Africa’s new Virtual Reality

Virtual is the new reality for Meetings, Incentives, Conventions and Exhibitions (MICE). African countries reliant on MICE as a tourism strategy to attract foreign direct investment are now forced to innovate of face failure.

Travel restrictions emanating from mitigations to curb the spread of COVID-19 has rendered the prevailing MICE strategies ineffective. Virtual meetings have disrupted the tourism industry and the need for African governments to incur expenses sending delegates to attend MICE, constituting flights, accommodation, and miscellaneous expenses. On the other hand, governments that have invested to position themselves as an attractive destination for MICE are facing huge losses as meetings go virtual.

Virtual meetings use technology to allow groups to collaborate through an Internet connection. There are several types of virtual meetings including teleconferencing, Video conferencing, web conferencing depending on the agenda.

Internet penetration in Africa stands at 18%, below the global average of 30% and will only improve as the adoption of virtual events and meetings increase with the continued spread of the coronavirus. African governments in partnership with private companies are investing in communication technology and infrastructure to improve internet connectivity.

The once distant Fourth Industrial Revolution is fast becoming a reality for the continent with the accelerated adoption of technology into all spheres of society, from utilization of new technologies such as artificial intelligence, cloud computing, robotics, 3D printing, the Internet of Things, and advanced wireless technologies, among others.

MICE reliant economies need to explore new ways of participating in virtual events and meetings. Hosting virtual events and meetings in Africa is unchartered territory requiring innovation and self-navigation to thrive.

Companies and employees in the tourism sector will need to be upskilled with new digital skills and how to use new virtual tools to as well as the importance of cybersecurity and protection from cyberthreats. Investment in new computers, high definition video cameras, microphones and other related software will come at cost for companies already struggling with the economic fallout from the coronavirus.

In 2020 major global events were either cancelled or postponed leading to huge financial implications on governments, companies and employees alike. In 2021 the UN World Tourism Organisation predicts that the overall tourism volumes could contract by 80 per cent as travel restrictions remain in place due to the pandemic. African nations reliant on MICE are faced with huge budget deficits and an arduous task finding alternative revenue streams.

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