Focus on Johannesburg, Gauteng, South Africa

Johannesburg, Gauteng

Johannesburg unlike the other major cities, was not founded near water. Inland, and perched on the 80km long rocky outcrop of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg's existence and growth came from the financial waters left behind - gold.

The discovery of this enchanting mineral hidden below the plains of the highveld sparked off one of the fastest urban developments of the modern era. In just over a century, the ramshackle congregation of prospectors' tents and crude digging devices near the farm of Langlaagte has spread for more than 30 kilometres in each direction into a metropolis of skyscrapers.

The Johannesburg of today is a modern version of its inauspicious but frantic beginnings. It is the technological and financial forerunner of Africa, South Africa's pemier business destination and home, including Soweto, to more than five million people. Built on and maintained by the ancient ground it covers, Johannesburg is the prince of the subcontinent.

Activities

Johannesburg offers a host of attractions and activities, of which the following are a few examples:

Famous or notorious, Soweto is a former township from the times of Apartheid. Starting about 15 km away from the centre of Johannesburg, it comprises some 63 sq. km, where an estimated two million people live - and a must for the visitor to Johannesburg.

The Adler Museum of Medicine; the Dynamite Museum chronicling the history of explosives and chemicals; the Madiba Freedom Museum charting South Africa's journey to demoscracy; the Museum Africa where you step into the typical 1950s shebeen are a few of the many to be visited in Johannesburg.

Johannesburg has a host of parks, gardens and reserves - from Bokkie Park giving children the opportunity to experience farm life to the Botanical Gardens home to some of the finest plant collections in the world.

Johannesburg is a shopper`s paradise. The shopping malls offer superior quality merchandise, entertainment and are unique lifestyle destinations whilst the craft markets feature African masks, carvings, dolls, baskets - whatever you`re looking for you'll find at bargain prices.

Gold Reef City theme park will raise your adrenalin on one of the roller coaster rides and an underground visit to the gold mine is an interesting option.

Heia Safari Ranch: In authentic Zulu village built entirely with materials imported from Zululand - right here in Gauteng. A unique opportunity exists to see traditional Zulu crafts, customs and clothing which have been handed down through the generations from pre-Shaka times.

Joburg an 'emerging giant' for business tourism

THE fact that Johannesburg doesn't have a "flat mountain, a river or the sea" means it has to capitalise on business tourism.

This is the opinion of Deon Viljoen, the chief executive of the Johannesburg Tourism Company (JTC). He says that, because 85 percent of all tourists to South Africa are leisure tourists, "business tourism has not been seen as tourism per se".

But Johannesburg, an "emerging giant" in this sector, represents South Africa's best chance at luring business tourism.

"Johannesburg is uniquely positioned for the business tourism market because of its status as South Africa's commercial centre, its proximity to the country's busiest airport, its extensive accommodation and retail infrastructure, and its four mega convention and exhibition venues," says Viljoen.

The four are: the Dome in Northgate, the Nasrec Expo Centre, Gallagher Estate and the Sandton Convention Centre. Viljoen says the four world-class convention and exhibition centres make Johannesburg unique.

The JTC was formed in April 2003, as a Section 21 company owned by the City, with an independent board drawn exclusively from the private sector.

The JTC has a three-pronged strategy to exploit the business tourism market.

First, the focus is on big events - those that would involve at least 500 international delegates - as the resources and effort needed for events of this size are the same as for a conference for 200 delegates.

Big events that have already been booked include the World Petroleum Congress in 2005, the World Disabled People's Conference in 2006, the World Congress on Injury Prevention & Safety Promotion in South Africa in 2006, the World Junior Delphic Games in 2007 and the World Internal Audit Congress in 2009.

Second, the strategy focuses on having one major conference in Johannesburg every year while securing other big events for the rest of the year, particularly in "valley periods" or during holidays.

Viljoen explains: "We are actively seeking to bid for such events in order to smooth out the peaks and the lows." The valley months are January, February, April and July.

For example, in January 2005 the TIACA Air Freight and Airport Management Congress is to be held. A martial arts conference is also booked for that month. The Africa GIS Conference, booked for August 2005, will take place in a "shoulder" month.

And third, in January this year the JTC set up the Johannesburg Convention Bureau to procure business tourism events for the city. Viljoen maintains that organisers of big international events prefer to talk to a city rather than the management of a venue. The bureau provides just that facility.

The bureau relies largely on industry leads to learn about future events, but is becoming more pro-active.

"We will continue to explore such leads, but we are now moving towards actively seeking new leads by targeting events that have not previously been thought of to be held in Johannesburg, South Africa or Africa," says Viljoen.

Viljoen says more than 90 international events that have never been held in Africa have been identified. Work is in progress to bring them to Johannesburg. One such event is to take place in 2013.

He believes the bureau has helped entrench the perception that the successful bids for the World Summit on Sustainable Development and the 2010 World Cup Soccer have helped establish the city as "an internationally recognised and credible destination for big international events".

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By Lucille Davie for www.joburg.org.za/; Johannesburg News Agency