Rethinking the approach to digital marketing is key for Africa’s hospitality industry and its survival post-COVID-19, according to experts.
A panel discussion during a recent ‘What’s next for African Tourism?’ webinar – hosted by Africa Travel Week and moderated by Bruce Rosard, COO of Arival (an in-destination-experience focused company operating globally) – saw tourism industry experts on Africa weigh in on the state of technology and digital marketing in the hospitality sector and how the pause in travel caused by the pandemic should be seen as an opportunity to make technological advancements.
According to Founder of tour operator, Zulu Nomad, Phakamile Hlazo, the African tourism sector has not fully embraced the fourth industrial revolution and still approaches marketing and operating with manual methods.
Panellists pointed out the value of having a trusted website and online presence, noting that this was more important than ever as websites were the new first point of contact for customers.
Owner of digital marketing company Facilit8 Namibia, Nrupesh Soni, reflected on a recent push in domestic tourism in Namibia, which was successful due to the effective use of technology.
According to Soni, operators who would normally focus only on international tourists, began to offer specials for Namibian locals. “What people have realised is the power of social media, websites and search engines,” he said. He said if companies hadn’t had an online presence, consumers wouldn’t have seen promotions on tourist offerings.
Hlazo echoed Soni’s findings, noting that many businesses might need to rethink the customer experience on their website or social media platforms, looking at how it could be experienced by local or regional travellers.
“It’s about keeping top-of-mind who the customer is,” she said, pointing out that companies that had always marketed to European customers, might have to adapt their online presence to suit an African audience.
“There’s never been a better time to upskill yourself and your business,” said Hlazo. She said applying technological innovations during the period of travel restrictions would be a significant investment for businesses across Africa.
CEO of African Travel and Tourism Association, Chris Mears, said the use of technology was particularly important in terms of communication with clients. “It’s vital to make use of the best technology that is available to guarantee proper engagement.”