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 https://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

 

wildebeest1sm wildebeestsm

 

East Africa E-Tourism 2014 conference experience

Written by Jill Bennett-Howes

I arrived at Nairobi airport greeted by bright yellow walls and friendly customs attendants shouting ‘Jambo, Jambo’. I reminisced on my Kenya trip 9 years ago when we installed ResRequest at Governors’ Camps. At the time our greatest challenge was the modem dial up contending with at least 4 other voices shouting ‘Jambo, Jambo’ as we tried desperately to get a data transfer through.

As my taxi driver tore through the streets of Nairobi pointing out this building and that one, I was totally gobsmacked at how much the city has changed. I asked him which buildings were new and, it turns out, almost all the buildings! I oo’ed and aa’ed about all that had been built over the last 9 years. Everything looked, well similar to home, except for the adrenalin junkies sailing out of the bus doors as they spun round the massive round-a-bouts, which the taxi driver assured me was rather unusual.

I was blown away by the high rises and apartment blocks in Nairobi, granted my taxi driver may have taken me the best routes, but in that case, the taxi drivers have got better at tourism then they were years before!

As I saw and experienced parts of Nairobi and caught up with customers, I wildly started hash-tagging #WhyILoveKenya, of course it helped that I’ll be heading home 2kg’s heavier thanks to my room attendant, Edith. Edith loaded my bathroom full of bottles of lemon grass conditioner, after I left her a reply to her welcome note which read: “Thanks for my conditioner Edith, I love it!”  For some weird reason I feel compelled to Pinterest my hair after Damian’s states that 94% of Pinterest users are women.

conditioner

Speaking of Damian and the reason for this post, Damian Cook and his wife, Elizabeth,  put on an intense, action packed and totally at-the-heart-of-things E-Tourism conference for East Africa. After attending the Cape Town conference last year, and receiving rave reviews from our marketing manager after this year’s CT session, I was really excited. Once again, Damian did not disappoint. The conference was packed and Damian’s Kenyan customers were totally absorbed in the programme from beginning to end.

I was one of the lucky few who had the opportunity to present to the audience, which consisted of a number of our customers. What surprised me, and them, was how much rich functionality ResRequest has to offer. I was able to tell our story and was rewarded with several customers telling me that they’ll be heading back to their office to check out much of the functionality I mentioned.

Damian’s presentations were honest and right at the heart of the challenges we face. He paid particular attention to helping Kenyan customers understand, plan and implement a crisis management strategy around their current tourism crisis.

Of course I don’t know how long Edith’s conditioner supply will last so I sincerely hope that Damian plans the next E-Tourism conference soon.

Are you interested in a direct link to Africa’s finest properties?

Our interface product, ResConnect, offers you stock, rate and availability access to Africa’s most luxurious and remote destinations. This service is now available FREE.

ResConnect links Agents, Tour Operators and Online Travel Channels to ResRequest inventory, rates and bookings.

• Quick and Easy Setup
• View Availability & Rates
• Create Bookings Electronically

How to Connect:
When you are ready to start the technical connection we will send you our service agreement (NDA) and introduce your developers to our developers. Your developer will receive access to a test site and our technical documentation.

Once you have established commercial agreements with your property partners from our client list, our call centre will setup the links to connect you with your selected properties.

Connection Charges:
Use of our API is free.

Should you require our services to co-ordinate setup with our customers or development assistance this is billed at our annually published support and development rates.

For more details on how to get set up, contact us on:
Email: info@resrequest.com
Telephone: +27 (0) 35 772 5615
Website: www.resrequest.com

ResConnect is developed and supported by the ResRequest Group.