E-Tourism Africa Summit – Social Media Now Playing a Bigger Role in Tourism
The fourth annual E-Tourism Africa Summit, sponsored by South Africa Tourism and Cape Town Tourism, was a resounding success. About 300 people attended the summit at Cape Town International Convention Centre on September 15 and 16, where a significant online buzz was created, with more than 20 pages of tweets and the summit becoming a trending topic for South Africa on Twitter.
This year’s line-up of speakers included Jason Schlosberg, the American tourist who created The Battle of Kruger safari video that went on to become an award-winning internet sensation, with more than 62-million views to date. Jason spoke about his experience via a live Skype call from New York.
Another extremely popular presentation was by first-time speaker in South Africa, Sally Broom, the CEO and founder of Tripbod. Tripbod now spans 80 countries, with experts on local destinations giving potential visitors inside advice on the best things to do and see. The local experts become Tripbods and help like-minded travellers plan the perfect trip – from a truly local food experience to an offbeat adrenalin-packed adventure.
There were also new and exciting presentations from TripAdvisor, Expedia and Google, with many new insights showing how people book and decide their travel preferences online. TripAdvisor’s Helena Egan encouraged the sector to engage actively online and respond to reviews, both good and bad.
This year’s summit contained a new approach in the programme. The second day offered delegates the option of attending a full day’s practical online tourism seminar or interacting with e-marketing specialists in panel sessions. The panel sessions covered in-depth discussions about the new online roles for destination managers, travel agents, tour operators, wildlife managers and airlines, all moderated by leading international experts.
Both SA Tourism and Cape Town Tourism sponsored a number of tourism SMMEs to attend the summit. They also produced an online tourism textbook, which was given to all the delegates attending the conference. The textbook outlines a step-by-step guide to working more effectively online, and profiles local case studies of South African companies using online media in their tourism business.
Cape Town Tourism CEO Mariette du Toit-Helmbold said the summit is one of the platforms Cape Town Tourism uses to actively engage the tourism industry about the importance of being future-fit. “In a world where more than 95% of travel research and more than half of travel purchases are done online, it is critical for tourism players to know how to engage actively with – and listen to – potential customers,” she said.
“Cape Town Tourism has embraced the web, and in particular social media, as a key part of our marketing strategy, communications plan and organisational culture. Social media is not an extension of our marketing programme – it is integrated in everything we do. It is about conversation and relationships with our various stakeholders – from citizens to prospective and repeat visitors to our city.
“As a destination Cape Town is increasing its marketing profile and presence online. Our Facebook group, I ♥ Cape Town, is incredibly popular, with one of the largest group of destination fans in the world. We have regular blogs, Flickr competitions and web itineraries that all form part of a communications solution. We must ensure that we have a destination that will be popular and connected to the new travellers of the next decade. Certainly this year’s E-Tourism Africa Summit gave us lots of fresh new insights and, as an industry, a lot of opportunities and examples of how we can create a stronger and more sustainable future in tourism.”
William Price, the global eMarketing manager of South Africa Tourism, said the E-Tourism Africa Summit was a great opportunity for the tourism sector to catch up with the latest online technology: “I believe South Africa’s tourism sector has a much greater understanding about the power of online marketing. I am thrilled that we were able to sponsor so many local tourism companies to attend and hear from the world’s online tourism experts.
“Both with the information from the presentations, and the online tourism textbook, I feel that our market will be much better equipped to change and benefit the move to online. Our market has some of the richest, most diverse and dramatic destinations on the planet, and the limitless world of the web to tell our stories.”