Digital Travel and TourismMar 28 2013 · 0 comments · Articles
As a born and bred Capetonian (Kaapie) and someone who has been privileged enough to travel to some incredible places around the world, I can without a doubt say that we live and play in one of the most spectacular spots on this earth. I know it’s become a cliche to hear that, but cliches are true for a reason. Just ask the Joburgers!
With Cape Town having been recently named as the 2014 Design Capital as well as proudly getting Table Mountain listed among the New Seven Wonders of Nature, not to mention having hosted the 2010 Soccer World Cup, we’ve been having a good run lately and it’s all well deserved.
Cape Town and South Africa rely heavily on tourism and it’s events such as these that become such important branding vehicles for our amazing country. Tourism’s contribution to South Africa’s gross domestic product (GDP) rose from 2.7% to 7.9% in the 2009-2010 period. The average spend per tourist in South Africa was R9 900. (Source article)
As someone who has travelled extensively for pleasure, I’ve come to learn a few things from firsthand experience about travel:
Travel is social – people want to talk about where they have been, what amazing experiences they have had. It’s also aspirational, people hear about these experiences and want to experience it for themselves. So give them the opportunity to do that.
Travel is about exploding your preconceptions and changing perceptions of your chosen destination(s). Using the various social media channels correctly, you can allow people to share their changing perceptions on a very personal real-time level and in turn change the perceptions of people who haven’t even visited the country.
Travel is engagement on an intimate and personal level. It’s also hugely subjective and will never be the same thing to any two people. When it comes to marketing, this is both a positive and a negative!
Travel is now always digital first – The United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) estimates that about 90% of all travel decisions are made on-line. Having a quality website that provides a good user experience and leaves the consumer feeling positive and confident about his/her trip is crucial.
Travel is mobile. If they are online, they are usually on their mobile. People are accessing information and content as they travel. They’re making decisions as they go. Make sure you are reaching them with the information they want, when they want. When it comes to converting potential visitors to Cape Town and South Africa and increasing their spend when they are here, it’s crucial that you have the correct digital strategy in place. As with all marketing initiatives, know your audience and cater for them on the platforms that they will most likely engage with you on.
South Africa had generally been slow in realising the role of digital when it comes to consumer decision making online. We were very fortunate though to host the 2010 World Cup which gave us a collective free kick up the backside and made us as a country (and the relevant tourism bodies) realise that our overall digital strategy needed to be greatly improved. Which we have done, although I believe there is still huge room for improvement across the board.
It’s not just the relevant tourism bodies that should be shouldering the responsibility though. Anyone who is connected to the travel and tourism industry needs to take a close critical look at their digital marketing strategy. We have so many amazing experiences to offer, but regularly when users try and find out more information or try to book, they are left frustrated by the experience. The travel experience starts online and that’s where first impressions count. The days of simply posting your brochure online are long gone.
A good example of a tourism company who’s strategy is digital first (and has been from the start) is the Discover Africa Group. They are particularly strong in their SEO, design and overall user experience. They also have fantastic regularly updated unique content and it’s a pleasure to browse through the different product offerings on their site. They identified digital as something that they could leverage as their strength early on and it’s worked for them.
So whether you are a large corporate involved in travel and tourism or just one of the little guys, the process is the same:
1) Who am I targeting?
2) How will they find me and what will their expectations be? Will it be on-line first?
3) What is my digital strategy in coverting potentials into visitors? Who can help me with this?
4) How are my competitors and best-in-class winners operating? What are they offering that I am not?
5) What small improvements could I make first?
Yes budgets have been cut across the board and we live in financially austere times, but if thought through correctly, you don’t have to spend vast amounts of money to experience improved results (unlike the Free State Government who like to throw money away).
I really believe there is no barrier these days in South Africa to making sure your digital offering is top quality. The days of bad design and user experience should be behind us and if you’re not sure, then talk to someone who can put you on the right track. If you’re still not sure, then get a second opinion, but keep asking and keep learning.
Travel and tourism is a passionate business and our marketing and presentation should reflect that.