A new partnership, signed by the Department of Tourism and tech giant Google, aims to provide the sector with the tools and skills necessary to promote South Africa and accelerate growth.
Tourism Minister Patricia de Lille and MD of Google South Africa, Dr Alistair Mokoena, signed the MOU during a press conference at Parliament yesterday.
The partnership will see Google collaborating with the Department of Tourism and South African Tourism in areas ranging from technological skills development for officials and businesses, information sharing, and promotion of South Africa’s cultural heritage.
De Lille said the MOU did not involve any exchange of money, and that no time frame had been specified for the duration of the agreement.
“In an era of digital transformation, collaboration between technology giants and government entities has the potential to reshape industries and enhance public services. As stated in the Tourism Sector Green Paper, there is a ‘lack of support mechanisms for the (tourism) sector, particularly SMMEs, to adapt to a digital future and other technological advancements,” said De Lille.
She admitted that “in general, in government, there is a kind of resistance to technology” but said, having just returned from World Travel Market in London where a major focus was on the use of artificial intelligence in tourism, the quicker South Africa picked up on technology, the better.
Mokoena said with each tourist contributing towards the creation of eight jobs, the partnership was focused on using technology to accelerate economic growth.
“We believe that technology, used properly, can be the tide that lifts our boat.”
Information and insights
Google, which has partnered with 25 emerging countries around the world on tourism programmes, will provide the Department with insights into global travel trends, which will guide the strategies for targeting specific markets.
Google has also committed to undertake studies to determine the impact of digital platforms and online content, at no cost to the government.
The MOU also outlines a jointly hosted thought leadership seminar, where the results of commissioned research will share information and showcase global best practice in the use of digital platforms.
Tourism businesses that were not online, were less discoverable, said Mokoena. Therefore, existing Google skills programmes such as the Hustle Academy and start-up support programmes such as the Black Founders Fund and Startup Accelerator would be extended to individuals and businesses in the tourism ecosystem.
He said the focus was on ensuring that the digital maturity of the tourism sector was raised, to ensure that the tourism sector benefited from digital technology by having the right skills and tools in place.
“We want to say ‘what if every tourism establishment in this country was discoverable on the Internet to anyone in the world wanting to visit the beautiful Drakensberg mountains, the beautiful rural villages, our landscape, visit our national parks or come to our beautiful hotels and enjoy our beautiful cuisines?’ We want to ensure that technology helps us do that in the most efficient and effective way.”
Digital promotion of South Africa’s heritage offerings
Through Google’s Arts and Culture platform, the company will provide a digital showcase of some of the country’s unique tourism sites.
“This is already being done, however through closer partnership with the Ministry of Tourism, more information will be shared on unique travel sites and hidden gems like South Africa’s townships, villages and dorpies (small towns),” said De Lille.
Google has already partnered with a number of cultural institutions such as Durban’s Phansi Museum, and Iziko Museums to provide online exhibits and tours to showcase the country’s rich cultural heritage to people around the world.