17 September 2012

E-Tourism Africa Summit highlights key online tourism marketing strategies

Global online travel movers, shakers and trendsetters attended the 5th annual E-Tourism Africa Summit that took place in Cape Town from 13-14 September 2012.

William Price, South African Tourism Global E-Marketing Manager William Price, South African Tourism global e-marketing manager

Social media is where people meet to talk about travel and about their favourite destinations. South Africa needs to be at the heart of this global conversation - William Price, South African Tourism’s global e-marketing manager.

Some of the world’s most creative and pioneering tourism e-marketers gathered at the E-Tourism Africa Summit in Cape Town to share their knowledge and experience in the online marketing arena.

More than 350 South African tourism businesses attended the conference where representatives from facebook, YouTube, TripAdvisor, WAYN.com and Expedia, among others, gave presentations and participated in panel discussions.

The messages were clear. Future marketing is about building relationships with customers through online storytelling. Finding good stories about your brand and turning customers into brand ambassadors is key to influencing more people to utilise your product. Increasingly, visual media such as video and photographs are the tools being used to tell these stories and connect to target markets through online social media platforms such as facebook, YouTube and twitter.

William Price, South African Tourism’s (SAT) global e-marketing manager, said social media was the place where people met to talk about travel and about their favourite destinations.

‘South Africa needs to be at the heart of this global conversation. We need to inform the conversation, steer it and be an integral part of it. Everywhere in the world, people talk tourism online. We want them to talk South Africa, which is why the E-Tourism Africa Summit is so important for us,’ he said.

SAT has a powerful digital presence, which is set to increase in response to the United Nations World Tourism Organisation's estimates that 90% of all global travellers now search for and book their travel experiences online.

SAT currently works with the most influential social media travel platforms in the world. It’s partnership with TripAdvisor, for example, has delivered more than 23 000 forum topics about South Africa in the last year. There have also been nearly 7 300 reviews of South African hospitality establishments by TripAdvisor’s global participant base.

The 3-year partnership is helping raise awareness among TripAdvisor’s 60-million users about South Africa’s unique tourism offering. The partnership also includes new innovations such as adding the Tourism Grading Council of South Africa (TGCSA) hotel grading system onto TripAdvisor. This allows TripAdvisor members to see a South African accommodation establishment’s star grading.

SAT will also become the 1st destination marketing organisation (DMO) to have an interactive microsite live on DaoDao (which is a Chinese social network similar to Tripadvisor), along with live interactive custom hubs on TripAdvisor domains in its key markets: Australia, USA, India, Brazil, China, Germany, France, Italy and the United Kingdom.
 
SAT’s partnership with WAYN.com is equally impressive, with 234 392 friends on the world’s largest travel-focused social media platform.
 
In the last year alone, 188 452 trips have been booked to South Africa via SAT’s online platform partners, with 177 001 of these trips booked by foreign visitors who spent R655-million on flights and accommodation and a further R2-billion in South Africa.

The E-Tourism Africa Summit is a collaboration between SAT, E-Tourism Frontiers and Cape Town Tourism.

SAT sponsored the attendance of 100 emerging and small tourism businesses to the E-Tourism Africa Summit to enable them to learn how to fast track their digital marketing efforts to grow their businesses and create jobs.