The Minister of Tourism Derek Hanekom has called on mobile networks and tourism operators to free up broadband to allow international tourists to share their South African holiday experiences on social media more freely.
Hanekom was speaking at the opening of the E-Tourism Africa Summit 2014 in Cape Town at the International Convention Centre on Thursday (4 September). The summit brought together some of the world’s leading online tourism and travel experts, including speakers from Facebook, TripAdvisor, Expedia, Google and Twitter.
Now in its seventh year, e-TAS is hosted by South African Tourism and organised by E-Tourism Frontiers. For the first time, the summit took place in two cities: Cape Town (4 and 5 September) and Johannesburg (8 and 9 September). Gauteng Tourism Authority hosted the Johannesburg event at Turbine Hall.
More than 300 people attended in Cape Town and the 200 seats for Johannesburg were sold out. During both events the hashtag #ETAS14 generated an online buzz, trending on Twitter nationally in South Africa for over four days often at the number one spot and the hashtag generated a reach of over 37 million.
In his opening address, Hanekom said tourists who shared their experiences on social media were a source of “real, credible, unmediated communication” for other travellers.
However, he warned that exorbitant data roaming costs on mobile networks made sharing expensive.
“I therefore challenge product owners and managers of tourist attractions to free up broadband: We are living in a new world and we cannot be penny wise and pound foolish. This is part of keeping our competitive edge as we creatively rethink travel.”
Conference organiser Damian Cook said he was impressed with how much the event had advanced and matured over the past seven years.
“This year’s summit has certainly been our most successful event to date. We were privileged to have international speakers from Twitter for the first time, Facebook, Google, Trip Advisor and Expedia, and we have been inundated with emails and tweets from both the speakers and delegates on how useful they found the content and how inspiring the presentations were.”
Headlining the second morning’s proceedings in Cape Town was popular public speaker Vusi Thembekwayo, who gave an inspirational talk on how to do business in Africa, which, he said, presented a wealth of opportunities for those who had the courage to enter these diverse and complex markets.
Other speakers were Helena Egan of TripAdvisor, Billy Lousteau of Facebook, Brett St Clair from Google, Sonal Patel of Twitter, Spencer Spellman from Expedia, Alana Witt of Revinate, Tim Davey from onefinestay, Sally Broom of Tripbod, Paul Galatis of Yuppie Chef, Sylvian Bosc of SAA, Instagrammer Gareth Pon and Charel van Dam of iAmsterdam.