A Case Study - 2010 : Can the SA Tourism Industry Meet Online Expectations?

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With 2010 looming it's not only the construction of the stadiums that's got South Africans in a bit of a spin. The release of the South African Online Travel and Tourism Industry (OTTI) research report last month has revealed that "...online inefficiencies will hinder the growth needed to elevate this industry to a similar status enjoyed by international counterparts."

The OTTI research was conducted by BlueRiverStone and served to assess websites scored against 120 metrics covering:

  • Locating the website
  • Website content
  • Website functionality
  • Communications
  • Connections
  • Community
  • Site-wide hygiene elements

100 websites ranging across accommodation, airlines, car rental, game experience and tour operators were assessed and unfortunately the results were disappointing to say the least. For the full report please consult the site.

Online Travel Opportunities

Travel is one of the industries that assimilates perfectly with all things online and if the South African travel industry doesn't start changing its tune and adapting to more international standards, 2010 is going to be a bit of a blunder. According to the OTTI report, most websites surveyed are only doing half or less of what they could be doing to attract guests, indicating that some serious thought needs to be put into online strategies as soon as possible.

It's estimated that 3 million visitors will come to South Africa for the 2010 World Cup - that means a lot of people are going to be going online very soon to make sure that their travel arrangements are made, hotels are booked and activities researched before it's too late.

Improving Online Strategies

The research revealed that one of the areas that companies need to focus on most is Search Engine Optimisation. Millions of tourists are going to be Googling up a storm looking for somewhere to stay, something to do or where to rent a car and unless they know the exact URL of a company (which in all likelihood they won't) they are going to be searching according to certain key phrases. It is therefore vital that tourism sites are optimised for those key phrases. Try and search for a phrase like "2010 world cup accommodation". As far as actual accommodation sites go - the results are not looking too good. In fact only 12% of the websites surveyed even mentioned the 2010 World Cup.

Not only does the site content need to be optimised but it also needs to be stepped up in terms of its quality. If a user can't find exactly what they're looking for on your site, chances are they're going to head off pretty soon. If your site specialises in accommodation in Cape Town, don't only tell your visitors about your accommodation offerings but about travel, attractions, restaurants, facilities and events in Cape Town as well - the more comprehensive you can make your site the better.

We all know that there is nothing worse than a site that is difficult to navigate. Users want to find the information they need easily and not by clicking a hundred and one times. In this regard, many South African tourism websites need to do a lot of work. Furthermore, just as important as a simple and effective navigation system are comprehensive contact details. Travellers are nervous of coming to a country that they know nothing about and they need to be able to easily contact someone on the other side when they are inquiring about booking. However, having a booking process on the site, while vital, is simply not enough.

One area that seems to be lacking from almost all of the websites surveyed is "Community" and this is where Social Media steps in. Community was defined by the study as "the facilities that allow users to contribute content that builds a sense of community, like a guestbook, forum, blogs, even links to other relevant social media like YouTube or Flickr".

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