The value of tourism in South Africa is growing rapidly, a fact that was recently confirmed at Meetings Africa 2014, the continent’s largest business events trade show, and the South Africa Tourism body is expanding its presence across the continent to make its presence felt.

Attendance at Meetings Africa 2014 was up 15% on last year, with a total of 3,295 delegates attending at Sandton Convention Centre, north of Johannesburg, and the organiser’s electronic diary system registering 10,169 meeting requests – 2,000 more than the previous year’s event.

“Looking at the narrow picture tourism on its own probably has a growth of about 4%, which is already bigger than the 3% for agriculture,” noted economist Mike Schussle, before adding that in the wider sense the effective growth rate could be 8% – “That’s more than our mining, or as large as our mining and agriculture combined – and it’s got even more potential.”

South Africa Tourism also professes that the country has a lot to offer to tourists from other African countries, and its first office in Nigeria was opened at the beginning of March by tourism minister Marthinus van Schalkwyk to promote South Africa to Nigeria, Ghana and West Africa, and invite locals to visit the country and enjoy its hospitality and nature.

The number of Nigerian tourists to South Africa reached more than 75,000 in 2013, after increasing by 14% in 2012, while the number of tourists from Ghana registering a growth of 24% in 2012, and during first half of 2013, the growth in this figure was recorded at 27%.

At the same time, various African tourist agencies, including the Kenya Tourist Board, have been more specifically promoting Africa’s luxury market to the Gulf nations, advertising their “authentic product” and their development of a raft of ever more exclusive facilities and experiences.

The government of South Africa is working particularly hard to promote eco-tourism, with its key attractions remaining Cape Town, for its scenic beauty, food and nightlife, and the Kruger National Park, which consistently attract millions of visitors each year from Africa and Europe.

“Either way, it is very important that all the African countries understand that it takes an investment in your infrastructure,” said Thulani Nzima, CEO of South African Tourism, noting that the body wants to work with other African countries to benefits the continent as a whole.

“It takes dedication, commitment and having the right people running your businesses. We put money into convention centres and convention bureaus, and only with that did business start trickling in. Remember, you are often competing with countries that are far more advanced.”