The travel industry is the latest to feel the effects of convergence, as it washes over traditional travel marketing channels and leaves overturned business models in its wake. One company, Southern Africa Direct, is embracing the phenomenon of convergence to connect British travellers with the southern African region in previously impossible ways.

Southern Africa Direct, which launched in the UK on 26 November, is a free-to-air television channel which is being hosted on the Sky Digital platform and supported by an internet site. The channel offers British audiences 24 hour programming on Southern African lifestyle and culture, travel and tourism, and commerce. Southern Africa Direct makes the southern African region the first in the world to have a dedicated marketing channel.
The channel provides a gateway to 25 countries in southern Africa to British television viewers and internet users. Internet broadcasts will include both streaming video and video on demand, giving viewers the ability to pick and choose what they would like to watch – in line with the internet’s turn towards user-generated content.
Johannesburg-based Digital Sky Investments was recently awarded the sole and exclusive license to commission content and market the channel in the Southern Africa region.
Pierre van der Hoven, CEO of Digital Sky Investments, explains that in a world of converging technologies Internet traffic is a commodity – because of its value to advertisers. While conventional marketing models hold that television, the internet and mobile devices are separate and distinct channels, the effect of convergence is that the lines between these media are becoming increasingly blurred.
In the case of Southern Africa Direct, this means that the internet and television are mutually dependent. While the television channel generates traffic, the website, through registrations, competitions and downloads, manages it.
Convergence also brings with it new levels of interactivity and allows consumers to communicate with business in more powerful ways. In the travel industry there has been marked shift towards online bookings directly with the central reservation systems.
Van der Hoven says that Southern Africa Direct’s CRM strategy is tailor-made for the modern, fickle consumer. The interoperability of the internet, TV, and mobile devices gives the company’s customers the ability to upload or download travel information onto PCs or mobile devices and customise the content they wish to consume. Mobile devices are particularly useful in this model: through technologies such as SMS, Southern Africa Direct can hold competitions that generate intimate interaction with its viewers and offer a more extensive audience profile to advertisers.
Van der Hoven says that converging technologies, innovative ideas and a breakdown of traditional communication channels is a potent mix for travel marketers and the Southern African region alike.
“A record breaking 8,4-million tourists visited South Africa from around the world last year, creating nearly a million jobs. Exploiting new communication channels will allow us to market the region more aggressively and have an even larger impact on the region,” he says.
“We are developing Southern Africa Direct to be the best information gateway for anyone in the UK looking at visiting or building commercial links with the region,” Van der Hoven says. “We have built a fantastic team and chosen innovative, pioneering delivery partners. I look forward to us all working together to make Southern Africa Direct a success with advertisers, sponsors and customers.”
Southern Africa Direct is working with a number of highly respected partners to deliver a seamless TV service that is of the highest quality. Content production and advertiser relations in southern Africa are managed by Digital Sky Investments, the official licensed partner of Southern Africa Direct, based in Johannesburg. Brand development is by Interbrand, with financial advisory services provided by PWC. Technical partners include Arqiva, EBS and Scarlettec.