It’s been an interesting Indaba indeed. If nothing else, it’s proved that the tourism landscape is morphing quicker than your hotel room on a 7-day-7-city overseas marketing tour.
Two things, I think, for our industry: (1) social media (yes, that again), and (2) disintermediation. Although, if you think about it, they’re one and the same, because the net is changing everything.
Trouble is, the net is even changing itself.
Last year, you may remember, I tried to shock you into waking up to social media by telling you that Facebook had 500 million users, and I said that you couldn’t afford to ignore the conversation. That number has now grown to 800 million, and at this rate, Facebook will be the globe’s biggest country in a year or two: it’s already bigger than almost every nation in the real world.
More, the net has spawned so many new ways of doing business, and that’s causing quite a bit of – how shall we say? – disruption in tourism. As Martin Wiest of Tourvest told me on Sunday: “The result is we’re in a learning process about the new rules of engagement.”
Disintermediation, of course, is what happens when products sell to consumers via on-line travel sites, without going through the traditional travel channel (product or supplier to inbound wholesaler to foreign wholesaler to retail agent to consumer).
The problem, said Martin, is that on-line travel sites are dealing directly with consumers, but the suppliers are dealing with the sites as they would with wholesalers by giving them heavily discounted rates.
“We don’t want to stop the on-line agencies from doing business; in fact, we’re happy that they’re there because they serve an important function.
“But if the suppliers would sell to the wholesalers at retail rates, the whole problem would be solved.”
Course there’s logic in that: the inbound wholesalers take on huge risk and they have to invest heavily in global distribution, ground handling, and such, while overseas wholesalers, operating in the source markets (which is expensive in itself), must organise airline seats, supply insurance, distribute to the retailer, and, and, and… While the on-line agency just goes ahead happily selling beds.
Here’s a question: since South Africa’s Consumer Protection Act makes every point in the supply chain liable in the event of a claim against a supplier, how is the traveller who bought her accommodation from an overseas-based booking site protected?
And here’s another: if the wholesaler’s job is to insure that suppliers deliver the standards they promise, who does so when there’s no wholesaler involved?
The travel sites? Hardly.
And so I ask – if we’re moving towards an era in which the wholesaler becomes redundant, are we also moving towards an era in which travel decisions are based on price alone? And if that’s so – what’s going to happen to the quality on which we pride ourselves?
As I say – the net is changing everything. But this is going to be an interesting one.
Until next year: Nihambe kahle and totsiens.
Responsible Tourism at Indaba
Watch my presentation on Responsible Tourism at Indaba here:
I’ll be repeating my Zipcast – during which I’ll talk you through the presentation, and you can ask questions about it – on Tuesday, 22 May at 4:00 p.m. SA Time (GMT +2:00)
You’ll need to sign up for a free account on SlideShare, www.slideshare.net, and then join me in my meeting room just before 4:00 next Tuesday. You’ll find it here: www.slideshare.net/martinhatchuel1/meeting.
If you want to tweet it, please use the hashtags #RTyear2012 or #ResponsibleTourism
(BTW: Since you’ll be on SlideShare, you might snoop around a little. It’s the most useful resource for all kinds of information. Try searching for ‘responsible tourism,’ for example, or ‘social media.’ You’ll be amazed at what you’ll learn.)
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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This Tourism Week – a free service brought to you by BarefootClients.co.za – is a personal e-letter and informed commentary on issues affecting South Africa’s tourism industry. Please note that the articles in This Tourism Week may only be reproduced with permission (want it? Mail me – email@example.com).
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