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TThe e-Tourism Africa Summit (#eTAS15) looks at the state of online travel, examines the latest trends and offers insights into how companies can grow their online presence. 

How blogging can work for your tourism business 

A live online poll showed that the vast majority of #eTAS15 delegates believe that making use of bloggers could be valuable to their businesses.  

Mariëtte du Toit-Helmbold from Destinate, a destination and tourism-marketing agency, said digital marketing should be at the very heart of destination marketing, in line with worldwide trends.

According to her, it's "important to sit down and bridge the gap" between the tourism industry and bloggers or online content creators. Both the tourism establishment and the blogger have to know what the establishment's expectations are before the blogger starts working on a campaign. 

Blogger Natalie Roos added that establishments should set goals beforehand – for example, the number of images they'd like or blogs to be written. "What is the thing that you want the blogger to do? That's how you'll know if it's of value ... afterwards, it's so much easier to just tick of the boxes."

According to Du Toit-Helmbold, using digital marketing means your content lasts much longer than, for instance, one-off published travel articles. She urged tourism establishments to optimally use the content created for them by bloggers by, for example, engaging with the content. "Make the content that's being created for you work for you."

She added: "You have to give bloggers an experience so magical that they can't help blogging about it, posting about it ... moments of inspiration that will trigger content creators." 

Dawn Jorgensen, blogger and journalist, said choosing the right blogger to blog about your establishment, destination or activity is extremely important, and you have to select someone who resonates with your brand. Blogger services could include Facebook, Instagram and Twitter coverage during a trip, a few blogs after the trip, video and photographs.  

She explained the value of bloggers: 

And gave the following advice to travel establishments when briefing bloggers: 

Marketing opportunities on social media 

Musa Kalenga from Facebook and Sean Riley from Twitter explained the huge marketing opportunities these platforms have to offer. Facebook now represents a potential source market of about 1.4-billion people, constantly sharing and engaging with each other, businesses and communities.  

Riley said there are 250 000 tweets per year that include the word "holiday" and most of these online conversations start off without the Twitter user having decided on a holiday destination. What makes Twitter unique, according to Riley, is that every tweet is visible to the world and could therefore influence anyone.  

Encouraging customer reviews

Christian Wolters from TourRadar, a marketplace connecting travellers and tour operators, spoke about how tour operators are engaging with and providing a compelling online experience for the modern, connected traveller. 

He emphasised the importance of learning more about your customers in order to tailor content based on buyers' past behaviour. "We (consumers) have less tolerance for slow and impersonal experiences with brands. We only want to see what we are interested in, when we are interested in it."

TourRadar encourages tour operators and travellers to write reviews. "Reviews are money in this industry, as you all know," he concluded. 

The growth of Airbnb and Uber

Travel-sharing resources such as Airbnb and Uber have revolutionised the world of travel. Nicola D'Elia from Airbnb and Uber's Jonathan Ayache shared their success stories and ways in which traditional travel players can partner with and benefit from these initiatives.  

According to Ayache, one million Uber trips were recorded in 2014 and about two million in the first half of 2015. He challenged guests to go look for their car keys the next time they want to go somewhere, and book an Uber. "The Uber driver will be there before you find your keys," he said. 

Feedback about #eTAS15  in Cape Town has been extremely positive.  

Take a look at this video of #eTAS15 in Cape Town.

#eTAS15 is going to Tshwane next. It will be taking place on 21 and 22 September 2015. Find out more here

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