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2010 E-Tourism Frontiers Africa Summit Review

2010 E-Tourism Frontiers Africa Summit

E-Tourism Frontiers held their 2010 Africa Summit on the 25th and 26th of October at the Cape Town International Convention Centre. The summit focused primarily on the rapidly expanding online tourism platform and the importance of adapting marketing and adjusting to the space in which digital communication such as an online travel guide takes places. 

What's clear from over 20 presentations is the need to centralise operations around an online platform and cater to users who now command far greater control in the success or failure of a company's profile.
Focus needs to move towards a responsive, integral collaboration that allows users freedom and expression while keeping them entertained with innovation and personality, all the while engaging them with quick, informative and accurate information.

Key to this interaction is development of social media, facilitating interaction and establishing presence across multiple platforms to ensure the entire breadth of users is catered to.

Digital Travellers in the Wired World

E-Tourism Frontiers founder, Damian Cook, delivered a concise portrait of where tourism is moving, and more importantly, how travellers are gathering information and booking their travel.

Damian stressed the need to understand the demographics of the travel market, how they behave and what they expect. "Half of the worlds population is now under 30… if you're looking for them, one billion of them are online." Travel has been the number one selling commodity online for the last 3 years, last year more than 55% of all travel bookings were generated by the internet. 95% of travellers use the web as their primary source of information when researching travel destinations and rely heavily on reviews. Word of mouth has become word of mouse.

The Social Big Three: Facebook, Twitter and Blogs

Humans are social by nature, it therefore stands to reason that social networks are an ideal means to carry messages, interact and build relationships. Like all relationships, integrity and trust rank highly and the creation of engaging content is fundamental to establishing a connection with your network.

Justin Spratt of Quirk eMarketing spoke about the three most important ingredients to your social media toolbox, 'The Holy Trinity', consisting of your Facebook page, your Twitter Account and your Blog. These are your most powerful tools when engaging your audience and therefore critical that they are managed effectively and administered properly. An articulate quote selected by Justin elaborates on the importance of refined and targeted content, by personal computing pioneer Mitchell Kapor, "Getting information off the Internet is like drinking from a fire hydrant." The sheer volume of information and range of choice means that if your content isn't engaging, relevant or unique, it's likely to be dismissed. As president of Holland-Mark Digital, Michael Troiano, states, "Social media is the best way to reach your most influential customers, and the only way to reach your most cynical ones." 

The World's Biggest Fan Park

Day 2 of the E-Tourism Frontiers summit held some great presentations and case studies relating to South Africa. Of note was Mariette de Toit-Helmbold, CEO of Cape Town Tourism, and her presentation on Cape Town's strategy to create ‘fans of Cape Town’ in the lead up to the Soccer World Cup. By giving people the opportunity to engage directly with the brand and empowering them as central to the virtual fan park's success the fans became ambassadors for the brand. The result is one of South Africa's most popular Facebook Fan Pages.

Similarly William Price, Global Head of Digital for South African Tourism, explained how the digital revolution necessitates long term strategy to make South Africa a leading global destination. People want to be inspired with unique experiences, and as an adventure destination we are beautifully poised to present ourselves to the world on an interactive digital platform. We need to sell the dream, not a product. 

The Future of African Travel Media

One of the most entertaining presentations came from Cameron Ewart Smith, Editor of Getaway Magazine. As a bestselling African travel magazine, Getaway's move to a multi-platform approach presents a revealing set of challenges and opportunities.

Surprisingly, magazine sales are not in decline, but there is a growing demand to be able to engage in conversations, and establish interaction across platforms within the Getaway community. It appears the digital revolution has in fact played into Getaway's hands and presented them with a fantastic opportunity to connect with their 'readers'.

Not only does this 360 degree approach enable Getaway to interact with a broader scope of clients, both foreign and domestic, but it also allows Getaway to find out far more about who their fan base is and what they want, essentially refining content for them. Getaway's digital evolution concisely articulates many of the presentations promoting a move to digital, revealing the demand for conversations, social media interaction and a desire to be heard.

The African E-Tourism Landscape

So where does Africa as a continent and a destination stand in this land of opportunity? Although relatively inexperienced players in a quickly developing arena our position does offer a few distinct advantages, where tech savvy nations have pioneered social networks and online tourism, we stand to reap the benefits of their experience, both in terms of success stories and instances of failure. The important point here is to realise that this is where travel and tourism is moving and increasingly travelers expect to be able to utilise digital tools to complement their travel. We are progressing in terms of infrastructure, we have capable developers, designers, forward thinkers and nations of passionate people motivated to share their stories and promote Africa as a destination.

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