Convention centre learns to adapt in a Covid-19 world

The Cape Town International Convention Centre

The Cape Town International Convention Centre (CTICC) has managed to adapt during unprecedented times.

Speaking at their annual general meeting yesterday, Thursday March 4, CTICC CEO Taubie Motlhabane said 2020 was an unusual year but, “like a chameleon responding to its changing environment, the CTICC adapted to the challenges presented by Covid-19”.

“We did this by pivoting our business practices, transforming operations and reigniting our passion for innovation. And with the support of our various partners, we are cautiously optimistic. We are all going through a very tough time, but we are hopeful that brighter days are coming.”

Ms Motlhabane said last year, the company was set for a good fourth quarter and was sure they would achieve revenue target of R285 million.

However, closure of the CTICC when the Covid-19 Lockdown Level 5 was implemented in March 2020, had a significant impact on its performance, resulting in revenue falling to R220.7 million, 23% below the initial target.

However, with careful management of costs, Ms Motlhabane said she and her team managed to reduce the deficit to R12.5 million – a 46.8% improvement on the revised target.

This figure was the same as last year, despite three and a half months of no activity.

Mayor Dan Plato said the CTICC has adapted itself “remarkably” to contribute to the city.

“Its cumulative economic contribution to the Western Cape Province has risen by R4.9bn this financial year to R44.5bn.”

Furthermore, the centre’s contribution to South Africa’s national GDP was R5.5bn.

The CTICC also reported that in the previous financial year, 87.5% of the total procurement spend was with locally-based service partners, while 86% of its spend was placed with B-BBEE service partners.

In addition, 42% of the total service partner base were women-owned enterprises.

The Hospital of Hope helpers

The lockdown saw the CTICC turn into a temporary Covid-19 Hospital of Hope.

The 862-bed hospital cared for more than 1 500 patients over the 11 weeks it was open.

During this time, CTICC kitchens provided up to six meals a day for patients, catering for a range of dietary needs, such as those with diabetic, cardiac and other specialised requirements.

The CTICC also provided operational support, wi-fi and security, amongst other services.

“With our halls standing empty because of the national lockdown, donating space to the Hospital of Hope and the Ladles of Love feeding scheme made sense, said Ms Motlhabane.

Ladles of Love also required space to store, prepare and distribute food to some of Cape Town’s most vulnerable communities. In the 60 days they were based at CTICC 2, Ladles of Love delivered close to 2.6 million meals across Cape Town.

CTICC board chairperson, Deon Cloete, said supporting communities has become an important expression of the CTICC’s commitment to people, planet and profit.

Before the lockdown, from July 2019 to March 2020, the CTICC hosted 397 events, including 34 international conferences, meeting their annual target.

The largest international event was AfricaCom 2019, which was attended by 11 527 delegates, while other large events included the Cape Homemakers Expo 2019, the Investec Cape Town Art Fair 2020 (22 000), as well as Mama Magic: The Baby Expo.

In addition, the CTICC attracted a number of new events such as the Korean Consumer Showcase, the Asian Racing Conference and the Doha Debates.

The CTICC also instituted its “own events” this year, with the first CTICC Gift Fair attracting almost 3 000 visitors in November 2019.

The AllSport Expo was the CTICC’s next “own event”. This one-stop-shop sporting exhibition was formally launched in March 2020 and was planned for September 2020.

However, it was postponed due to Covid-19.

Ms Motlhabane said although the CTICC could not host the full in-person exhibition, they adapted it to digital AllSport coaching workshops in October and November 2020.

Premier Alan Winde said the CTICC team had not only implemented comprehensive Covid-19 safety measures under the C19-Care initiative, but has also introduced remote working, as well as a range of new hybrid and digital event options for its clients.

He said the centre was also safely able to host events that fit the current constraints on public meetings using technology.

A range of digital experiences was available, he said, including a “walk-through” virtual experience.

In keeping with its sustainability focus, the meeting heard that the CTICC diverted 71% of its waste from landfill.

Municipal water consumption was also reduced by 33.1%. This was partly due to the CTICC’s reverse osmosis plant, which converts groundwater to drinking water. The water quality was good enough to be used by the Hospital of Hope for all their requirements.

Overall energy consumption dropped by nearly 5% compared to the previous financial year.

Taubie Motlhabane, CEO of the CTICC

Almost a year since the Covid-19 pandemic, Ms Motlhabane said the CTICC, like many other organisations, has been impacted. “We have had to adapt quickly and continuously. The future dictates that we continue to be agile and flexible, if we are going to thrive.”

“Our priority now is to get the CTICC back to full operational activity so that we can continue to contribute to South Africa’s GDP and the Western Cape’s GDP. We will focus on finding new ways of doing business and continue to innovate in the event space.

“We have hope and we will work hard to ensure that our hope becomes reality,” she said.