SMEs in tourism urged to go digital

Source: SMEs in tourism urged to go digital | Sunday News (Business)

Nkosilathi Sibanda, Business Correspondent
BUDDING businesses in the tourism and hospitality sector have to level up their digital marketing skills if they want to be relevant in the new normal that calls for businesses to adapt to digital marketing tools, experts have said.

The local tourism business sector has seen a number of small to medium businesses and start-ups emerging, as barriers to entry eased in the last three years. However, concern has been raised by tourism destination and product valuators on the low uptake of digital marketing tools.

With the industry facing one of its toughest times owing to Covid-19, it has been noted that even holiday-makers the world over are using the digital space to search for the perfect destination. The Zimbabwe Tourism Authority (ZTA), on Wednesday last week, held a workshop to capacitate small businesses in tourism on digital marketing tools. ZTA sees e-marketing as the leading tool with which local tour and hospitality players can utilise to bring in as many tourists following long months of closure due to Covid-19.

Stakeholders in the industry that include members of the Hospitality Association of Zimbabwe, safari guides and operators were in support of the digital marketing campaign, saying it dovetails with the National Tourism Recovery and Growth Strategy.

The ultimate gain is an increased knowledge at a time when tourism marketing has changed to become digital as this was in line with the National Tourism Recovery and Growth Strategy, said ZTA spokesperson Mr Godfrey Koti in an interview.

“As we strive to resuscitate the tourism sector, the Government has put in place the National Tourism Recovery and Growth Strategy which was launched by President Mnangagwa in August 2020. In this blueprint, digital marketing is at the core of our recovery strategies. Tourism in the country has services that are held by small to medium enterprises, which is why personnel in the sector has to have an impressive online presence.”

He said the country’s tourism regulatory arm was aiming to positioning both established and upcoming businesses to be knowledgeable on digital marketing, as this was a must for every player in the industry.

“The aim is to work with local content creators in creating new destination content and positive destination messaging. There is an urgent call to partner the youth in coming up with innovations that promote and transform the tourism industry through our digital innovation programme and facilitate the online presence of small operators.

While most players in the tourism sector have adopted the use of online media to market their products and services, there is still a need to enhance our knowledge base and to encourage those that have not come on board to embrace digital marketing.”

A United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)-funded research on tourism and the internet gives compelling insights on that more than half of the world’s population has access to smartphones, which is driving at least 50 percent of web traffic.

Of late, lodges, restaurants, and leisure centres in Bulawayo and Matabeleland North have moved on to e-marketing, and a number now have interactive sites on social media. But some, especially those offering services out of the urban built-up environment, are yet to switch over.

Tourism consultant and safari operator Mr Langton Masunda said the time was now for all tourism businesses to accept that the industry was operating under a new normal.

“The only way to remain relevant is to be visible online. It does not matter whether industry is closed because of Covid-19, what is important is for the market to know that Zimbabwe is still the safari destination of choice,” said Mr Masunda.

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