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Social media feeding a global wildfire of desire to travel

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Tourism and technology have always made for good bedfellows, particularly when it comes to the use of social media platforms and mobile phone enablement.

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Tourism and technology have always made for good bedfellows, particularly when it comes to the use of social media platforms and mobile phone enablement.

When travel went online, it experienced fewer barriers to entry than most sectors, as direct consumer exchanges, site aggregation, booking services, and even airline ticket purchasing could easily be facilitated through online channels. This was largely because the end user was coming to the product rather than waiting for a commodity to be delivered to them. As tourism rapidly grew, so did the ability to research, book, and share the travel experience, often in real time, further feeding a global wildfire of desire to travel.

Cape Town Tourism earmarked digital marketing as a key area for development prior to the 2010 FIFA World Cup, overhauling its website and social media sites to manage the spike in curiosity. Since June 2011, the Cape Town Tourism website has seen a total of one million unique visitors and the official Cape Town Tourism Facebook fan page, I ♥ Cape Town, has grown to over 250,000 fans, while regular tweets and blogs have earned Cape Town Tourism a place (in 2011) as one of the top 25 most influential tourist boards and DMOs online (rated by influencersintravel.com). As Cape Town shifts its brand position to appeal to the new urban traveler, technology is set to play an even more significant role.

An integrated marketing campaign with National Geographic launched earlier this year sees Cape Town and Durban feature across National Geographic platforms for a period of fourteen months between April 2012 and June 2013. This will include a one-hour documentary about the two cities, a series of TV vignettes focused on the unique sounds of each city, an array of international National Geographic Magazine editorial, online editorial on National Geographic’s website, as well as a social media and digital campaign championed by Digital Nomad, Andrew Evans.

In March this year, Cape Town Tourism launched the new Cape Town Toolkit, which is a digital toolkit that showcases and sells destination Cape Town. Living online, as an adjunct to Cape Town Tourism’s official website, the Cape Town Toolkit includes diverse itineraries, high-quality images, and information about Cape Town that allows registered users in the travel, tourism, and marketing trade to access promotional material and resources at the touch of a button. Users can select specific elements, download packaged information, and put together customized itineraries, using Cape Town Tourism collateral. Users are also able to share content in accordance with Cape Town Tourism’s new marketing theme: “You don’t need a holiday, you need Cape Town!”

In addition, in September 2012, Cape Town Tourism will be launching a digital Facebook campaign, which will speak to the rapidly-growing social media market and which will connect more would-be travelers than ever to Cape Town. Cape Town Tourism will also be collaborating with four top international travel bloggers on an international destination marketing campaign during August.

By March of this year, there were 835 million Facebook users (Internet World Statistics), while 79.8 percent of the world’s population owned a mobile (cell) phone as of last year (Gartner) and by 2011, the global smart phone penetration sat at 27 percent of the population (Visionmobile). China recently surpassed the USA as the number one country by volume of smartphones. In fact, according to eMarketer, adults now spend more media time on mobile than newspapers and magazines combined.

People are using smart phones to browse the web, check information, compare costs and services, navigate, purchase, and share. A study (by Tradedoubler and Forrester Consulting) focused on Sweden, Germany, France, and the UK found that 53 percent of smartphone users are now buying goods and services on their devices, while 71 percent are researching potential purchases via their handsets. In the USA alone, mobile was responsible for US$2.6 billion in travel booking value in 2011. This number is projected to exceed US$8 billion by 2013 (PhoCusWright January 2012).

The potential for e-commerce aside, digital platforms represent massive potential for marketing at a fraction of the cost of a global television or print campaign. It’s with a smart-spend attitude that Cape Town Tourism has chosen to invest significantly in the digital media platform to promote its “You Don’t Need a Holiday, You Need Cape Town” campaign.

Said Cape Town Tourism CEO, Mariëtte du Toit-Helmbold: “Digital media and social platforms are truly changing travel – and the behavior of travelers – as they dream, experience, and share. Cape Town provides us with an endless supply of alluring, interesting, and authentic material, which we use on our own platforms (such as Facebook, Twitter, blogs, and web) and through strategic alliances such as the one we recently undertook with National Geographic’s Digital Nomad, Andrew Evans. It is through these windows that people are starting to see Cape Town, digital windows that are immediate, relevant, and honest.”

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About the author


Editor in chief is Linda Hohnholz.