Damian Cook, E-Tourism FrontiersDamian Cook, E-Tourism Frontiers

Images, video and social media are preferable to text and Web sites for today’s tourists.

Technology is becoming increasingly important in the tourism industry, says Damian Cook, CEO and founder of E-Tourism Frontiers.

“Online travel bookings continue to grow globally, with bookings expected to reach over $400 billion this year, while 40% of total travel spending will now be online – according to statistics from online travel research firm PhoCusWright,” says Cook.

He says there’s also a rise in “vicarious tourism”, as research shows more than 70% of US travellers post regular updates of their trips while they are travelling.

“This opens up a whole world of opportunities for tourism businesses to market their product using the reviews, posts, photos and videos from their customers,” says Cook. “Rather than business-to-consumer marketing, marketing in social is all about consumer-to-consumer.”

Cook says the speed of the shift from Web to social media in the last 18 months has been extraordinary. “Until recently, a company’s Web site was the all-important resource and tool for information distribution, bookings and sales. This has rapidly shifted to social.

“There has been a large drop in Web site viewing, with Facebook pages now accounting for a huge increase in traffic. But even then, it’s not the actual Facebook page that is being viewed regularly, but rather the postings from the page that appear in the news streams. This is why it is absolutely vital that tourism businesses create a fan page and post varied and interesting content – particularly photos and videos, on a regular basis.”


Cook also explains that postings are becoming increasingly more visual. “Video is important; is the second-largest search engine after Google,” he says. “As more and more people travel with Internet-connected smartphones and devices, the entire medium of online travel media and business referrals will grow.”

The increase of connected, social media-savvy tourists means destinations must increase their technology presence to stay competitive.

“People are travelling with their smartphones and want access to free WiFi. By providing free WiFi, establishments such as hotels may be giving themselves some free publicity as visitors use their phones not only to do searches and bookings, but also to keep their Facebook friends and Twitter followers up to speed with their activities.” He says if travellers use Facebook’s check-in function, their friends can see exactly where they’re staying, which could lead to a future booking.

It is also important for those in the tourism industry to be accessible on mobile. “Many tourism destinations and travel businesses have recognised the need to ensure they have a strong mobile presence. It’s a simple case of if someone can’t access or use your services on a mobile platform, they will go to someone else that offers mobile access.”


Locally, he says, South African tourism continues to grow very strongly online, driven by an industry which is increasingly comfortable with online and a supportive destination marketing offi ce in South African tourism that invests in digital and understands its value.

“South Africa is fast catching up with international trends in online bookings and social media referrals, with many companies availing themselves of the services offered by Facebook,” he says. Cook explains that Facebook as an advertising platform is free and reaches more than 1.2 billion prospective clients. “However, with paid-for advertising and contextual links, which pick up on words in common with other sites, there is even broader access. This is a cost-effective investment for a company,” he says.

“The challenge now is keeping up with market expectations, especially in regard to what is now known as ‘slomo’: social media driving business referrals and sales, locally-based content and information that can be delivered via location-based services, and mobile applications being an essential travel tool and a means of publishing, sharing and accessing content.”

E-Tourism Frontiers will host the upcoming E-Tourism Africa Summit, taking place at the Cape Town International Convention Centre on 9 and 10 September.