At the 6th Africa Tourism Leadership Forum and Awards in Gaborone, Botswana, Gorata Gabaraane, CEO of Fairground Holdings, emphasised how her company significantly contributes to Botswana’s Meetings, Incentives, Conferences, and Exhibitions (MICE) sector during her conversation with VoyagesAfriq.
Fairground Holdings, established in 1986, has grown to become not only the largest but also the oldest conference and exhibitions venue in Botswana. Ms. Gabaraane highlighted that the venue caters to a diverse range of sectors and segments within the MICE industry.
The CEO stressed the unique ownership structure of Fairground Holdings, stating, “We are an establishment owned by the government, a subsidiary of the Botswana Development Corporation, which is a government-owned parastatal. While our shareholders are primarily the government, we operate with a strong private sector mentality.”
Fairground Holdings boasts a substantial property spanning 33 hectares of land, utilizing 20% of it for its various events. Despite its size, the venue can accommodate conferences and exhibitions of up to 5,000 attendees, with the capacity to host up to 700 exhibitors. Abundant parking space and multiple meeting rooms allow for concurrent interactions, making Fairground Holdings the premier choice for large-scale events.
Notably, the Global Expo, a prominent event held at Fairground Holdings for several years, underscores the venue’s status as the epicenter of major exhibitions in the country.
During the interview, Gabaraane discussed the need for infrastructure improvement to meet international standards. “Our infrastructure is on the older side, and we have a masterplan and feasibility study in place to address this issue. We understand the importance of modernizing our facilities to stay competitive globally,” she stated.
Gabaraane also highlighted the significant involvement of young people in the MICE sector in Botswana. “Most of our events are driven by young entrepreneurs and service providers. Our entertainment sector is also largely youth-led. Botswana places a strong emphasis on empowering young people, which is reflected in our industry,” she said.
Although Fairground Holdings is not a convention bureau in the traditional sense, Gabaraane explained its proactive approach to event bidding. “While we primarily rely on government-led bids for events, we are actively developing our internal exhibitions and conferences based on sector-specific areas of interest. For instance, we are exploring the potential for a livestock event, given the significance of livestock in Botswana,” she elaborated.
Gabaraane praised Botswana’s political will and sense of community as factors contributing to the success of the MICE industry. She maintained that the government’s consistent support and the tight-knit sense of community play crucial roles in the industry’s growth.
“… because of our culture, there is this sense of community where whenever there’s an event, we rally behind each other, we mobilise everyone and then we work together. So, that counts in terms of support. We also enable doing business such as visa enablement and may divert Air Botswana, making sure the scheduling changes to suit a certain event, that is something that we do easily,” she explained.
With plans of improving the facilities at the venue, Gabaraane is confident Fairground with its rich history of hosting major events and commitment to excellence will ensure that they continue to do so for many years to come. As she noted, “At Fairground Holdings we have been at it for a very long time, we have done major events, in fact we have our own which is called Consumer Fair and it’s been a success and we’ve done for 16 years.”