Centricity | Guest Surveys, Online Reputation Management, Image Library

Centricity provides three separate solutions to the hospitality industry – Guest Satisfaction Surveys, Online Reputation Management and an Image Library solution.  Through an integration with ResRequest you can automate the sending of post-stay guest surveys and receive high quality guest feedback and comments in real time.

In addition to guest surveys, Centricity also help hotels to monitor and manage their online reviews from key travel review sites such as TripAdvisor, Booking.com, Expedia.com and Facebook.  With the Online Reputation Management module you can see all of your online reviews in one location and reply to them directly from Centricity.

Images sell hotels and the Image Library solution helps hotels to move their image libraries to the cloud, so that your images are more accessible and easily shared directly from the cloud when needed.

Periscope | The world through someone else’s eyes

Written by Jill Bennett-Howes

Cool advancing tech

For two years the theme at tourism and social media conferences is clear – the world wants to watch videos. Come to think of it probably 15% of my week is spent watching videos on my YouTube channel and my Twitter and Facebook feeds!

With video being the new norm it makes sense that video streaming products like Periscope are quickly bought up for “small sums” like $100 million. So what is Periscope and how does it fit into your business? I decided to do my own trialling and draft my experience. Here’s what I learnt…

What you need to know about Periscope

To understand what Periscope is you need to understand what the developers were trying to create. “It may sound crazy, but we wanted to build the closest thing to teleportation. While there are many ways to discover events and places, we realised there is no better way to experience a place right now than through live video.”

Launched in March 2015 as Twitter’s app, Periscope is an exciting video streaming social media platform. It allows you to watch and broadcast live video from across the globe. Often confused with Meerkat, Periscope’s difference is that you can save the video streams once you are finished so anyone can view them for up to 24 hours; Meerkat’s live video disappears.

In its first 10 days of operation Periscope gained an audience of 1 million users, by August 2015 it was announced that it hosted over 10 million active accounts. With all that interest it’s definitely a platform every marketing genius should be exploring – and considering the Battle at Kruger’s success – we know video feed is one of the most effective ways to sell Africa.

While no one’s sure if Periscope will continue to grow and activate all 300 million twitter accounts, considering video success stories like Google, Youtube and Facebook our money’s on this space becoming an expected norm for Tweeters.

What is it? Periscope is like your own live TV station. It allows you to video record and broadcast to anywhere in the world, streaming it to public or only certain users.

How does it work? Periscope users have the option to tweet out a link to their live stream. Instead of Facebook “likes”, Periscope uses “hearts” to the broadcaster – simply tap on the mobile screen as a form of appreciation. Once you’ve downloaded Periscope from the App store you can sign up with Periscope in two ways either in conjunction with your Twitter account or create a Periscope account using your mobile number.

The beauty of using Periscope with your Twitter account is that you can push a notification on Twitter each time you scope – which will gain you a larger audience.

Like most social media platforms Periscope has its own language. Understanding it is just the same as liking and following on Facebook or retweeting on Twitter.

Here’s some terminology to get you going:

  • Scoper: (with a capital S please!) A person actively using Persicope
  • Scope: Each time you broadcast a video, you are creating a scope.
  • Hearts: Scopers show their appreciation of a scope by tapping on the screen. This gives the broadcaster a “heart”. The number of hearts received determines the colour assigned to your account – indicating your popularity.
  • Reply: Periscope offers the option for Scopers to record their broadcast so that other scopes can replay the broadcast.
  • Follow: Scopers follow each other. It’s the same as liking on Facebook, connecting with a user’s LinkedIn profile, or following a user on Twitter.

My foray into Periscope

This is great. Right? A few paragraphs and *BOOM*, you’re already a Scope-pro. That’s just what I thought and I promptly enrolled in the process to become a Scoper… (1) I went to the App Store and downloaded Periscope. Ok that was easy enough. (2) I logged in using my Twitter account. That’s when the wheels came off. I felt utterly lost, like I was teaching my mom how to Facebook all over again. In mild panic, thinking I had maxed my tech talent, I debated who I could call for help knowing I’d have to admit I was far from understanding this “super simple, app of the year”. Instead of facing the humiliation I took to Google: “Periscope 101 for dummies” I typed. Scott Kelby came to my rescue and after a 10 minute tutorial I was back in the game.

