16 September 2011

ETourismAfrica Summit shows online is king in the tourism jungle

ETourismAfrica Summit - a major success

William Price, Global Head eMarketing William Price, SAT global head: eMarketing

South African Tourism’s role is to create demand internationally for destination South Africa, but this demand is meaningless if we do not have a strong relationship with an industry that has the ability to convert demand and awareness into sales. William Price, E-Marketing Global Manager, South African Tourism

The South African tourism industry left the fourth ETourismAfrica Summit better equipped on how to engage with - and listen to - potential customers in a world where over 95 percent of travel research, more than half of all travel purchases, and the majority of travel conversation is happening online.

For South Africa to be a truly successful destination, tourism product owners and providers need to engage potential customers and meet their needs in a way that exceeds their expectations. This point of need is increasingly online, across a variety of important platforms, particularly social media sites. The growing importance of online marketing for the tourism industry message was underlined at the two-day summit, aimed at developing online tourism with a focus on e-marketing, travel distribution and sales, social networking, and new media. The summit took place at the Cape Town International Convention Centre from 15–16 September 2011.

For South African Tourism, the conference was an excellent opportunity to provide small and medium-sized businesses in the tourism industry with the knowledge and skills to convert awareness about the destination into visits to the country. Apart from co-sponsoring the conference itself, South African Tourism sponsored 100 small and medium-sized tourism businesses to attend the two-day conference and workshop.

“South African Tourism’s role is to create demand internationally for destination South Africa, but this demand is meaningless if we do not have a strong relationship with an industry that has the ability to convert demand and awareness into sales,” says William Price, E-Marketing Global Manager at South African Tourism.

“That is why this E-Tourism summit has been so important; it has equipped small and medium-sized businesses in the travel space with the knowledge and tools to engage with clients better through electronic channels, which is where the vast majority of this conversion is happening globally today,” he explained.

ETourismAfrica Summit founder and CEO, Damian Cook, told the delegates that e-tourism is “communicating the right content across a variety of channels to the best value clients, who you are going to convert to a sale and keep them coming back”.

As such, participants were briefed by market leaders, including Trip Advisor, Google and Expedia, about how consumers are changing, how and where they make their travel decisions and how they go about sharing those travel experiences.

Social media proved a phenomenon that the travel industry cannot ignore, with research showing that 90 percent of consumers pay attention to what they learn about destinations from their friends and networks on social media sites while only 14 percent listen to what advertisers tell them.

Case studies from how KLM harnessed the power of twitter to interact directly with its customers to how Visit Britain encouraged visitors to build up its successful photo library gave delegates practical examples of how to use these new technologies effectively.

“The most fundamental important innovation in tourism marketing is the ability to communicate with customers instantly, relevantly and in a personalised way. The web and social media have become one of our most important tools, particularly as developing countries and destinations,” said Mariette Du Toit Helmbold, CEO of Cape Town Tourism, co-sponsor of the event.

With information on the internet doubling every 11 hours it is also crucial that, as a destination, South Africa better organises what it has to offer. The National Tourism Database launched last year and available on www.southafrica.net aims to have every South African tourism product registered on it.

“While it is good to see that product owners are using this tool it is crucial that the content that is being uploaded on the database inspires users to get on a plane to come here. We have created a shell, but it is up to the industry to create content that informs and inspires, that shows users experiences that become extraordinary because they happen in South Africa,” says Price.

Examples shown at the conference proved that users want to be shown, not told about, what these experiences are and product owners were called upon to use excellent video and imagery to tell that story and encourage their clients to do the same. South Africa’s ability to inspire if the right content is made available was made clearly evident at the conference by Jason Schlosberg, co-owner of the now-famous viral video, Battle at Kruger, who joined the summit via skype. Shot four years ago by videographer David Budzinski and photographer Schlosberg, the video that depicts an unfolding confrontation between a herd of Cape Buffalo, crocodiles and a small pride of lions has had over 63 million views to date on YouTube.

Participants at the conference were given a textbook to take away with them entitled “A Practical Guide for Tourism in Emerging Markets. How to get online, sell online and succeed online”, which will also be made available on the South African Tourism website shortly.

For further information contact:

Jermaine Craig at South African Tourism

Tel: +27 11 895 3000 or 083 2010 121

Email: jermaine@southafrica.net

Website www.southafrica.net

Enquiries at Ireland/Davenport can be directed to:

Allison MacDonald at Ireland Davenport

Tel: +27 11 463 2252 or 082 771 2541.

Email: Allison.macdonald@ireland-davenport.co.za

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South African Tourism is the national tourism agency responsible for the marketing of South Africa as a preferred tourist destination. It is headed up by Chief Executive Officer, Ms Thandiwe January-McLean, Chief Operating Officer Mr Timothy Scholtz and Chief Marketing Officer, Ms Roshene Singh.