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March 09, 2009

Cape Town Tourism invests in e-marketing to improve efficiency

Preparing for the 2010 FIFA World Cup in a tough economic climate, Cape Town Tourism will be making good use of the web and other technology to improve its service to visitors and the tourism industry. 

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 focusing on the most cost-effective marketing tactics.

The most significant investment that Cape Town Tourism will make in the run-up to 2010 is in technology and e-marketing.

One of the first steps is to upgrade the technological resources to allow swifter access to information about accommodation, tours, activities, transport and more. This will be achieved in three ways: a centralised, state-of-the-art data management system to be implemented by the end of March 2009; a new, user-friendly website, launched in December 2008; and a series of touch-screen portals in areas like Kirstenbosch Gardens and Cape Point and at many of the Visitor Information Centres being established.

Cape Town Tourism’s new-look website – www.capetown.travel – offers vastly improved interfaces and is presented in a fresh, easy-to-digest format which works efficiently. The site is W3C compliant so as to be highly competitive in the lead-up to 2010 and beyond. 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. 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 2 500 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.

The web continues to dominate as a tool for making travel choices. 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. They consider this content more reliable and relevant than that given by professional travel companies.

“The immediacy and honesty of the web is appealing to the new-age traveller,” Du Toit-Helmbold continued.

“It underlines the fact that many visitors are looking to immerse themselves in the culture they are visiting, with some bypassing traditional hospitality offerings and brands, opting to try out the more authentic offers 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 the foundation for a new era in the marketing and promotion of the Mother City, 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 use these new platforms to their greatest advantage or risk being left out of the single biggest global travel channel and the new world of communication.

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

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