Seven things they need to fix in Periscope

With great relief I eagerly embarked on adding my fellow Tweeters to my Periscope account. That’s when I came up short again. It turns out Africa hasn’t figured much of Periscope out yet either so not many of my local friends and favourite properties had an account, so I ended up spending most of my night watching reams of second-hand footage of some important soccer match in Brazil in my public stream.

I was about to give up when I remembered that I absolutely adore Scotland – so why not swing by and see if there were any highlanders posting amazing footage from the Isle of Skye or from Edinburgh Castle. After watching the v-neck and groin area of several badly filmed greetings broadcast by some Irish pub crawlers, I realised I was not going to be delivering any hearts to the Highlands anytime soon. I continued my foray into this realm of amateur, irrelevant broadcasts and surfaced a few hours later.

During that time I watched a piano recital in Sefton, England. I saw how windy it was in England, I listened to an urgent press briefing in Germany that got a load of German comments – unfortunately Google translate is not built in yet but the journalist definitely had me Googling what the big news could be about. I watched a rockstar attempt karaoke in Spain and got to see Niagara Falls. In a blink I realised it was 02h30 and I’d spent way too many hours doing *ahem* research. Was this a #EpicFail? Actually no, I ended up having an entertaining evening. In fact as I turned to Clash of Clans to see if my base had fared better than my Scoping attempts it dawned on me that I had actually thoroughly enjoyed my research and that I’d be doing a bit more of it again.

Could I have enjoyed it more? Absolutely! I would have loved to be watching the northern lights or seen the view from the Isle of Skye or the sun setting in the Rockies over a Harley Davidson’s handlebars, maybe the rush of the bungee on the Zambezi or an elephant charge.

My conclusion: I think this tool is being grossly under used but I think it’s is going to become a powerful social media tool for experience based travel. I can’t wait to start scoping our customers and their customer’s broadcasts!

Love your agent

One of the major advantages of moving away from an excel booking sheet and onto a central reservations system as sophisticated as ResRequest is that you can leverage your availability to increase sales.

We know that the online realm can be a little bit alarming – and knowing how much access to give and to whom is a worry we all have. Especially those of us who feel connected to our bookings and don’t want to cede control to the anonymous web!

One of the “gentlest” ways to leverage your availability is to give agents you trust, who already know and sell you, a certain amount of access to your system.

You can do this in several ways:
1. You can give agents access to your system – as you would someone in your office with a login – but with limited rights.
2. You can use our plugin ResNova to put your availability onto your website, and you can tell your agents to check there.
3. You can allow agents to access your system through their system – using ResConnect. This only works if they have a system which interfaces to ours. We are happy to supply you with a list of these specialist agents and tour operating system that we connect directly to.

Today we are talking about #1

Add agent conact

You can setup an Agent in your system as a User – and decide how much access you will give them to your system. You can specify which Properties and Accommodation Types they can see and which Rate Types they can use.

You can give them the right to:

1. See availability: and decide whether you will show actual numbers, or just available / not available.
2. Hold space
3. Make a reservation

When a booking comes into your system from an external source (which is what we consider an Agent User to be) – the booking goes into the Req Received area on ResRequest, which means you have to accept the booking into your system, and can thereby keep track of new bookings coming in.

If you would like to give agents access – or have already done so – you might find this little video useful. It explains to agents how to access the system, and how to make reservations (if they have the right to do so).

 

How to get guests in your bed – a strategic guide to get more bookings

Analyse clients

Written by Mqondisi Gumede, Man and Machine

One of the difficulties of marketing in travel is that it is a very large place that boasts an incredible array of beauty. It is a never ending pageant of scenery, culture, beauty, culinary delight, diverse experiences and accommodation establishments at their best décor and service.

In such a situation, most hoteliers will have found that, as justifiably proud of their establishment’s charms as they are, there are other establishments with different but no less compelling offers to potential guests.

In this situation, what are hoteliers to do? Our response is to develop a strategy.

