How online marketing is changing the face of tourism in Uganda
By Eric Ntalumbwa
A quick search for key words on Google such as ‘safaris in Uganda’ or ‘tours in Uganda’ ranks Prime Safaris, a local tour company on the first page. Unlike Prime Safaris, Kazinga tours, another Ugandan based tour business, appears in the top section as Google Ads (paid text ads) that relate to the keyword used to conduct the search.
Basing on Google statistics that 75 percent of internet users never scroll past the first page of search results, Travel blogger Pamela Amia says the quickest way to get on page one of Google for a particular keyword is to pay for an advertisement. “Once one signs up with Google, you select keywords you would like to target, then bid on how much you would like to pay every time your ad is clicked on. The higher you bid per click, the higher your ad will appear to the top of the page,” she explains.
Online management in this era of e-marketing is inevitable for a successful and sustainable tourism venture. As a result, many businesses invest sums of money to have an effective social media presence, user-friendly and high ranked website, and explore opportunities of other online marketing tools. The returns have been worthwhile for many, but risky for others.
Impact of Internet marketing Online marketing has had far reaching implications on hospitality and tourism industry. Transportation and hoteliers were among the first ones to utilise internet marketing techniques in their practice to engage customers. Today, destination authorities, tourism organisations, tour and travel operators have jumped on the bandwagon to enhance destination reputation, consumer opinion, spread information and transact businesses.
The Association of Uganda Tour Operators(AUTO) re-echoes the value of internet marketing. “Tourism businesses and clients have significantly reduced communication and transactions costs, such as time and money. Our members use internet as a powerful marketing tool. Through online advertising, social media and websites, tourism operators offer clients an opportunity to book for their holidays online, in the shortest period,” explains Jonathan Ahabyoona, AUTO’s public relations officer. He is, however, quick to say that internet technology has created stiff competition particularly, the disruptive technologies like Online Travel Agencies (OTAs), quick taxis as well as emergence of fraudulent safari companies, which calls for stern regulations.
Reduced transactions costs Specioza Kawarach, a digital content strategist at Marasa Africa, says they use a hotel management system called Micros Fidelio for their room reservations, revenue management and client relationship management. The system is supported by internet, without which their functionality can be halted. “Our clients are mainly social travellers who rely on the internet to search for vacation destinations, compare prices through the different OTAs, make purchases using their cards, and share feedback during or after their holiday, mainly on trip advisor. So go where our prospective clients are– online. This helps us keep tabs on competition, undertake market intelligence and envisage trends 24/7,” she says.