17 May 2013

World’s influential travel bloggers attend #MeetSouthAfrica blogging conference

The recent #MeetSouthAfrica bloggers’ tour, which culminated in the Travel Bloggers’ Conference ahead of INDABA 2013, proved what an impact social media can have in creating awareness about South Africa.

Jan Hutton, South African Tourism Chief Marketing Officer Jan Hutton, South African Tourism chief marketing officer

We see peer-to-peer communications and user-generated content as absolutely essential in the way we work going forward. – Jan Hutton, SAT chief marketing officer

The #MeetSouthAfrica Travel Bloggers' Conference was attended by 15 of the world’s most influential travel bloggers.

While in South Africa, they toured the country on four different itineraries, especially crafted to expose them to a broad range of activities, experiences, attractions and accommodation.

Among them were bloggers from iambassadors – a network of leading travel bloggers from around the world. They included Keith Jenkins (@velvetescape), Matthew Long (@LandLopers), Melvin Boecher (@traveldudes) and Kate McCulley (@adventurouskate).

The group uploaded hundreds of tweets, images, blogs and videos during their #MeetSouthAfrica tour, capturing the wide diversity of tourism experiences, and blogging about the friendly locals they met.

The bloggers covered fashion, lifestyle, travel and food on four itineraries that covered Cape Town to Durban via the Garden Route; Cape Town to Durban via the West Coast; Johannesburg to Durban via the Free State; and Johannesburg to Durban via Limpopo and Mpumalanga.

The #MeetSouthAfrica hashtag has so far clocked up close to 60-million 'opportunities to see' on Twitter alone.

William Price, SAT global manager of eMarketing, said the bloggers’ stories have considerably increased awareness about South Africa and have encouraged potential travellers to seriously consider the country as their next holiday destination.

The tweeting, blogging and videoing continued when the 15 bloggers attended the #MeetSouthAfrica Travel Bloggers' Conference at Moses Mabhida Stadium on 10 May, followed by INDABA at the Durban International Convention Centre.

The conference gave trade insight into the changing face of destination marketing, the importance of personalised, user-generated content, and the impact of social media engagement on the tourism trade.

Jan Hutton, chief marketing officer of South African Tourism (SAT), said SAT recognises the role digital media plays in destination marketing.

‘SAT already has more than half-a-million Twitter and Facebook followers and friends. We place a great deal of emphasis on online reputation management. We don’t just want to talk to our travellers and consumers. We want to listen to what they say about our brand, and where, how and when they want to consume content. That is what we are gearing our strategy around,’ she said.

Last year, SAT’s digital media platforms reached more than one billion page impressions. Of that, more than five million users engaged with the content on these platforms. Of these, 200 000 paid online for their holiday in South Africa – more than 186 000 of these were international visitors. The cumulative spend of these travellers in South Africa was R800-million.

Hutton says these figures are growing exponentially year on year.

‘We therefore recognise the importance of engaging globally on the right channels,’ she said, adding that blogging is spearheading the future of destination marketing. ‘We see peer-to-peer communications and user-generated content as absolutely essential in the way we work going forward.’

You can read the bloggers’ tweets and join in the conversation by following the #MeetSouthAfrica hashtag on Twitter.