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9.19. e-Tourism Summit 2013

The 6th Annual E-Tourism Africa Summit in Cape Town | 'Be smart, be real, be bold'

The 6th Annual E-Tourism Africa Summit, sponsored by South African Tourism, brought together all the brightest and the best to share ways of harnessing digital technology and social media to grow the tourism industry.

This year's event, which took place at the Cape Town International Convention Centre on the 9th and 10th of September, attracted more than 360 participants and trended on Twitter in South Africa on both days. For those who couldn't make it, here's a summary of what transpired.

Ten key takeouts

  • Due to the social media explosion, your customers are your sales people.
  • Contemporary travel is more spontaneous and highly connected.
  • Wi-Fi is a travel essential; make it free if you want to bring in the customers.
  • Social media referrals carry more weight than traditional media.
  • Pictures and videos have stronger pulling power than words.
  • There are many free social media tools you can use to market your business.
  • Innovative social media campaigns involving real people can have enormous impact with relatively little marketing budget.
  • Clarity, simplicity and ease of use are the hallmarks of a successful online presence.
  • Emerging markets are an important source of future tourists.
  • Much of the future for travel and tourism is in mobile, especially in Africa.

If you were unable to attend, e-Tourism Frontiers published copies of presentations and recorded highlights. Here are some highlighted points from each presentation...  

Tourism Minister, Marthinus van Schalkwyk emphasised the central role digital innovation is playing in tourism. 

"Travel searches via internet are forecast to continue to grow at a rapid rate because digital solutions are becoming crucial in any customer interaction along the tourism value chain. We must therefore keep our focus on the ever-changing goalpost and adapt with it to ensure that we gain maximum benefit."

Key points 

  • Markets are closer than ever before.
  • Cyberspace word-of-mouth is a reality.
  • Use it to your advantage.



Damian Cook, CEO E-Tourism Frontiers | Sharing the world

In a wide-ranging talk, Cook sketched a picture of a world in which every hyper-connected traveller is able to communicate instantly with a 'small army of engaged, active spectators, each one of whom is a potential future customer'. Vital statistics included the fact that 59% of all travel is now researched, booked, bought and sold online and that 98% of travellers start their search on the internet.

Key points 

  • Have a strong social media presence.
  • Manage your social medial relationships.
  • Sell an experience.
  • Aim for the conversion points to bring in the customers.


Warrick Godfrey, Facebook Africa | It's all here

Godfrey preached the gospel for the world's most popular social media tool. With well over a billion active users, Facebook is not just a place for friends to hang out, but also has many great features that can be used as a resource for businesses to reach out and engage with their customers, both past and present. Two-thirds of travellers share their holiday plans on Facebook and over 50% say their friends' pictures inspire them to book a trip to specific destinations.

Key points 

  • Facebook is an essential marketing tool.
  • Start with your marketing objective ... then build your Facebook strategy.



Douwe Osinga, co-founder: Triposo - The future of the travel guide

The traditional travel guide is dead, said Osinga, whose invention, Triposo, allows travellers to get the information they need via a mobile app that is up to the minute and interactive. He stressed the spontaneous nature of travel today (67% of people no longer ask for directions; 40% book their hotel on the same day). 'Getting lost no longer means finding your way back by offline maps. We let you wander,' he said.

Key points 

  • Triposo aggregates on-the-spot personal recommendations.
  • If you want to be found, provide open content.
  • Open content is what drives Facebook, Triposo and Foursquare.


  Andrew Lacy, CEO ZapTravel | Selling experiences

Lacy was motivated to start his company because he was having a long-distance relationship and wanted a weekend away (he was in Prague and she was in Paris). ZapTravel provides a whole solution for activity-based travel by drawing together information, allowing people to search, find and book travel by what they want to do. 'The days of websites that only solve one problem at a time are over.'

Key points  

  • Inspire the customer.
  • Solve constraints.
  • Harness big data to do more than a traditional travel agent could.



Helena Egan, head of destination marketing EMEAA TripAdvisor: Socially recommended

Many travellers make decisions about their holidays entirely based on the information they glean from TripAdvisor. Egan showcased some of the facilities available on TripAdvisor to help establishments make their mark, including self-service widgets and getting customers to add content through Review Express. She said 1 798 businesses in Africa had won Certificates of Excellence in 2013.

Key point 

  • Use TripAdvisor forums as a free marketing tool.



William Bakker, Think! Social Media| The social destination

For a successful marketing campaign, you need to tap into other people's stories, said Bakker. When the city of Dallas wanted to change perceptions about itself as a tourism destination, Think! Social Media came up with a campaign that became a lead news item on CNN and that saw citizens search for a 'mystery man' on the streets of Dallas in exchange for tickets to the SuperBowl.

Key points 

  • You don't need a big budget to execute a creative social media campaign.
  • Don't be afraid to engage with the social media community.
  • If you engage fans they will market to their friends.



