Phindile Makwakwa is the acting chief executive of Tourism KZN. Image: Supplied.
DURBAN - There was a time when planning a holiday was a daunting project, with information on diverse tourism offerings not easily available, leaving many in our country to believe that travel is a luxury for a few.

But travelling anywhere these days is just a click away, usually precluded by Trip Advisor searches and recommendations. A savvy potential tourist checks to see what other people have to say about their experiences before making a booking. 

Businesses which therefore deliver a good and exceptional service to their guests can only benefit as the power of the digital space runs supreme.

There’s certainly no getting away from digitalisation and tourism businesses like other industries are going nowhere without it. Digitalisation is so essential that it was the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) theme for 2018.

And that’s why we at Tourism KwaZulu-Natal are on a drive to encourage tourism trade, particularly emerging tourism enterprises, to embrace it.

Digitalisation will help build micro-entrepreneur and small businesses in the development of their tourism products where entrepreneurs, for instance, can use the likes of Airbnb and other platforms to generate income.

When tourism businesses go digital, they are able to gain important insights on what consumers look for when making their travel decisions, and can, in turn, package their offerings to be in line with market trends. This, in turn, ensures business growth and sustainability. 

A new independent global study commissioned by Travelport (NYSE: TVPT), Global Digital Traveller Research 2018, revealed that nearly half of travellers in South Africa are now using voice search to research their next trip, more than those in Australia, Germany and Japan and that a quarter now believe the technology has the greatest influence over their planning. Nearly 87 per cent were also open to using biometrics to reduce time spent waiting in security lines at airports.

In the study, travellers were also shown to have a heavy reliance on their smartphones. Almost 50 percent research and book their trip entirely through their mobile device and more than half rate not being able to access their booking information on all their devices as “very painful and frustrating”.  When on holiday, on average, travellers in South Africa use 11 different categories of apps, higher than the global average of nine. Maps, banking and airline apps are the most popular, closely followed by weather and social media apps. 

Tourism KZN has long realised the power of digitalisation in our own marketing programmes. We have embraced advancements in the digital world and have been making strides in smart technology.

We have introduced a KZN Travel App which is helping travellers and visitors to navigate their way around the province with ease. It is a free app and can be downloaded via Google Play and iStore.

Using the power of the internet, our website (www.zulu.org.za) enables users to explore the province’s tourism offerings, including the hidden gems of our region, while our DoKZN domestic destination marketing campaign provides an array of packages that demonstrate how affordable exploring KZN truly is.

Stepping up the technology yet further, we have introduced a Virtual Reality experience for visitors to our consumer shows that we attend around the country, and will also be installed in our tourist information offices around the country. This allows potential tourists the chance to experience, digitally, some of our many attractions before they visit.

We encourage all tourism players to embrace this digital revolution for their businesses to not only remain relevant but also continue to grow.

Phindile Makwakwa is the Acting Chief Executive Officer of Tourism KwaZulu-Natal.

BUSINESS REPORT