Leigh Franks is the Marketing Executive of Cape Town Tourism
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It’s both remarkable and somewhat disconcerting how marketing has evolved over the last two decades. The ever-changing digital landscape has everything to do with this, sometimes it feels like you just can’t keep up.

Consider the fact that the internet became publicly available in 1991, and that before social media was born in 2004, marketing revolved around traditional channels only. This digital teenager singularly changed the whole way we operate.

Be it advertising, sales platforms or information resources, digital leads the marketing space. We already know that it’s cost effective compared to the big production and flight costs of a TV ad or billboard, and its directly measurable – both very compelling reasons to continually educate and inform ourselves to keep-up, to keep our businesses competitive and relevant.

As a Destination Marketing Organization (DMO), Cape Town Tourism needs to navigate travel through the digital evolution to make sure that we deliver on the ever-changing visitor needs and expectations, not forgetting that authentic experiences remain at the heart of travel. This is not limited to our own organization, we need to be aware of the innovative travel tech that’s out there, and collaborate with entrepreneurs to facilitate the visitor experience. This is both before they arrive, when researching and booking their holiday, and also when they are on holiday, so that they experience the best that Cape Town has to offer.

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Visitors are looking for experiences that are unique and off the beaten track. Experiences that take you deeper into what you’re seeing. ‘Immersive experiences’ are under discussion at global tourism forums; almost a redefinition of the ‘Travel like a Local’ trend that has been around for a few years.

As a world-class destination, we have world-class entrepreneurs right on our doorstep, helping us stay abreast of global development to ensure that we remain relevant in this competitive environment.

Cape Town travel tech entrepreneurs, VoiceMap and Explore Sideways are doing just that. VoiceMap geo-locates walking tours around areas of the City, told from the voices of locals and their experiences. Explore Sideways is about curating immersive food and wine tours in and around Cape Town tailored to your specific likes.


The Love Cape Town Neighbourhoods video series takes the visitor into the different suburbs of Cape Town to explore the undiscovered experiences of the destination that only locals would know about. These stories are told through the eyes of the locals that live there and who provide these experiences to visitors. This not only fulfills a visitor need, but stimulates tourism and community upliftment in some lesser-frequented areas in the city. Cape Town Tourism’s website, capetown.travel, was recently featured in Skift’s 25 Best Tourism Board Websites in the World in 2017, with the neighbourhood videos playing a large part in showcasing both immersive experiences and user experience, which are two important criteria that feed directly into what the visitor wants.

Ease of travel and convenience to the traveller plays a major role in their decision making, and this is where travel tech plays an important role. Another innovative Cape Town start-up is doing this with FOMO travel, where you can book your holiday upfront with lay-buy monthly payments, solving the problem of timing and affordability.

We are seeing rapid digitization in the travel industry for visitor convenience and ease. The Radisson Red Hotel in the V&A Waterfront doesn’t have a check-in desk. Guests download an app, check-in on the app and get a QR code as their key. However, what they have got right is the balance: they have automated without losing their personal touch. People and engagement are at the heart of the travel experience, so they have staff continually interacting with guests.

Sustainable travel is non-negotiable. It’s the high-yield low-impact approach – to leave a light environmental footprint wherever­­ you go – this is of particular relevance with the current water restrictions in the Western Cape. With this in mind, Cape Town Tourism has partnered with Sanlam, Sanlam has developed an app featuring popular South African artists, such as Jimmy Nevis, Kwesta, and Desmond and the Tutus, to help both locals and visitors monitor the time we spend in the shower, helping the city to conserve resources. This is just one example where tech innovation is allowing tourism businesses to implement solutions that contribute to sustainable tourism.

It could be said that technology is at the heart of the tourism sector, facilitating the ways in which companies do business, but it’s important to keep in mind that the needs of the visitor should be at the source of innovation. We need to constantly keep-up with both visitor needs and travel tech innovation for getting ideas of how we can grow our business both through travel tech developments and partnering with new, innovative entrepreneurs.

Leigh Franks is the Marketing Executive of Cape Town Tourism