One of the hallmarks of strategy is to answer the question ‘WHO?’ first, before you answer the question ‘WHAT and HOW?’ (To understand why this order is important, I make the argument in the post – A strategic marketing approach to get a date ahead of Brad Pitt. In essence being tactical, approaching this problem from a first ‘WHAT’ and ‘HOW’ perspective, will render you far less likely to succeed than approaching the challenge from a first ‘WHO’ then ‘WHAT’ approach.

Gaining clarity on who for all businesses, especially hotels, has so far been a very difficult affair. Recent conversations have pinned hopes on big data, hoping that, if businesses had more data they would be better at generating insight. Nothing could be further from the truth. All that we have today are businesses that have a greater amount of data but generally still have the same scarcity of insight.

In your pursuit of understanding the ‘WHO’, it is important to focus on insight. Here are the 2 main reasons:

1) WHY is the power.

In the movie The Matrix Reloaded, Neo (the One) goes to visit the Merivingian. An entertaining passage of dialogue ensues that culminates in the Merivingian asking Neo: “Why?” The star of the movie hesitates and offers no answer, the Merivingian, incredulous, admonishes him saying:

“…Why is the only real source of power, without it you are powerless. And this is how you come to me: without why, without power, another link in the chain.”

Then, he dismisses him in the following fashion:

“But, fear not, since I have seen how good you are at following orders, I will tell you what to do next. Run back, and give the fortune-teller this message:…”

In the world of appeal, nothing can be more valuable than understanding why people do what they do. Imagine how you could change your marketing, your Facebook page, your website, if you knew why people travelled at all and why they choose the travel experience providers they do.

This is perhaps the most important prerequisite to being able to have a compelling offer in a crowded travel and tourism industry, if you can understand the why of the people that are likely predisposed to choosing your establishment.

As difficult as it is, there is no greater guarantee of success in marketing, online or not, but locating the reasons, the why, of your target market’s travel choices. This may not be the fastest or easiest route but it is the surest route to marketing and booking success:

2) Start by getting a better understanding of the people who have stayed with you before.
Many businesses go after more and more data when they do not use the current data they have to gain rich insight which remain the same even if they analysed 100 times the data.

To avoid this huge missed opportunity, think of all the people that have booked at your establishment and all the conversations you’ve had, all the reviews and social media mentions that you’ve read about your establishment and answer the following questions.

i. Try and list the 3 largest groups of people that emerge.
ii. Once listed ask yourself and/or key members of your team, why they chose your establishment?
Once you have the first answer, ask “why is that important?” and as you get an answer repeat the process for 5 whys.

If you don’t get beyond 2 or 3 whys, it signals that there is some work to do in understanding the motivations of your targeted audience and would not keeping your marketing activity to a moderate level until you can have this conversation very casually with your new guests over the course of the next weeks.

Once you can get to 4 or 5 whys for the top groups that stay with you, you will now understand why they travel and why they make the travel choices that they do.

This insight, will start to shed light on who your audiences are and the best way to prosper in trying to appeal to them.

In our next blog post we’ll discuss how to apply this new found power. If you feel you need more detailed analysis, we at Man&Machine combine the understanding of people, strategy, marketing and digital and put them together in a way that works best to get you more guests to your establishment. We will be able to apply a host of techniques that can provide you with a clearer view of the people who have stayed at your establishment as one of the inputs to greater marketing efficacy in the online space.

 

 

Working with specials

Applying-specials

Written by Paula Chaplin

Offering discounts is a practise many of our customers use to ramp up sales. When you implement a discount strategy, it’s important to ask yourself strategic questions like:

  1. How will this affect my profit margins?
  2. What are my competitors doing?
  3. Are there options for promoting sales before we reduce price?

It’s also important to find out how your discount strategy can be automatically applied by the system.

To help you plan your strategies, here’s a list of what’s available in our Specials module:

Stay, Pay Specials: e.g. if you Stay for 4 nights, you only Pay for 3 (or you get 1 night at 50% off)
Honeymoon Specials: e.g. 50% off the Bride’s stay
Length of Stay Discounts: e.g. if you stay more than 5 nights, get a 5% discount on your stay.
Booking Period Special: e.g. 10% of all bookings made in November
Booking Period Special: e.g. if you book in April – children stay free
Travel Period Special: e.g. 10% of all bookings travelling in February
Travel Period Special: e.g. if you travel in May – children pay half price
Circuit Discounts: e.g. if you stay at 3 properties, you get a 15% discount on the last one
Circuit Discounts: e.g. if you stay at 4 properties, you get a free night

Setting up specials
Specials are linked to our Rates module and are applied to Rate Types, Rate Periods and Room Types. This means you no longer need to create new rates to apply your discount strategy.

