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  • Leisure market clicking away to be 2010-ready

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    As the country prepares to host one of international football's most
    prestigious tournaments, the FIFA World Cup, a number of industries are
    gearing up to take maximum advantage of commercial opportunities, writes
    Dawie Hanekom, marketing director at Sulaco New Media.

    Situated at the top of the list of businesses jockeying for position are
    operators within the burgeoning leisure sector.
    This particular market is broad and it is difficult to quantify the exact
    number of service providers, suppliers, distributors and other key role
    players that contribute to what is widely accepted as a thriving
    marketplace.
    What we can surmise at this stage is that whilst technology has always
    played a role in this industry, a number of service providers, irrespective
    of size or specific target market, feel compelled to invest in the latest
    online facilities and equipment to keep up with global trends.
    Many operators agree that ensuring Internet connectivity and offering
    digital capability is a primary service and has emerged as a pre-requisite
    for attracting visitors in 2010.
    Online services can be slightly ambiguous and could refer to anything from
    basic Internet access in hotel rooms, LCD or plasma screens/ entertainment
    systems right through to comprehensive, high-tech multimedia centres and
    conference facilities.
    Historically, service providers within the leisure market have acquired and
    integrated technology at some level to improve and enhance the booking
    systems they have in place.
    This has always represented the front line of customer support and service
    for operators – and the motivation has been to improve competitiveness by
    enhancing data capture processes and basic customer retention and
    relationship management.
    Today these same service providers have expanded their technical portfolio
    and capability with investment in websites to provide information on the
    premises, services and facilities. Online booking systems are now more
    developed and it is possible to make reservations and payments with ease.
    Availability checker systems are also proving to be useful.
    South Africa is progressing at a rapid rate in terms of technology-readiness
    within the leisure market and there is renewed focus on sustainability and
    manageability.
    This is really to ensure the country's ability to accommodate the volume of
    users and demand on infrastructure during the time of the World Cup. It is
    mission-critical to the overall preparation.
    However the process is not without its challenges. A major concern is the
    ongoing pressure of load shedding/power shortages and its impact on this
    vital resource. Another is the target market – for example, the question
    arises as to whether one should focus on local corporate clientele or
    exclusively on tourists from abroad?
    If the decision is made to focus entirely on corporate guests, then the key
    requirement is wireless access and connectivity.
    There are a number of accommodation focused associations and regulation
    authorities, such as the NAA, that help guesthouses/B&B's with
    information/setting up an establishment.
    Young owners of establishments take the view of technology and the latest
    digital systems as representative of a business. They find it easier to
    adapt to – and cope with current trends and general requirements of growing
    domestic and international client bases.
    Ultimately the level of tech-readiness of the country, and this market in
    particular, remains to be seen and will surely be tested in 2010.