Why East Africa as a destination get knocked down in travel marketing battle | Digital marketing | Colm McGill

Why East Africa as a destination gets knocked down in travel marketing battle

Digital Marketing Consultant Tanzania

Why East Africa as a destination get knocked down in travel marketing battle 

I know in five years there won’t be much people saying “digital marketing” or “online marketing” as a form of marketing, marketing will only be dominated by a digital world, so digital marketing is not only a must but a living.

Five years is not a century, whether you are starting a business today or your business has been in existence for years, evaluate your marketing and invest more in digital marketing before it’s too late. One of the big reasons why businesses should be online is because the target audience, the consumers are online.

There would be no value for money targeting your promotion and marketing to unknown audience, but since the emergence of digital marketing, you know where to find your audience. If your target clients  that are on Facebook or on Instagram, you see them directly, but more importantly  now marketers have all resources to know what your target clients are searching, what they are interested in, what’s their demographic characteristics, are they buyers or just window-shoppers.

In my mind, I think that travel industry should be a leading industry in  the digital marketing world, as I know almost every internet searchers, is likely to have a dream destination or dream trip, where they might be looking for an information about particular destination or trip, the trick for marketers is, to make sure your information is there where the potential clients are researching about the service you offer.

Why East Africa as a destination gets knocked down in travel marketing battle.

Guys, East Africa as travel destination get knocked down in the marketing battle. One of the reasons guys is the lack of clear understanding how digital marketing works and how is a great value for money  in comparison to traditional marketing methods being used.

I know some of the readers will say, what are you talking about, we are getting great returns with our traditional marketing, and a matter of fact we tried digital marketing but never got this return, my response will be this then:

  • Is there any factual data showing that traditional marketing can defeat digital marketing?
  • If traditional marketing can’t be measured, how would you know the return on every penny spent?
  • In this technological era, are most of your clients spending time on offline events or online?

Having answered the above questions, it’s understandable that digital marketing is the way to go, and instead of thinking on how you can increase revenue through your traditional marketing, you better consider digital marketing now, as the traditional marketing won’t pay you a return in future.

Before we start a discussion in detail on why East Africa as a destination gets knocked down in marketing battle, let’s see the importance of digital marketing for tourism business and travel destinations.

Simple to measure | Digital marketing for travel business and tourism destinations


Guys you cannot measure how many visitors you will get to your destination by counting the number of travel shows you have attended. But here online, with the analytics tools, you can understand really how many visited your website and how many converted. You can understand how many pages were viewed and what keyword really brought much traffic.

With digital marketing, you can see how many shared your website content, or how many mentioned your destination and what was the reaction in that campaign, but look, now you can even know how many opened the emails you sent. Digital marketing cannot be defeated guys, as long as you can even know who are searching what, you can also know what are your competitors getting traffic from, and how is that traffic valuable to their business. What kind of resources do you want to believe digital marketing is the king?

Real time results

 I know some destinations and travel companies are spending huge in television ads, magazine, billboards etc…while some of offline marketing tactics are still working, but can’t get you real results and are not trustworthy as are not measurable.

You want exposure and you do a campaign, soon you get a notification that your ad has got several views, and reached a certain number and how many conversions you have got via a contact form or a phone call.

You are sitting at home and you run a Google AdWords campaign that costs per click, but you know how much you have used and how much you are getting for particular sales. But look others might be saying, I cant run a pay per click campaign it costs a lot, so where do you get a tv ad campaign that is as cost effective? and gives you the insight of how many people watched that ad, and how many were looking for that service?


Digital marketing is cheap

Digital marketing for travel business and destination marketing is  very cheap compared to other traditional means. You don’t need to travel and stay in hotel for a travel show, you don’t need to drive and sign a deal with a TV sales representative or magazine man, so you see putting together the resources (finances and time), Digital marketing is the most cost effective and potent method.


Why we should Digital marketing ? exposure

Look why we should embrace digital marketing to keep up with the competition and keep engaged with our potential clients

  • 84% of travel marketers plan to increase or maintain their spending on marketing activities and technology in 2015
  • 38% plan to shift spending from traditional mass advertising to advertising on digital channels.
  • Facebook continues to be the top Social platform for engaging with customers. Pinterest scored low in usage with only 57% of marketers ranking it as effective.
  • 69% – of travelers begin their search online… via a mobile
  • 150 – the number of times a day the average user checks their mobile device
  • 6 hours – the average number of hours spent on digital media
  • 3 hours – the number of those digital media hours spent on a mobile device
  • 50% – of total travel sales will involve more than one device in 2016
  • 139 – the number of reviews written every minute on Trip Advisor


Guys the stats really show us the reason we should not be left behind on the digital marketing world. The cost of being lets behind maybe bigger than we think. Think about brand building, then think about loyal fans, if you don’t market today, the one who markets today if they can make their brands great and get loyal followers, your chances are getting limited then.

Now as we are close to seeing why East Africa as a destination is getting knocked down in tourism marketing, let’s see why we need to strategically start understanding who are our clients, where do they hear about us, and how can we position ourselves.


The destination/ travel company successful booking processes

Guys your potential client, James is in Canada watching the documentary, and then he sees the wild animals of East Africa. That’s the first booking process passed, the awareness level. Then what James does after getting interested to wildlife of east Africa, he goes online and start researching more as the documentary couldn’t cover the whole story, they were talking about other areas, but east African destination captured James Interest.