Applying specials
Specials can be applied manually or automatically depending on the user’s access permissions.

If you need any assistance or guidance with specials, please contact support@resrequest.com.

E-tourism Africa summit takeaways

E-tourism-connectedness

Written by Paula Chaplin

I was blown away by the standard of the recent eTAS conference I attended. The presentations were incredibly interesting and I learned an enormous amount about social media and the new frontiers of marketing and travel.

As far as our clients are concerned – this is what you would have heard… Some of this may be new – and some of it you’ll already know:

Online Travel

  • Online travel is no longer the future – it is happening!
  • Travellers today are egotistical and vocal – they want personalised attention and instant gratification.
  • Travellers are also mobile – 63% buy travel on their mobile devices.
  • Ratings and reviews matter! Properties on TripAdvisor can increase their rates by 11% for every “bubble” rating they get.
  • The most online bookings are coming from UK, Germany, USA and Australia. China look, but don’t book.
  • 72% of travellers who complain on Twitter expect a response within the hour.
  • Travellers want to stay connected and share their travel experience as they go. Free Wi-Fi is a must. (This one leaves me a little cold, personally. I think there’s a LOT to be said for forcing people to unplug and step back into the world around them).
  • As a brand – you need to engage with guests on their channels. If they are talking to you on Twitter – talk back. If they are reviewing you on TripAdvisor – respond.
  • Online Travel Agents (OTAs) are consolidating – and they are wanting to move into experience driven travel. i.e.: Sell activities, packages and safaris.
CRM – customer relationship management
  • CRM is becoming increasingly important as travellers want a personalised experience that sets your property apart from all others.
  • You have to ask yourself – what can you do to know your guests? You can use ResRequest to capture guest data, drive targeted campaigns and create personal experiences.
  • CRM doesn’t work unless you know what you want to do with the data you collect. What you want to do with the information should determine what information you collect.
  • Ask yourself – what do you need to know about your guest in order to give them the experience they want, have them come back again, and rate you highly?

Etas

Social Media
  • To keep your brand relevant – you need to have a social media presence.
  • Printed brochures are no longer necessary.
  • What you need is engagement – exposure to content is not enough. The aim is for it to be liked and shared.
  • In terms of content – simplicity wins. But simplicity is hard to achieve!
  • You can have a different “identity” on each social media platform-  because each will appeal to a different demographic. Vary the type of content on each platform.
  • If you are on Instagram – you need to have an identity. Who are you? What is your purpose?
  • Remember that what is big in your world is not necessarily big in the world. The reach of your message is more important than the relevance to your corporate identity.
  • You need to know who your audience is – and tailor your content to suit them. Don’t be bland in the hopes of appealing to everyone.
  • Once you have identified your demographic – rethink it constantly.
  • Use tools to gauge the success of your content. Do more of what works and less of what doesn’t.
  • You can create or curate content. It doesn’t all have to come from you – your guests will produce the most amazing content so use this!
  • You should have at least a 10% engagement rate – if not, your content is not speaking to your market.

We’re moving into another era of travel and so our marketing methods have to adapt.  In the past brochures, mail shots and static websites were our main marketing materials, however now social media matters. Customers want to spend less time engaging with suppliers – but they want a more personalised experience. They want to do what everyone on TripAdvisor has told them to do in the reviews, but they want to have their own unique experience.It’s going to be tricky to get the balance right. I think what’s relevant to city hotels is not necessarily relevant to us in the safari world just yet. But it’s good to know where travel is going and what people connect with.The best holiday I have ever had was on a beach in Mozambique, where I had to climb a tree to get cellphone signal. It forced everyone to put down their phones and engage with each other and the experiences we were having. But I’m not very active on social media. If I was – that might have been torture. Younger travellers definitely want to Instagram their dinner and brag about their experiences as they enjoy them.

