Ed’s Note

There have been some interesting developments in the African meetings and events space of late – a space that plays an integral role in corporate travel on the continent. Most significant was the official launch of the African Association of Exhibition Organisers in Johannesburg in early February. News of the imminent AAXO launch first reached the market in July of last year, off the back of apparent dissatisfaction with what a certain segment of the market was receiving from its membership of the Exhibition Association of Southern Africa (EXSA). “The decision to break away from EXSA has been an ongoing debate amongst organisers for a number of years,” said Thebe Reed Exhibitions MD Carol Weaving at the time. “EXSA is very supplier-led and we feel that they are not serving the best interest of the organisers.” Weaving, an exhibition industry heavyweight and driving force behind the origins of AAXO, went on to say that the affected parties felt that “exhibition organisers need a collective voice to lobby various stakeholders. Priorities need to be on annual research and industry benchmarking, tracking trends and quantifying our industry in terms of its size and value. We feel that EXSA in its current form is introspective, slow and focused on internal issues and drivers.” Interestingly, AAXO says it will “continue to engage with EXSA” and there’s even talk of the two bodies possibly sharing an awards event at the end of 2016. Another interesting element to come out of February’s AAXO launch was the research the body has conducted in the run-up to its official unveiling, focusing specifically on the South African exhibition industry. Staggeringly, excluding deals done at each event, this industry contributed R74,9b ($4.74b) to South Africa’s national economy in 2015, with the potential to grow even further, what with the Rand-Dollar exchange rate and the attractiveness of the country as a destination, never mind what Weaving believes is a generally under-achieving industry. What AAXO says it wants more than anything thing, though, is to be a credible voice for exhibition organisers and to offer its members value through a range of services. One hopes that they get it right, as this can only bode well for this segment of the African business travel industry. Wishing AAXO every success. Dylan Rogers