eTourismAfrica unpacks future travel trends

Cape Town - Travel bookings are set to surpass 1-billion according to the latest figures released by the UNWTO. For South Africa, a country with a significant investment in tourism, this can only mean positive things for the future – especially if key insights at the E-Tourism Africa Summit are anything to go by.

A collaboration between South African Tourism, E Tourism Frontiers and Cape Town Tourism, the summit is a two-day gathering of social tourism powerhouses at the forefront of the insightful and creative conversation and trends in the world of online destination marketing.

Over 350 South African tourism businesses are attending the Summit as delegates, with major global companies such as Facebook, You Tube, TripAdvisor, and Expedia all participating and sharing best practices.

“We have attracted a group of speakers who are the definitive word on e-marketing and social media in the world today. These are pioneers who lead the digital age; who understand trends and who are engineering how social media and lifestyle platforms influence travel, living and purchase decisions.South African Tourism has a powerful digital presence, which is set to increase in response to UNWTO estimates that 90% of all global travellers now search for and book their travel experiences online.

“Social media is where people meet to talk about travel and about their favourite destinations. South Africa needs to be at the heart of this global conversation. We need to inform the conversation, steer it and be an integral part of it. Everywhere in the world that people talk tourism online, we want them to talk South Africa, which is why the E Tourism Africa Summit is so important for us,” says William Price, South African Tourism’s Global E-Marketing Manager.

Damian Cook, CEO of E-Tourism Frontiers introduced the agenda for the conference and highlighted the speed of change now facing the Travel industry. According to Cook today’s tourist is searching for that once in a lifetime experience and when they find it the tools available these days allows them to share it with their friends and family – a trusted circle -providing unparalleled marketing opportunities for destinations. As much as experiences need to be unique the industry needs to tap into creativity when engaging travellers online. An effective example of this creativity according to Cook would be Gotye's Somebody that I use to know  as it was viewed and redone online over a three million times. Those in attendance where then treated to the Khayelitsha choir's own version to emphasise the point.

Facebook, the biggest social network globally, with over 900 million users worldwide, is at the forefront of how users are sharing their travel experiences. Roel Spee, Facebook Travel Specialist EMEA illustrated that while huge numbers are great, it's all about engaging your fans more effectively, the essential motivation behind Facebook's new timeline which offers readers two streams of content and bigger pictures. Instead of begging for likes Roel suggests sharing content that entertains and engages the fans emotionally. It's far more likely to be shared, which in turn increases reach.

As bandwidth and connectivity improves around the world, Youtube, the third biggest social sharing site, is invaluable to the tourist and the marketer alike – with more 500 years of video consumed daily. Will Rocklin, global brand specialist for YouTube shared best practices on how to effectively use the video sharing website to increase reach – demonstrating that low barriers to entry allow companies like dollarshaveclub to unexpectedly challenge the likes of big brands such as Gillette.

Advertisers could also use the reach of their videos via trueview, similar to Google ads in that YouTube only charges for the advert once a viewer has chosen to watch the ad, placing the message in a creative way in front of the right person at the right time - ensuring exposure and reach for travel businesses.

But if you want to know what the real future is for travel and the wonderful world wide web – consider the phenomenon of Augmented Reality. According to Professor Demitris Buhalis of Bournemouth University, this technology might be in its unrefined stages t but it’s definitely where we’re headed when it comes to researching and sharing our travel experiences. He used the Google glass project as an example, explaining that this sort of convenience and connectivity isn't as far off as we think. Watch the Glass Project video, it's quite profound to see what he's talking about.

The conference runs at the Cape Town Convention Centre until Friday 14 2012 – click here for the full eTourismAfrica Summit line-up or follow it on twitter via

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