibitors reporting that they did so well, they had run out of stock by day three of the event.

That’s just one example of a powerful niche market that’s gaining ground year-on-year. Exhibitions are uniquely focused marketing opportunities that bring the target market to exhibitors, allowing them to network with a captive audience and to nurture ongoing relationships.

In a country with 11 official languages and many cultures, the list of national pastimes and hobbies is extensive. There are so many different weekend projects and interests among the people of our nation, and just about every one of these has an expo, where interested parties can mix with people just like them.

Having attended many varying expos myself, I can confidently say that we’re in a business that’s growing every year. Trade shows, conferences and exhibitions contribute to the local economy, boost tourism and enhance South Africa’s GDP. An article published by Fin24 in 2018 states that visiting business delegates – many of them here for conferences or exhibitions – contribute around R115 bn to our GDP annually.

The exhibition circuit is successfully capitalising on consumer interest, even in an economy that has seen better days.

The feel good factor

Whether you’re at Africa Health, Discop Africa or Vodacom rAge, you’ll probably recognise the positive energy as you stroll from stand to stand. And it’s partly because events like the one you’re attending help local businesspeople and economies thrive, while giving you something to enjoy.

For example, at the Rand Show this year, at least one life was completely changed when a local entrepreneur made a single sale of over R500 000 – living proof that destination shows can provide unparalleled opportunities for some exhibitors. In this case, it was in the Rand Show’s dedicated SMME section, activated by the South African Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development. And I’m sure we can expect many more stories like this one to come.

What does the future hold?

New tools and technology are making the exhibition business more exciting than ever before. Dedicated event management software is making it easier for organisers and exhibitors to plan their efforts to the letter, and electronic booking or ticketing solutions mean there’s no more human error when letting people in and out.

Just about every big expo now has its own dedicated app to help guests navigate their event and stay up to date with what’s happening. Digital design and processes have made stands easier to create, set up and strike – not to mention better looking. And if you don’t like the crowds, Virtual Reality expo experiences are on their way. Exhibitions still put smiles on faces and money in pockets. And they get bigger and better every year. 2020’s exhibition circuit is set to be the most impressive yet.

WHO IS CRAIG NEWMAN?

WHO IS CRAIG NEWMAN?

Craig Newman is the chief executive officer of the Johannesburg Expo Centre.

He has been in the expo industry for more than 24 years and has held leadership positions since 1991.Craig is an expert in his field and a highly qualified commentator for the meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions industry..
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