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Local search is key for 2010 success

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Location-based services accessed mostly through cellphones will be key in ensuring the 2010 World Cup is a success and that tourists are able to fully experience our diverse country. 

This is according to Magnus Rademeyer, MD of location based services company, AfriGIS, who says the locations of places South Africans visit regularly are something people take for granted. However, in the run up to the World Cup, Rademeyer says people need to ask themselves a number of questions including how easy is it for overseas tourists to get around in South Africa? Is there easy access to geographical information and comments from other people about stadiums, transportation, restaurants, accommodation and so on?  These are critical questions because if tourists can’t find something, or don’t have adequate information about it, then they won’t visit it, which leads to loss of revenue for the economy.
“Travelling in first world countries is made easy by mature tourist industries and slick public transport systems. However, in South Africa there is no modern public transportation system to transport people across our sprawling cities, the country has poor Internet access and a lack of support for tourists (compared to first world countries),” Rademeyer says.
As more and more businesses open or expand in the run up to the World Cup, business owners and entrepreneurs need to be thinking about how tourists will find them and information about them and how to create awareness about their geographical locations and the services they offer, he adds.
When tourists arrive for the World Cup, they may have accommodation booked for the first part of their stay, but thereafter they’ll be looking for accommodation, places to visit, transportation, restaurants and so on.
In 2010, the connected society will be even more of a reality than today and standard cellphone or other wireless device such as smartphones or PDAs will give them the freedom to keep their options open and look for things that interest them. But what will they find and will that information be accurate? Rademeyer asks.
“The cellphone and other wireless devices will give them the freedom to keep their options open and look for things that interest them. But what will they find and will that information be accurate?”
While GPS cellphones, smartphones and navigating devices have proliferated the market, the maps and points of interest (POI) accessed through these devices are not always accurate. If the POI list on the device does not list the restaurant, shopping centre or hotel the tourist is looking for, then they’ll go to a listed location. Similarly, when tourists use a cellphone to browse the mobile web, they will visit the places and businesses that have given them adequate information about their locations.
Rademeyer says given the rise of social media on the Internet, adequate information will not only include the location of a place and a description, but comment from other users. By 2010, cellphone user behaviour will have changed substantially with people expecting a richer experience. Searches will therefore have to be intuitive with integrated credible rating systems providing pictures or videos of the location, detailed descriptions and comments from other people who have been there, he adds.
“Accommodation, restaurants, retail stores or tourists centres that don’t provide this kind of service will ultimately lose business.”
The current reality is that if tourists start browsing for information from a cellphone when they land in the country, they will need to look hard to start finding any location based information. Currently services like Look4it already provide a wealth of information, but many tourists are probably not aware of it.
Rademeyer says there are therefore three important keys for companies and organisations wanting to reach out to tourists visiting South Africa from in the run up to the World Cup, during the tournament and thereafter. Firstly, companies and organisations need to provide detailed, quality content about their location and services available on their own websites. Companies should also have mobile websites (mobisites) to make information easily accessible from a cellphone.
Websites/mobisites should include interactive maps, which can be used to plot routes and offer information about the area. Tourists will soon realise that they can’t just hop on the subway and cruise to another part of the city or a nearby town like they would in first world countries.
“All accommodation venues should therefore provide interactive maps with geographical information about the area they are in, including shopping malls, restaurants, retail stores and supermarkets to their guests. Doing so will not only draw tourists to their location, but result in increased business for the entire area,” he says.
Secondly, social media cellphone applications like The Grid, Facebook and others will also play a key role, according to Rademeyer. As tourists visit places, they will be able to leave comments at specific locations on these applications’ digital maps about what they experienced there. Other tourists will be able to read those comments by clicking on the location and decide whether they want to visit the location or not based on what other people have said.
Companies also need to facilitate user comments on their websites/mobisites and blogs to give tourists more of an understanding of what they may experience there.
Thirdly, Rademeyer says companies need to support initiatives that look to enhance the South Africa’s geographical information. This could include making geographical location available to companies that supply map data to GPS vendors and map books as well as registering with general and industry specific websites like the Yellow Pages, 24.com and the Tourism Enterprise Programme.
“Ensuring that details about companies’ geographical location and contact information are freely available and contained within South Africa’s maps in a context which is easily searchable, intuitive and contains relevant comments and recommendations is therefore critical for companies looking to position themselves for business around 2010,” he says.