The Twitter consumer

Twitter is an everyday activity – 61% of users visit Twitter everyday & more than 2 in 5 engage several times a day.

Mobile is at the heart of Twitter – 85% use a mobile device (phone and/or tablet) to access Twitter. 79%, of whom, state that mobile devices are the primary way they access Twitter.

Followers are part of the ongoing conversation – 76% follow brands/companies. 2 in 3 of whom, have never unfollowed a brand. 59% of those who follow brands/companies are potential new customers [only 41% are current customers].

Get noticed – 79% of Twitter users recalled seeing promoted content. Those aware are more likely to use Twitter to discover new brands/products.

From the South Africa consumer survey we learn that out of the Twitter mobile users:

  • 37% use Twitter to discover new brands/products,
  • 76% use Twitter to follow brands/companies,
  • 29% Tweet about brands/companies,
  • 35% use Twitter whilst shopping,
  • Only 13% strongly agree that advertising on Twitter is irritating.

Brands and companies benefited from their twitter following by:

  • 68% visited the brands website,
  • 53% searched for the brand/product on the internet,
  • 53% have bought the brand/product,
  • 59% Found out more info about a brand,
  • 41% Tweeted about a positive experience,
  • 52% Looked at reviews and recommendations.

Twitter’s targeting options let you connect with the people and moments which offer the greatest opportunities. 

Keywords: Reach people who search, Tweet about, or engage with specific keywords.

Interests & Followers: Reach people with specific interests or who are similar to followers of.

Television: Reach people who engage with specific television programming specific accounts.

Tailored audiences: Reach people on lists you define based on cookie IDs, email addresses from your CRM or Twitter user IDs.

Refine your targeting by: gender, device, geography and language.

What’s the moment?

Live moments are the cultural events – local, national and global – that people talk about on Twitter. You can prepare for these events in advance to ensure you participate in live conversations in the most effective way.

Everyday moments are a great way to connect with users. These are the conversations people have on Twitter about aspects of their daily lives. Such examples are their commute, food and drink, exercise and many more. Your brand/business can lever to reach and engage them day in, day out.

Campaign moments are your brand’s advertising activities that you plan for and execute at specific times of the year. These particular moments can be used in conjunction with live, everyday and reactive moments.

Reactive moments are the unexpected things that happen in our lives that your brand can respond to (for example, the Suarez bite!). You can’t necessarily plan for them, but you can be prepared for them to respond effectively as they happen.

Twitter Ads

Achieve your marketing goals with tailored, targeted messaging at scale and take your tweets further with twitter cards. These rich-media Promoted Tweets are auto-expanded in users’ timelines, and you can set them up directly in Twitter Ads.

Ad Dynamo offers advertisers a single marketing platform: reach a targeted audience throughout Africa across thousands of relevant online & mobile publishers, & take advantage of our social offering with direct access to Facebook & Twitter.

For more info or to book any products, contact: jacqui.cooks@addynamo.com

#Top Tip

Drive engagement with our interactive Twitter widgets that enable instant setup & deployment with www.bluerobot.com.

 

Content provided by Ad Dynamo | Africa’s leading digital advertising marketplace

‘Jack and the bean sprout’ | explaining electronic connections

Written by Alex Moore

For the non techy ‘Jacks’ amongst us, it’s not so easy to get our heads around how electronic connections work and we definitely don’t want to be left behind in this fast moving online world.

To try and explain the concept for those who unfamiliar with tech terms, we have drawn out the elements of connections to show how they link together.

API (application program interface)
Wikipedia defines an API as “[A] software component in terms of its operations, inputs, outputs, and underlying types. An API defines functionalities that are independent of their respective implementations, which allows definitions and implementations to vary without compromising the interface. A good API makes it easier to develop a program by providing all the building blocks. A programmer then puts the blocks together.”

API’s were designed as technical communication tools to communicate between servers, programs or applications and to push existing information from one application to another.

The bridge
The bridge is a link or router that connects an API call to the principal/client (database) for which it’s supposed to be. So when an API call comes in, the bridge will know where the ResRequest client database is for that call and will route it to the appropriate server and database.

