Changing Perception
Business Traveller Africa|December 2017

The Birchwood Hotel & OR Tambo Conference Centre has over the past 20 years built a reputation as a South African conferencing ‘giant’ with an impressive offering that caters to just about any event. But, like any good business, it needs to evolve and diversify, if it is to continue prospering. That’s according to Founder and Director, Kevin Clarence, who joined editor Dylan Rogers for a coffee in Johannesburg.

Kevin Clarence

Large-scale conferences, events and exhibitions remain the staple diet for Birchwood, which has become a preferred Johannesburg venue for clients in this space, particularly those in government.

But, whilst these events are potentially big money-spinners for Birchwood, there’s a cost that comes with doing business with South Africa’s public sector, and according to Clarence, it ’s just not sustainable.

“You can’t run a business with the size and amount of revenue we get from government and then operate in such an uncertain environment, and I don’t think it’s going to get better,” he says.

The uncertainty Clarence refers to relates to South Africa’s current political climate, with change an almost constant, which, unfortunately for suppliers like Birchwood, trickles down and presents itself in operational and logistical challenges.

He tells the story of a government department that in November ‘postponed’ a seven million rand ($500,000) booking at two days’ notice – a number that would have accounted for about 20% of Birchwood’s monthly revenue.

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