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Exhibitions drive economic growth and foster business tourism across the continent

Events and exhibitions play a pivotal role in driving economic growth and fostering business tourism across Africa. In fact, in South Africa, travel and tourism contributes 8.6% to the economy and provides for 9.2% of total employment within the country.

With an extensive network of exhibition organisers and industry stakeholders, the Association of African Exhibition Organisers (AAXO) advocates for the recognition of exhibitions as influential economic enablers that directly contribute to the vitality of national economies.

“Exhibitions serve as dynamic platforms for businesses to showcase their products, services, and innovations, facilitating crucial connections between local and international enterprises. By bringing together industry leaders, entrepreneurs, investors, and policymakers under one roof, exhibitions stimulate trade, investment, and knowledge exchange, driving economic activity and fostering innovation,” says Devi Paulsen-Abbott, Chairperson of AAXO.

The impact of exhibitions extends beyond the event itself, generating ripple effects across various sectors. From hospitality and transportation to retail and entertainment, exhibitions create demand and support a myriad of ancillary services, thereby driving job creation and stimulating local economies:

Economic Impact

Business events such as conferences, trade shows, and conventions attract a large number of attendees from different regions across the world. These attendees often travel to the event location, contributing to tourism by utilising accommodation, dining, transportation, and other services.

Infrastructure Development

To accommodate large-scale business events, destinations may invest in improving infrastructure, such as transportation networks, hotels, and conference facilities. These enhancements can make the destination more attractive to business travellers and international investors in the long-term.

Destination Promotion

Hosting successful business events can enhance the destination’s reputation and visibility within the business community. Positive experiences shared by attendees can lead to word-of-mouth promotion and increased interest in visiting the destination for business or leisure purposes.

“Exhibitions serve as powerful platforms for destination marketing, showcasing the unique offerings of African countries to a global audience. As international delegates attend exhibitions, they gain first-hand experience of the host country’s business environment, culture, and attractions, laying the groundwork for future investment and tourism opportunities,” adds Paulsen-Abbott.

As African nations strive to achieve sustainable development and economic resilience, AAXO advocates for continued investment in the exhibition industry, recognising its instrumental role in driving inclusive growth and prosperity across the continent.

For more information on AAXO, visit


About the Association of African Exhibition Organisers (AAXO)

The Association of African Exhibition Organisers (AAXO) is a non-profit organisation dedicated to advancing the exhibition industry across the African continent. Comprising exhibition organisers, venue owners, service providers, and industry professionals, AAXO collaborates with stakeholders to promote best practices, foster innovation, and advocate for the economic significance of exhibitions in driving growth and development.

Africa Travel Week

Africa Travel Week (ATW) focuses on inbound and outbound markets for general leisure tourism, luxury travel, LGBTQ+ travel and the MICE/business travel sector as well as travel technology. Shows include: ILTM Africa, WTM Africa, EQUAL Africa, ibtm AFRICA, Travel Forward, Sports & Events Tourism Exchange and African Tourism Investment Summit.