Sprout
Sprout is an API converter/translator and it’s designed to store information and act as communicator between our API, ResConnect and others, such as NightsBridge‘s and SynXis‘ API. It has ‘push’ and ‘pull’ data functionality. With NightsBridge and SynXis APIs, Sprout allows NightsBridge and SynXis to pull information such as stock, rates and even create reservations. It can store up to two years of client availability and will update all transferred information every 5mins.

ResConnect
ResConnect is the service offered by ResRequest – this is our API which gives specialist agents and tour operators access to live availability and rates of ResRequest clients, by electronically communicating with their own internal systems and even offering the functionality to book.

OTA’s and GDS’ via channel managers
To get stock even more wider spread – online travel agents (OTA) such as Bookings.com and Expedia and global distribution systems (GDS) like Amadeus, can display ResRequest client inventory via a channel manager. We interface to Nightsbridge to place your rooms on these online platforms.

Going forward, we hope that you may not be too daunted to get involved with the possibilities that this magical ‘bean sprout’ has to offer.

Our future development plans include an upgrade of the user interface and sprout update failure notifications.

Centauri announcements

We want to keep giving you a great product…Here’s our very latest features and updates.


A new online booking plugin for your website

We are super excited to release an online booking plugin for your website, ResNova.

ResNova is a customisable booking plugin that feeds your availability from ResRequest to your website. We’ve developed two versions of ResNova – one for a standard HTML website and a second plugin for our WordPress fans.

Here’s what ResNova looks like..

(Images courtesy of: Tongabezi Lodge, Zambia & Remote Africa Safaris, Zambia)

 

Our early adopters Great Plains are innovators from saving rhinos to new technology. They quickly asked to be first in line to test drive our plugin on their WordPress site. We love how their site integrates the plugin and matches their stunning branding.

If you’d like to use our plugin the next step is to contact us and sign up as a beta user. We’ll do all the back end stuff and then we’ll point your web designer to our plugin setups.

And there’s more in the pipeline..

ResNova currently supports credit card payments through PayGate SA and we’re planning to add more vendors to this list. We are also aiming to release a version of ResNova that supports multiple ResRequest customers so you can easily display your neighbour’s availability with yours to make booking circuits super easy for the trade.

 


Your lodge in the spotlight

Version 6.3

Our version of vegging out in a Google-Pod is scrolling through photos of all the gorgeous lodges we work with. We thought it would be a great idea to develop a way that your online trade customers could see the same pictures from your availability calendar – so this week we snuck in this awesome little feature…

To show this new picture carousel just upload photos of your property and rooms from your online ResRequest server and you’ll get some great visuals on your calendar.

These photos are also available through our API so if you’re using ResNova or designing your own booking page for online bookings, you can grab these pictures from ResRequest.

In the pipeline… We’re planning to add a Google map with your lodge co-ordinates to make it even easier for the trade to book their circuits with you.


Let’s do the timezone toggle

Version 6.3.2

Sometimes you need to understand what time your team made changes when you’re in a totally different timezone to them. To help you do that we’ve implemented a timezone-toggle that let’s you change ResRequest’s audit trails to your timezone, or your team’s timezone.

We added this for you to help you work with ResRequest and not worry about counting out the 24 hour clock after battling the red eye flight. Here’s how to use it. Look for the clock on your shortcut bar. Click that and you’ll see the timezone you’re set up with.

You’ll also find the timezone clock in your important audit screens so you can toggle time, anytime!


“Hey guys, we’re launching a special!”

Version 6.2

Sometimes someone in marketing comes up with a great idea, “A rate discount to incentivise travel”. It could be discounting the last night of stay, or discounting one itinerary leg when the booking travels across properties. So idea in hand, the marketing team call a meeting and enthusiastically tell their reservation’s team about their special rate, but they’re met with blank stares.

We understand the blank stares because we know how much work changing rates can be. That was – until our new Special-rates module was released.

To help your marketing team get the smiles they deserve we’ve created a Specials modules to easily apply discounted pricing. Now you can create specials, automatically apply them to bookings and check how your special’s performing.

Here’s how easy it is to add a special…

 

Setup your specials using discount combinations based on pax, number of rooms and more.

The option to add a special even pops up when you’re making a booking (top) or you can go back and add it to an existing booking (bottom).

 

      

 

Your system administrator can also sleep easy at night because we’ve made sure that it’s all access controlled.


