New report examines social media in travel in Africa

A new report that bills itself as, “The most in-depth study to date of the use of social media across the tourist boards, national airlines and leading hotels of Africa,” has recently been uploaded to SlideShare.

Martin-Hatchuel-2012-WEBThe Africa Travel & Tourism Social Index was published by VENDS Media – a multi-channel content network that focuses on destinations and lifestyles, and that has offices in Cape Town, London, and Abu Dhabi.

In his introduction, editor Chris O’Toole makes the point that social media has a long way to go in Africa: “Against the backdrop of a population of 1.1 billion people, Africa’s total continental GDP is $2.39 trillion – significantly less than the United Kingdom’s $3 trillion, despite the latter’s 63 million people.

“In Africa, too, we must consider a current mobile penetration of 67% and internet penetration of 26.5%, of which social media penetration sits at only 24%.”

The report, he writes, “explores whether a correlation exists between brands’ or organisations’ social media performance on the one hand, and increases in tourism numbers and financial performance on the other – using a mix of quantitative and qualitative metrics. We also compare Africa to global benchmarks Dubai, Britain and the USA.”


According to Dominic Oettl (he said it’s pronounced “like turtle without the T”), who’s based in the company’s Cape Town office, VENDS Media publishes content to a matrix of channels in ten languages across eight social media platforms, and generates more than 100 million content views a month.

The business produces, shares, and distributes quality content out of its studio in London, and publishes only on the social media. The company also helps its clients to develop their own content, and to grow their own digital media traffic.

As an example of the reach that VENDS has attained, its Discover South Africa channel is currently published on eight platforms and in ten different languages. At midday yesterday (27 June, 2016) Discover South Africa had 4,970 followers – but 10,273,107 views on Google+, while World Luxury News (also a VENDS Google+ account) had 17,833 followers and 82,657,534 views.

The company thus speaks with some authority.

Social Index

The Africa Travel & Tourism Social Index presents its statistics in the report in six tables:

  • African Tourist Boards Social Media
  • Index African Airline Social Media Index
  • African Hotels Social Media Index
  • Cumulative Social Media Figures
  • African GDP, Population & Tourism Growth
  • VENDS Africa Tourism Growth vs. Ranking Index

… And they’ll come in useful the next time you have to make a PowerPoint Presentation.

But what I found most powerful were the report’s ‘Insights’ pages and its concluding page (“Lessons to be Learned – VENDS’ Commentary”).

I’ll limit you to just a few teasers here – because you really should read the whole thing for yourself. (Give yourself 20 minutes or so. Have a coffee. Do the environmentally unthinkable: print the report out, and mark it up with coloured pens.) ”

Insight #1: Social Media and Tourism Growth
“Is there a correlation between a destination’s social media ranking and its tourism growth?

“In Africa, the most honest answer to this question appears to be ‘no’.”

Lesotho, for example, “Saw its tourist visitors surge from 433,000 to 1,079,000 between 2013 and 2014” – and yet it ranked 26 out of a possible 51 on the social media.

Insight #4: The Prevalence of Rich Content
Rich content = anything (other than straight text or static images) that engages the user.

“In social media success, it is neither size nor resources that matters, but the effort to create rich content that makes all the difference.”

Insight #5: The Role of Mobile Technology
“In contrast to the situation in which many developed countries find themselves, access to technology in sub-Saharan Africa over the last 10 years has been mobile-led.”

This presents unique opportunities and challenges – especially since “In Africa and the developing world, mobile technology often represents the first modern infrastructure of any kind.

Insight #10: Lessons to be Learned – VENDS’ Commentary
Just four of the seven points made in the report’s closing summary:

  • Size doesn’t count
  • Exceptions are the rule
  • Basics before brilliance (“Reach, frequency, engagement, responsiveness and richness in social media are all very well without the basics, which include infrastructure, connectivity, digital literacy, training, and strategy. As social media is a relatively new item on the agenda for most African tourist destinations, the only way to sustainably draw on its potential is to get the building blocks in place first.”)
  • The potential is enormous.

The Africa Travel & Tourism Social Index is required reading for everyone in tourism in Southern Africa – but I’d particularly recommend it to destination managers and destination marketers.

  • View and download The Africa Travel & Tourism Social Index – and comment about it – on
  • Follow VENDS’ Discover South Africa channel on Twitter: @365SouthAfrica
  • VENDS published its first Middle East Travel and Tourism Social Media Index in April 2016. Download it here.
  • Thank you to Tara Gellé, manager of the SAYTC (South African Youth Travel Confederation) who alerted me to The Africa Travel & Tourism Social Index by sharing it on SAYTC’s weekly newsletter.

How can This Tourism Week help you?

I’m Martin Hatchuel, a tourism practitioner with more than 30 years of experience in the sector, and I write and publish This Tourism Week as an informed, insightful look at issues affecting tourism in South Africa. (And I’ve been doing it since August, 2002.)

Backed by a team that includes web professionals (iBall Media), a graphic designer (Jo Hugo of Design,Etc.), PR consultants (interface by goji), and others, I’m here to help you develop all your communications tools: text (media releases, reports, business case studies, stories), strategies, web sites, apps, images, adverts, brochures, printing, events, and more.

Please contact me: 084 951 0574 or


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

Martin Hatchuel
Chartered Public Relations Professional

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