Becoming CEO of a conference venue in January 2020 was unfortunate timing, but that’s just when Taubie Motlhabane stepped into the top job at the Cape Town International Convention Centre (CTICC).
Motlhabane, who previously held high-profile jobs like heading Tshwane’s Convention & Visitors Bureau and overseeing protocol & conferences at the South African Reserve Bank, had set an ambitious revenue target of R285 million for the 2019/20 financial year for the CTICC.
But weeks after becoming CEO the hard Covid-19 lockdown was announced, resulting in three and a half months of no activity. When the venue was eventually allowed to operate, it could only do so under strict health protocols and with limited numbers.
This saw it missing the R285 million revenue target, and only generating R220.7 million for the period.
The lockdown not only cut into the CTICC’s top line – it incurred a R12.5 million loss – it was blow to Cape Town and the Western Cape. The region counted on it to host big events such as the Mining Indaba, The Cape Town Jazz Festival and Africacom, which usually bring in thousands of people and generate millions of rands in business.
These events are big money spinners for the country. It is estimated that they contributed R5.5 billion to GDP, and R4.9 billion to the Western Cape’s GDP in the 2019/20 period. More than 11 000 jobs were created nationally, bringing the grand total of employment opportunities created to 142 326 since its inception in 2003.
At the CTICC’s recent AGM, however, Motlhabane did not mince words on how difficult it has been.
“This has been a hard-hitting 13-month period and resulting in our organisation suffering massive income losses, while still dealing with some unavoidable expenses.”
With events cancelled and earnings down Motlhabane had to adapt the CTICC very quickly to a new reality.
New business model
Aside from enforcing new health and safety protocols – which limit the number of participants to 500 people – it has adopted a hybrid model that sees it offering an event space as well as providing digital facilities and services.
At the heart of its hybrid offering is the CTICC studio, which can be used by both broadcast and streaming platforms.
It also provides a “bespoke digital platform” that can be used to accommodate up to a 1 000 digital guests. Like a ‘real’ conference, it also allows for participants to meet in breakout rooms and lounges.
This platform also has advanced features like 3D digital tours where participants can “walk” around in a space.
The company also launched its ‘own events’ in the previous 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 initiated in March 2020 and set to launch in September 2020, but was postponed due to Covid-19.
“Although the CTICC could not host the full in-person exhibition due to Covid-19 restrictions, we demonstrated our agility by adapting the event and hosting digital AllSport coaching workshops in October and November 2020,” says Motlhabane.
The CTICC also played its part in dealing with the Covid-19 crisis.
It opened its doors and donated its space to a successful hosting of a temporary Covid-19 Hospital of Hope. The 862-bed hospital accommodated more than 1 500 patients over the 11 weeks it was opened.