Availability is sorted with pre-booked blocks

Version 6.1.0

If you’re running big pre-booked group bookings and you offer package deals, then block bookings is the ideal feature to manage your availability.

Block bookings let you create and save itineraries that can be repeated and linked to one or many agents. If you don’t use them – we’ve got that sorted – they’ll expire just like a provisional booking. If management want to know how your blocks are performing – just point them to our simple ‘Allocation’ reports.

New web app tracks the great wildebeest migration in real-time

Want to know where the wildebeest herds are? People planning to travel to Kenya and Tanzania for the Great Migration can now track one of nature’s most spectacular events even before they get there – via a web application called HerdTracker.

Created by Discover Africa, a leading tailor-made safari operator based in Cape Town, HerdTracker plots the exact position of the wildebeest herds on a real-time Google map, using weekly updates sent in by pilots flying over Kenya’s Masai Mara and Tanzania’s Serengeti, safari guides, Tanzania National Parks Authority (TANAPA) rangers and lodges in the area.

HerdTracker was designed and built by Discover Africa’s own web development team using open-source software in just two months, using the idea of their East Africa expert, Carel Verhoef, a qualified safari guide who has lived in the Serengeti for ten years.

Between 2003 and 2011 Verhoef led over 300 migration safaris, and developed a deep understanding of – and appreciation for the annual wildebeest migration. While living in Tanzania, Carel also climbed Kilimanjaro nine times. His 10th assent is scheduled for August 2014.

Co-founder of Discover Africa, Andre Van Kets says that the development of the app was not overly complex.

“We’ve used open source tools and Google Maps, which has an open API, although we used our own icons, not the standard set. We’ve combined that with the human element so we’re not just posting the GPS coordinates, but the comments of our guides too,” says Van Kets. He says that the main aim of HerdTracker is to help people choose the best accommodation to stay at and when to go to ensure that they don’t miss the Great Migration.

“A safari experience is a trip of a lifetime, which can be a complex process to plan for, especially for first timers.

“We’ve developed HerdTracker to help make the journey easier for our customers.

“It’s an incredible tool that allows you to not only track the great migration in real time, but predict where the herd will be at the time of your travel,” adds Van Kets.

How HerdTracker Works

HerdTracker is your usual Google Map, modified with little pins stamped with a wildebeest.  Each pin is clickable and displays a message by the person who has sent the update (Our sources listed above).

A recent update, sent in by Captain Joel J Fernandes, a pilot for Coastal Aviation in Tanzania and flies over the Serengeti daily reads: “Morning Carel, I’ve been back for 2 days now and you won’t believe the coincidence but I was planning to mail you right now. So, they are everywhere. The trailing end are at Kogatende airstrip and the leaders just went past Seronera. They are tonnes at Lobo and Fort Ikoma. I can’t believe it but these are what I saw personally in the 2 days of flying!!!‎ So good to be back. Pics attached. Have a good one’”

Another update, sourced by Lemala Camps, a company who owns a unique collection of Lodges, Permanent Tented Camps & Mobile Camps in Tanzania says: “Hi Carel, there was a small crossing, in that the beasts started to cross, but then the vulture activity on the far bank scared the remainder and the crossing stopped. The wildebeest then gathered for a few hours and around 16:30 they crossed. It was large and was about 45 min. We worked magic and your clients, Alex and partner, were there to see it so lovely timing. I don’t have pics of the big crossing because Tabby had to leave before they crossed. I can also inform you that right now there is another gathering of them at Makutano. Regards, Veronica.”

Van Kets says that they designed the app for browsing on your phone first, rather than for desktop computers.

“We designed it to be mobile first, because if you first build a desktop version and try to shrink it to mobile, it’s really difficult. It’s better to build it for a small screen and then scale it up,” says Van Kets.

Plans for the future? Discover Africa is considering building and designing an Android app that would send updates to its users without having to visit the website.

HerdTracker’s migration updates are available to see on http://www.discoverafrica.com/herdtracker.

They are also available on Twitter via the @HerdTracker handle.

For more information contact Andre Van Kets at andre@discoverafricagroup.com, or Carel Verhoef at carel@discoverafrica.com. Or call +27 21 422 3498

 

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