Christopher Wood, head of group innovations Nedbank - Pocket POS | Payment innovation

A highlight of the day was a presentation on banking innovations to make online payments simple and secure. Wood showcased a pocket point-of-sale device that allows you to make a payment 'on top of a hill in Limpopo'. 'All you need is a cellphone signal.' His presentation drew many questions from tourism operators who wanted to know more.



Jill Bennett-Howes, co-founder of ResRequest | Online reservations

Customers no longer want to pick up the phone or work through an agent, even when booking remote destinations. ResRequest has developed an online booking and availability solution for luxury lodges in nine African countries. At the end of a packed day, she lightened proceedings when she said: 'The goal is to get a customer into your bed.'

Key points 

  • Think convenience and efficiency when it comes to online booking systems.
  • Provide information in multiple currencies.
  • Don't forget the travel trade.



Ross Kata, Expedia Africa | Travel distribution trends and opportunities

As the world's 'largest travel agent', Expedia has shown exponential growth, particularly in South Africa since payments can now also be made in rands. The booking system makes it quick and easy to hop on a plane, in line with a trend towards more spontaneous travel. 'The easier and faster you make it, the more bookings you'll get,' he said.

Key points 

  • Make sure your website is up to date and relevant.
  • Use quality content, pictures and video.
  • Test your online offering constantly.



Kristy Grant, Google South Africa | What are you looking for?

Underscoring a core conference theme, Grant emphasised the value of selling travel visually, such as a Google map that you can hover over to navigate the coastline of Australia. She spoke about the many tools Google has put in place, such as Google Glass, that can aid tourism. 'We're seeing more and more that the "fluffy stuff" is aiding conversion.' 

Key points 

  • Inspire your potential customers with rich content.
  • Check what people see when they search for you online.
  • Check out Google+.



Jodie Schorn, head of cross-border marketing | Visa Trends and spends

Sketching the increasing trend in intra-African travel, Schorn emphasised the need for sophisticated, safe and easy payment mechanisms for travellers. She also pointed out that international travellers to Africa were big spenders, putting out roughly 1.5 times more than the global average. Regional travellers are also an important new market, particularly when it comes to shopping.

Key point 

  • Make sure your payment methods are convenient and secure.



Gareth Pon, founder South Africa Instagram community | Sharing the experience

Pon opened the audience's eyes to the lengths to which Instagram enthusiasts will go to pursue their hobby. With 150-million users worldwide and 680 000 in South Africa, there are ample opportunities for innovative marketing campaigns incorporating Instagram. 'It's a common misperception that Instagram is just good for breakfast, cats and Justin Bieber,' he said.

Key points 

  • Instagram is highly visual and so a powerful marketing tool.
  • Get started by creating a profile and using it.
  • Be consistent and get the word out.



Charles Armstrong of TourWrist/Sphere | Travel immersion

You don't have to be there to experience it. This tool (demo) enables smartphone users to create 360-degree panoramic images and share them. It is now being expanded into an online sharing community called Sphere. Armstrong demonstrated the power of this award-winning tool through video.


Jerome Touze, co-founder of WAYN.com | Online travel communities 

WAYN.com has opened a South Africa office for this online travel community where users share information about where they're travelling, and has been used with huge success by South African Tourism. 'Social media allows one to sell the dream of travel through the eyes of one person,' said Touze.

Key points 

  • Use strong visuals to get the attention of your customers.
  • Look at customer segmentation.
  • Build an audience and understand what they want.



William Price, global head of digital, South African Tourism| Doing things differently

With a website that attracts some 3.2-million online visits a year, South African Tourism has taken to heart the need to inspire travellers to come to South Africa through clever, highly visual online marketing campaigns. One of these was an invitation to a group of 15 top international travel bloggers to tour South Africa using #MeetSouthAfrica, with spectacular results. 'Be smart, be real, be bold, connect and take risks, remix and have some fun with it..,' he told the gathering.

Key points 

  • Make sure your message is relevant to gain traction.
  • Understand your customer, both current and potential.
  • Make travel sexy and evocative.
  • Curate user-generated content and amplify it.


Damian Cook, conference organiser and CEO E-Tourism Frontiers | Your online toolbox

And, by the end of the gathering, there could not have been a person left in the audience requiring persuasion that they need to be digital-savvy to run a professional tourism outfit. Cook's excellent summary of the basics for social media tools like Facebook and Twitter gave everyone the wherewithal to start. 'Who is going to manage social media for you? Get everyone involved, have a policy in place, bring in young people,' he advised.

Key points 

  • Know what you are selling and who you are selling to.
  • Build your strategy by working backward from conversion points (like bookings or sales).
  • Make sure your website works effectively and efficiently.
  • A Facebook fan page is not a nice-to-have but an essential business resource.



To register for more exciting technology conferences and seminars, visit e-Tourism Frontiers.


By: South African Tourism
November 2013

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