Social media and African travel businesses
WRITTEN BY DR. DAVID URMANN, TOURISTLINK FOUNDER
Local travel agents in Africa often have a hard time reaching out to foreign travellers unless they have developed foreign business partnerships and every business can benefit from new approaches to market to local customers. Promoting one’s business online and via social networking is rapidly brining down these historical barriers and letting even the smallest travel business promote themselves on a global scale.
Touristlink, a new social network for travellers, lets travel businesses create free social profiles and get free leads either by responding to member travel requests which can be customised as per the profile of the traveller. Travelling members may add business members to their social network, providing invaluable marketing contacts and potential future clients.
Touristlink was launched public beta in October 2011 after seeing a need for a marketplace that lets travellers request the exact services they need and get multiple offers from travel providers. Travel businesses and organisations can create free social profiles and interact with travellers in a value-added environment, rich with relevant up-to-date content and targeted reviews.
Touristlink offers a suite of easy to use tools that give business owners the opportunity to highlight the destinations they serve and specific travel expertise. Members can interact with businesses and ask them questions about tours or activities before making a reservation.
The African travel market offers great opportunities for small businesses looking to promote themselves via company websites and through social networking. However it is not easy and every online business strategy must be well thought out and executed and the returns are usually promotional to the amount of effort that is put into the strategy. Unlike the European and US markets, the online segment in Africa is still in the developing phase and is yet to be dominated by large companies, so small companies who are willing to act can still get a foothold and develop an online presence.
Touristlink is founded by GotripIndia and works in close partnership with GotripAfrica which is based in Nairobi. The GotripAfrica office is available to help travel agents and tour guides with setting up profiles on Touristlink. By browsing through Touristlink, hopefully it is clear that it is much more than a transactional platform and is primarily a social network and destination guide.
Every Touristlink member is different and this is reflected in his online profile. We believe that the travel providers who will be most successful on the site will be able to take advantage of this and customise offers based on the members’ profiles.
As an avid traveller and guidebook author, having founded the website, I believe that a key part of the Touristlink strategy is making the site a place where travellers can build relationships with providers, ask questions and get advice even if the end result is not a sale. Business owners, whether marketing on Facebook or Touristlink should realise that hard sale tactics are not a good approach in a social environment and that each customer needs to be approached individually with services that their needs.
To find out more, visit Touristlink.com.
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SAS: Improving the British Army’s decision making with data
SAS’ long-standing relationship with the British Army is built on mutual respect and grounded by a reciprocal understanding of each others’ capabilities, strengths, and weaknesses. Roderick Crawford, VP and Country GM for SAS UKI, states that the company’s thorough grasp of the defence sector makes it an ideal partner for the Army as it undergoes its own digital transformation.
“Major General Jon Cole told us that he wanted to enable better, faster decision-making in order to improve operational efficiency,” he explains. Therefore, SAS’ task was to help the British Army realise the “significant potential” of data through the use of artificial intelligence (AI) to automate tasks and conduct complex analysis.
In 2020, the Army invested in the SAS ‘Viya platform’ as an overture to embarking on its new digital roadmap. The goal was to deliver a new way of working that enabled agility, flexibility, faster deployment, and reduced risk and cost: “SAS put a commercial framework in place to free the Army of limits in terms of their access to our tech capabilities.”
Doing so was important not just in terms of facilitating faster innovation but also, in Crawford’s words, to “connect the unconnected.” This means structuring data in a simultaneously secure and accessible manner for all skill levels, from analysts to data engineers and military commanders. The result is that analytics and decision-making that drives innovation and increases collaboration.
Crawford also highlights the importance of the SAS platform’s open nature, “General Cole was very clear that the Army wanted a way to work with other data and analytics tools such as Python. We allow them to do that, but with improved governance and faster delivery capabilities.”
SAS realises that collaboration is at the heart of a strong partnership and has been closely developing a long-term roadmap with the Army. “Although we're separate organisations, we come together to work effectively as one,” says Crawford. “Companies usually find it very easy to partner with SAS because we're a very open, honest, and people-based business by nature.”
With digital technology itself changing with great regularity, it’s safe to imagine that SAS’ own relationship with the Army will become even closer and more diverse. As SAS assists it in enhancing its operational readiness and providing its commanders with a secure view of key data points, Crawford is certain that the company will have a continually valuable role to play.
“As warfare moves into what we might call ‘the grey-zone’, the need to understand, decide, and act on complex information streams and diverse sources has never been more important. AI, computer vision and natural language processing are technologies that we hope to exploit over the next three to five years in conjunction with the Army.”
Fundamentally, data analytics is a tool for gaining valuable insights and expediting the delivery of outcomes. The goal of the two parties’ partnership, concludes Crawford, will be to reach the point where both access to data and decision-making can be performed qualitatively and in real-time.
“SAS is absolutely delighted to have this relationship with the British Army, and across the MOD. It’s a great privilege to be part of the armed forces covenant.”