Low investment in technology is keeping tourism outlets away from tapping marketing opportunities presented by social media, which is growing in stature as a point of sale for other rival destinations.
The E-tourism Frontiers CEO, Mr Damien Cook, said that only a small number of East African tourism companies access and use social media to its full potential, reaching a bigger audience.
“It’s critical that tourism players in the country make better use of the Internet and social media to market and manage their destinations and businesses,” he said, adding that handsets and different applications now enable travellers to update their friends on social media on where they are, post photos and even share experiences,” he said during the launch of the e-tourism conference to be held next month in Nairobi.
The event is expected to attract major players in e-tourism including Visa, Kenya Commercial Bank (KCB), Expedia, Tripadvisor and travel app creators.
Mr Cook has organised conferences in South Africa and is now working with different tourist destinations in the Middle East to help popularise e-tourism in emerging markets.
Social media has become a major marketing tool as travellers rely on the experiences of others to make decisions on their holidays.
In the past five years, the Kenya Tourism Board has moved towards online marketing as more travellers shift from the traditional sources of information to the Internet for information, reviews, bookings and payment for holidays.
Currently, this has gone a step further with social media becoming a major component in marketing and influencing choice of travel destinations.
The launch of e-payments gateway in Kenya has seen the industry offer travellers options of paying online, a vital part of e-tourism. In 2010, KCB partnered with NightsBridge, a software firm, to target online consumers.
Mr Wilfred Michoma, head of card business at KCB, said that there has been an increase of tourist bookings online since the launch of the e-commerce gateway.
“It’s extremely critical that the tourism sector across East Africa begins to market and do business online.”
Sarova Hotels and Lodges Group marketing manager Peter Waweru said that online presence has been a major marketing tool for the chain with online bookings and payments growing by about 15 per cent in the past two years. Major hotels are setting up departments to handle their online presence, including social media.
Online tourism sales are expected to double this year to more than $300 million. Air travel accounts for most online transactions representing about 10 per cent of value this year. This is, however, expected to grow by 13 per cent annually, according to Euromonitor.
Source:All Africa.Com – 23 Feb 2012