You might’ve seen my tweet: RT “@MartinHatchuel: Be ashamed, very ashamed #SocialMedia is the future & it’s here now. You lose.”

I was referring to yesterday’s TripAdvisor/ Tourism Grading Council master class, and I was whacked by this apparently poor interest in social media. As I said yesterday: no social media? Your marketing’s a Model T.

For those who are using social media though (and TripAdvisor is *the* definer of social media for us in tourism) the really exciting news at Indaba has been that TripAdvisor and the TGCSA have entered into the first ever partnership of it’s kind. (So, once again, Mzansi shows the way: Very Proud.)

It makes sense. As South African Tourism’s William Price said, “TripAdvisor is the world’s biggest DMO.”

Look, travellers are no longer prepared to wait for information. Whey should they? Especially since mobile social media gives us immediate access to the latest information – about price, availability, and even what the chef picked fresh today. And it lets us compare and review products immediately; to share, and to be shared.

But the one thing that stood out from Tori Delaney’s presentation was the importance of engaging with customers on an emotional level. Guests want to be treated for who they are; they want to feel welcomed, important, noticed. And this is what social media has done: it’s taken the statistics out of marketing, and, for the first time ever, finally put the humanity into it.

We’ve left the old web behind: now, it’s a conversation, and, especially, it’s about peer-to-peer conversations – and then it’s about the conversations you have with your customers.

Which is why *what they* say is all important – but *how you* reply makes all the difference.

And it is important to reply. As Tori said; not responding to a review is like listening to a guest in your lobby – and then silently turning your back on her. You wouldn’t do it in your hotel, so why do it on line? (But, of course, you don’t need to respond to every review. Still, I’d say that how you decide to respond is a good indication of your product’s humanity. And today’s netizens can see that.)

Yes, the net can deliver vicious trolls who say nasty stuff. But here’s the thing: 47% of all votes on TripAdvisor rate their subjects as ‘Excellent,’ and only 7% as ‘Terrible.’

Again, most users can tell the difference between an honest review and a personal attack. And they know how to ignore the attacks.

So, as Tori said: “Forget about TripAdvisor. Make sure your guests get great service and that they have a good time with you.” The results will show.

You live or die by what people say about you – which is why I’d like to predict that the partnership between the Tourism Grading Council and TripAdvisor will do this: it’ll make our industry more accountable to our guests.

And that’ll do more than anything we’ve ever done to improve our tourism statistics.

The Point Hotel, Mossel Bay: Upgrades and upbeat

2012 started on a high note for Mossel Bay’s iconic The Point Hotel, with occupancies approaching the heady days of 1995, when South Africa was enjoying its initial tourism boom.

“2011 was an excellent year for us, with good growth over 2010’s somewhat disappointing figures; and now it looks like 2012 is going to be even better than 2011,” said the hotel’s owner, Louis Harris.

“In fact, if things keep going the way they are, we could even post record occupancies in 2012.”

He said that the hotel is currently completing a two million rand upgrade.

“We’re installing a gym and spa next to our business centre, and a Japanese garden outside the spa that will provide our guests a tranquil place to relax and rejuvenate.

“We’ve installed chic wooden flooring in the Lighthouse Restaurant, and redecorated it in a modern style that fits with its dramatic views over the ocean – and we’re also extending the restaurant’s patio to give our guests more space to watch the waves, and, of course, the dolphins and whales that so often swim past the hotel.

“Then were also repainting the exterior, and re-decorating the rooms: all of them have been fitted with flat screen TVs and new carpeting, and the first of the bathrooms have been upgraded,” said Mr. Harris

He said that the Municipality of Mossel Bay has committed itself to an extensive upgrade of The Point area, on the tip of Cape St. Blaize.

“Judging by the plans, The Point is going to become a really attractive tourism hub, which is exciting because the Province recently gave it Icon status.”

He said that Portnet’s recently announced new waterfront development in Mossel Bay will be a game-changer for the town.

“Mossel Bay is already known as the Do Stuff Destination because it’s got so many unusual attractions and adventures, and these developments will provide even more incentives for travellers to extend their stays.

“And The Point Hotel – with it’s sea-front rooms and friendly, welcoming staff – is the ideal place for that.”

Chantal Edwards-Klose is representing The Point Hotel at the Indaba: contact her on 082 350 2420, or go to

Zipcast: Responsible Tourism at Indaba

Remember to watch my Responsible Tourism at Indaba Zipcast this afternoon, Tuesday, 15 May, at 4:00 p.m. SA time (GMT+2).

You’ll need to register for an account on, and then join me in my meeting room – – just before 4:00.

If you want to tweet it, please use the hashtags #RTyear2012 and #ResponsibleTourism

Now go away on holiday – it’s in the economy’s best interests.
… And in the meantime… have a GREAT tourism week!

Martin Hatchuel
– BarefootWriter

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