For Day 2, I arrived late, missing the talk by Mariette du Toit-Helmbold of Cape Town Tourism (regrettably). I came in at the tail end of SA Tourism's head of e-marketing, William Price, giving his presentation. I missed him giving a quote that was tweeted by others in attendance, that "social media is the biggest thing since Industrial Revolution". Not something I'm ready to accept - sounds a lot like the overhyped statements about the web back in the 1990's. Yes, social media is important, but...the Industrial Revolution? Not.
William's presentation was largely about SAT's various online digital activities, including a national product database that they're building -- nice to see them using the carrot not the stick (i.e., no legislated registration requirement). I'm not convinced, however, that a national destination is the best scale for selling a destination -- city-regions are stronger calling cards and gateways into destinations. Also, niche experiences draw people to destinations, but cut across traditional political (provincial, national, etc.) boundaries -- such as birders who visit Zambia, Swaziland and South Africa, or people going on safari to Namibia, Botswana and South Africa. The blogs, clubs and specialty tour operators that focus on these niches are far more powerful determiners of destination choice than a national DMO. SAT are doing many smart things, though, and 2 years in is still early days to assess the strategic impact of their work.
Next up was Tara Turkington of Flow Media, talking about story telling. She showed a number of examples (from her clients' websites, of course) that illustrated the following factors that make for a great story (in journalistic terms, not dramatic terms):
- Sex & scandal
This is a basic list from a journalism textbook, but very useful to be reminded. No guarantee that a story written with these factors will catch on with audiences, but pretty much guaranteed that a story that doesn't have these factors won't catch on. (Note to Tara: That Banff squirrel has been around for 15 months...)
- "iPad will change the way that we publish" (especially Flipboard app)
- Magazine readership is growing (in SA), not shrinking
- The synergy between media / platforms is what makes it all work, provided the model shifts to enabling in / engaging in conversations.
- Travel media consumers (considered "affluent" by SA terms because they have disposable income to spend on travel) are hungry for short articles, lots of photographs, humorous content (top 3).
- Also mentioned augmented reality (Tuscany+ mentioned) - also came up with Jesse Desjardins in yesterday's sessions.
Expedia's Regional Manager for Eastern Med. & Africa was up. Highlights:
- Too many distractions are affecting product owners - they need to concentrate and get back to basics: improve rate quality, increase conversion with availability, content & reviews efficiently. The first two can be enabled with connectivity technology, the third with standardisation of content (consistency, brand-alignment, etc.) -- interesting relationship to being "content fit" as Tara Turkington would say, and it's easier to stay fit if one has appropriate pre-prepared standardised content chunks to work with.
- South Africa was the first African market to enter online travel, but its growth curve flattened out and in the last 18 months the rest of the continent is catching up -- as are other long-haul destinations such as Bali. Obstacle: connectivity, by which he means getting products online with inventory.
- Crucial to online success: planning, planning, planning - ahead. At least 18 months. People book well in advance and plan even farther in advance, particularly for long haul destinations.
- Online, content is what justifies rates: what confirms value to customers is content, content, content. Not price. Content can be images, reviews, descriptions, details, etc.
- Better for accommodation providers to follow airline rate principles that reward early purchases (cheaper, non-refundable, etc.) - hoteliers in their current habits are training customers to wait until the last minute because that's when they begin to discount "last minute" inventory.
Nightsbridge, who gave a half-hour infomercial on their product. Other conference sponsors who gave presentations also talked about their products or services, but I perceived no added value from this session. Maybe I was just low on blood sugar. I think the Nightsbridge product and service offering is very good. Just not this presentation.
Not sure if the afternoon's presenters will all be like this...hope not.