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February 24, 2009

Cape Town Tourism Embraces e-marketing with improved efficiency in the run-up to 2010

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Mariëtte Du Toit-Helmbold: “Social networking and blogging have become the new travel guides.”

A sophisticated e-marketing roll out is part of Cape Town Tourism’s increased service offering to visitors and the tourism industry.

In the lead up to the 2010 FIFA World Cup and in the light of tough economic conditions, Cape Town Tourism has identified the web and technology as key tools in retaining and growing its market share.

Speaking at the launch of Cape Town’s first dedicated visitor website (www.capetown.travel), Mariëtte Du Toit-Helmbold, CEO of Cape Town Tourism, stressed the importance of reassessing marketing spend and focusing on the most effective and cost-effective tactics.

“To survive today’s challenging times and retain our market share, the private and public sector must be willing and courageous enough to keep on investing,” she said.

The most significant investment in the run-up to 2010 that Cape Town Tourism will make is in technology and e-marketing. Immediate priorities include upgrading technological resources to allow swifter access to information about accommodation, tours, activities, transport and more through a centralised and state-of-the-art data management system to be implemented by end March 2009, a new user-friendly website launched in December 2008 and a series of convenient touch-screen portals, which are both stand-alone (in areas like Kirstenbosch Gardens and Cape Point) and an integral unit at many of the Visitor Information Centres being rolled out currently.

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www.capetown.travel‘s new home page

Cape Town Tourism’s new-look website, www.capetown.travel, offers vastly improved interfaces and is presented in a fresh, easy to digest format. The site is World Wide Web Consortium (W3C)-compliant so as to be highly competitive through to 2010 and beyond. Cutting edge features ensure high-level efficiency and maximum productivity across the web. The new site’s URL ends in .travel – an extension shared only by accredited travel organisations worldwide.

By mid-2009, bookings will be generated electronically through a variety of booking systems and Cape Town Tourism’s Call Centre will be upgraded to become a fully integrated virtual visitor centre, dealing effectively with the current 3-million enquiries and generating even more enquiries and business for the destination. This will mean that visitors can search and book for over 2500 accommodation, restaurant, tour, activity and transport services in the greater Cape Town area.

A key feature of the site is the focus on consumer-generated content, making the customer an integral part of the website’s dynamics. Users can interact with information on a number of platforms. There are blogs, a Flickr Pic of the Day, an itinerary planner, maps, an events calendar, a Top 100 recommendation feature and lots of competitions and specials to interact with. The site is fully configured to act as a platform for social media such as RSS feeds, Twitter, YouTube and Facebook.

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The Top 100 recommendation feature

The web continues to dominate in terms of travel choice tools. It is rated second in the top 10 ways people initially become aware of a new destination, hot on the heels of “Friends and Relatives” or word of mouth. The web is also the top tool used to find more information once a person is interested in a destination.

“Social networking is the new word of mouth, so in essence the web and e-marketing dominate when it comes to tools used to decide the next holiday or business tourism destination,” said Du Toit-Helmbold.

Consumers are embracing the opinions of their peers and even strangers when planning their next trip. An estimated 20% rely on consumer-generated content when making travel decisions and they consider this content more reliable and relevant than that given by professional travel companies.

“The immediacy and honesty of the web are appealing to the new age traveller,” she continued. “It underlines the fact that many visitors are looking to further immerse themselves into the culture they are visiting, with some bypassing traditional hospitality offerings and brands, opting to try out the more authentic offerings as recommended by friends online. Social networking and blogging have become the new travel guides.”

Cape Town Tourism is pioneering e-marketing for Cape Town, boldly laying down the foundation for a new era in the marketing and promotion of the Mother City and using the consumer as an extension of its marketing message.

Speaking to the large audience of local and national industry members and stakeholders, which included South African Tourism, Johannesburg Tourism and Tourism France, Du Toit-Helmbold concluded: “Destinations and brands should find ways to capture and leverage these new platforms or risk becoming left out of the single biggest global travel channel and new world of communication.”

“As Cape Town Tourism, we are not prepared to be left behind, so have decided to invest significantly in creating a virtual space and e-marketing strategy for Cape Town that would do justice to Iconic Cape Town.”

Visit www.capetown.travel.

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