A HUNDRED SMALL, medium and micro enterprises (SMMEs) drawn from South African Tourisms South African Travel Directory will attend the 5th Annual E Tourism Africa Summit in Cape Town next week courtesy of South African Tourism.

South African Tourism has developed a reputation as a progressive DMO in the online space characterised by its partnerships and presence on the largest travel and non-travel online platforms and would like the benefit of engagement with these travel titans to be more widely spread to as many of the South African travel trade as possible.

Its our way of helping emerging and small businesses in tourism get connected; meet and exchange ideas with heavyweights in social media; and fast track their digital marketing work to grow their businesses, create jobs and get into the tourism big time, says William Price, global manager: e-marketing at South African Tourism.

South African Tourism will pay delegate costs of the group to attend the conference that has become one of the highlights of the annual tourism calendar in South Africa and will feature globally influential and relevant speakers.

A small business is sometimes not able to afford to attend a seminar of such calibre. As an organisation with a vested interest in tourism, we want to make this dialogue accessible to as many people in tourism as possible. We want to give entrepreneurs every opportunity to make the most out of the exciting and efficient digital marketing environment, Price says.

Making it possible for tourism SMMEs to attend the Summit is but one of the ways South African Tourism supports emerging businesses in the sector. In September, South African Tourism opens entries for the 12th annual Emerging Tourism Entrepreneur of the Year Award (ETEYA), a nationwide search for the destinations best and most promising emerging tourism business. Each year the ETEYA winner gets R100 000 in cash to help grow their business. He or she also gets access to mentoring, marketing help and business direction and advice from experts.

The focus at the Summit this year will be on how social media can be used to leverage online bookings. Discussion will deal with issues and trends pertinent to business growth and development in the digital era. Keynote speakers from Tripadvisor, Wanderfly, Expedia, Facebook Developers and Betapond, a leading Facebook Preferred Marketing Developer for the travel space, have been secured and will impart their knowledge and insights to delegates at the Summit.

As a business with a global footprint we are continually mindful of the growing importance of digital platforms have on how we operate. Social media has profoundly changed the way we do business and market our destination, says Price.

For example, Tripadvisor retains its status as the largest travel site according to traffic. For Cape Town to be the number 1 destination in the Travellers Choice awards is testament to the high regard that the more than 50m unique monthly users hold South Africa in. Expedia is the largest online travel agent in the world and South Africa continues its impressive growth in bookings from this lucrative partnership.

WAYN.com remains the largest travel-focused social media site and South Africa continues to enjoy exceptional results from all its activities on WAYN.

Once you put your business into the digital space with a presence on social media platforms and a website for example, you automatically make it relevant to your stakeholders, and most importantly, you have access to the global market. But much depends on how you go about things. There are crucial tips, tricks and insights that demystify the digital world and that all businesses, especially SMMEs, should know about. Who better to learn from than the experts themselves? explains Price.

The E Tourism Africa Summit will be held at the Cape Town International Convention Centre on the 13th and 14th of September 2012. For more information, visit www.e-tourismfrontiers.com.

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