For many years I have been referring my guests to local tour guides when they want to do a Soweto tour. Recently I have been helping one of these tour operators redesign and structure a new website (no technological input you understand! – simply layout, navigation and text copy). Yet again it has brought home to me how the digital age further disadvantages those who are already facing challenges of business start-up, marketing capacity and grappling with rapidly changing technology. Craig Wilson in his article: http://www.techcentral.co.za/digital-apartheid-separate-and-unequal/41373/ addresses the issue of inequalities in broadband access. But even where there is access to broadband, the systemic problem is even more dire as it points to the general lack of social media literacy.
I have noticed the complete shift over the last decade in the source of enquiries from mainly telephonic enquiries to email enquiries. And while word-of-mouth and repeat bookings still remain our predominant source of bookings, almost 90% of new guests find Liz at Lancaster through on-line sources. This empirical evidence is borne out by CEO of E-Tourism Frontiers, Damian Cook’s stats. Speaking at the recent E-Tourism Africa Summit in Cape Town he noted that:
- 59% of all travel is now researched, booked, bought and sold online.
- 98% of people start their travel research online.
- More than 200 000 people booked trips to South Africa through online booking engines last year.
- The number of flights booked to South Africa on Expedia grew by 32% to more than 109 000 in the six months ending June 2013.
- Reviews and referrals are the number-one driver behind people’s choice of destination.
In line with all marketing principles Cook notes that the online market is too crowded and too loud to be making bland generic statements. He says: ‘Your message needs to be unique and stand out. Sell an experience. Sell a story.’ Many years ago we ‘branded’ Liz at Lancaster with the line: ‘Quiet Convenient Connected’ and the ethos underpinning this still remains. Guests continually comment on the seclusion and privacy of their units and the suburban garden setting as well as the incredible quietness at night. Business and leisure tourists alike appreciate both the centrality of Craighall Park within Joburg, as well as the convenience of the restaurant and grocery store a 3 minute walk down the block. And the information provided on our website, plus Liz’s knowledge of Joburg, its history, heritage, art and culture, ensures that guests remain connected in more ways than simply through their digital devices.