Connecting South Africa to unveil its hidden tourism gems By Dr. Nomvuselelo Songelwa

Connecting South Africa to unveil its hidden tourism gems By Dr. Nomvuselelo Songelwa

Today’s travellers are looking increasingly for the ‘perfect’ and ‘authentic’ travel experience to share with their friends and followers on Instagram, Facebook or YouTube. But finding these unique and hidden experiences isn’t always that easy.

The answer is technology, of course. Putting these hidden gems on the proverbial map and making them visible to everyone needs to be a key focus for our tourism sector. We should highlight the extensive experiences South Africa offers – those that go beyond the major tourism sites. We need to make it easier for the traveller, the tour operator and the travel agent to find all that our country has to offer.

In South Africa, we tend to take a reactive approach when it comes to tourism technology, lagging behind global trends. Although South Africa has several public and private programmes to upskill tourism SMMEs, market access remains a major obstacle for these emerging companies.

There is incredible potential to provide a platform that will increase market access for small and mid-size tourism enterprises in South Africa. We have a wealth of hidden gems in the townships and rural areas, which are managed by capable black women mostly. However, these small entrepreneurs often lack the knowledge and resources to promote their businesses internationally.

We live in a world where people spend much of their lives on their cellular phones, turning to these mobile platforms for inspiration, for bookings and to share reviews about the places to which they have been. Even in South Africa’s rural areas, we see cell phones becoming ubiquitous, not only amongst the youth, but also with older generations.

Let’s leverage the opportunity this digital realm brings.

What if we could access a robust centralised data hub for South Africa’s tourism sector? A one-stop shop for EVERYTHING tourism in South Africa. An open platform to which the traveller and the travel industry can contribute and from which everyone can benefit? What if everyone could understand the industry better, unlock distinct, relevant insights and ultimately make better decisions?

A unique public-private partnership has been formed with the ultimate goal of doing just this: the National Tourism Visitor Information System (NTVIS).

This platform will allow smaller SMMEs to promote their experiences or properties to South Africa’s source markets in the same way bigger providers promote their offering. Simultaneously, the platform will deliver an enhanced visitor experience for our local and international travellers, unlocking the hidden gems of our country, as well as providing an invaluable data hub that will benefit everyone in South Africa’s tourism industry.

By using technology effectively, we can unlock South Africa’s untapped opportunities to the benefit of all.

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