Then as he start researching, he finds out that the major attraction is the wildlife migration of Serengeti/Masai Mara which is annual migration but the biggest animal migration in the world… then he is interested in coming the next season, this is another level/step of booking a vacation passed.

James starts researching about best time to visit, lodges to stay, Safari Company to book, and then his mind tells him to shorten the work, and he should go through each review of service providers to get the best. Also he researches about packages and prices, about what to do before a safari and lastly he thinks about the airlines and then he finish the research… the third step/process of booking a vacation to East Africa destination done

James  picks the company, the dates and after the travel arrangement he books the vacation. That’s the fourth step and that where most of East African tour operators emerge, that’s where they are all targeting to get the business, but as well East Africa as the destination is not found on the first steps of vacation booking.

The travel vacation booking processes | Marketing a tourism destination

  • The potential client gets awareness of the destination/ attraction
  • They research on particular destination/ attraction for more information
  • They start evaluating and looking for reviews, pricing comparison and a look into other complications
  • The booking decision is then made, boom!
  • Evaluation whether it was value for money, whether they got what was promised, reviewing and decision whether they will visit again.

The smart destination marketing agency have understood the process and are taking the chance, they already know that the travelers are not travelers unless they get awareness of the destination.

The destination marketing agencies understand how marketing is great but sometimes a long term process with long run benefits, that’s why they target the client from level two of the booking process.

Some smaller destinations that can’t raise the awareness about the presence of great attractions in their destinations are waiting for messy from other sources like Movies, documentaries, other advertisers, endorsements from media, and destination ambassadors like the sportsmen who are known by many people at the tourist generating region level.

But this should not be the excuse on why destinations can’t start marketing at the grassroots. I know here some other destinations apply offline marketing for awareness purposes, like when the tourism destination agency is at the travel show, is just raising the awareness, and I have seen others doing billboards, TV ads, Football stadiums ads and road shows. This is where the first costly mistake is done

Integrate your offline marketing with digital marketing

I am sorry for those who thought such kind of offline marketing for raising awareness is a costly mistake; the mistake is not integrating the digital marketing from the start and in the later stages of vacation booking.

Destination Tanzania for example, goes to London for WTM IN 2016 November, they also run a road show in South Kerry Ireland, and do an ad in BBC channel. The First digital marketing integration can be done at this level….You cannot know how many potential clients you will meet at the trade show as most of them are sellers and destination representatives as you, either you cannot know how many people will view your ad on BBC channel and whether those who will see that ad, are relevant potential buyers or just think your ad is irrelevant to them.

Look, you may understand offline marketing, but you will do the better in digital marketing, so irrespective of what return you are getting for your present method, to double it, triple it and possibly stay in a game, digital marketing is inevitable.

The second way to integrate offline marketing with digital marketing is by targeting level two of the vacation booking process, when they get awareness from your offline marketing, of course by incidentally seeing your ad in the football stadium, as long as they can’t get more information at that time, or book a Tanzania vacation at Reading FC Madejski Stadium, so digital marketing will give you a much better return on investment.

You need to be found online; as online is the source of information for travel planners. Remember the potential clients just saw the ad on TV or a soccer match, they will research more, if you are not found on this level then you are gone, as there is a possibility of the potential clients establishing the relationship with the other suppliers who have supplied them with the answers of their research.

Look recently in our article on how to market your tour company, we run a research to see the presence of Tanzania companies in the searches at the research level of the client when booking a vacation.


  • African safari- there was no Tanzania Company or destination agency on first page of Google
  • African Safari Company- there was no Tanzania Company or destination agency on first page of Google
  • African safari Tour Company- there was no Tanzania Company or destination agency on first page of Google


And more specifically;


  • Serengeti wildlife migration- there were two Tanzania companies
  • Kilimanjaro- there were two Tanzania companies
  • Ngorongoro Crater- there were three Tanzania companies


As I write today, I have done a search research to know the availability of East Africa companies or destination marketing agency in the top searches:


  • African holidays 2016- six spots out of ten talking about South Africa, the rest four, were not Africa based
  • Best African national parks- Just got four national parks out of nine on the listing, but coming to organic results, only one East African company is shown out of ten spots. This is confusing as even the nation parks authority like Tanzania National Park Authority (TANAPA) did not show up.
  • Things to do in Africa- Out of ten spots, only two websites were African, but South African…the rest is abroad.
  • Reasons for visiting Africa- Six websites are South African based, the rest is out of Africa


To keep short, this tells us that when the potential clients are on level two of doing a research on particular destination or attraction or level three of evaluating the reasoning factors like pricing, reviews etc, we are not found on top to dominate the searches and build the customer relationship as the industry authority. Per these searches, it’s no coincidence that South Africa is winning in the digital marketing and is also winning on the number of tourist arrivals every year, with more than 9 million tourists.


As I  conclude let us read the quote from WTM London below:

“Furthermore, overall visits to World Travel Market are fast-approaching the 100,000 mark, with WTM 2014 having 98,426 visits. Unique delegate numbers for WTM 2014 are 51,965.” Look guys the delegate number, the sellers are more than the buyers, so where is the value for money on this. I know some will say this is a B2B event, but in tourism, would you run for a B2B relationship building if the organization you think will be bringing clients in your destination or Travel Company had the worst online presence? Of course no.

Digital marketing is incomparable

Guys it’s too late here, almost 2:19 AM here as I write, possibly there maybe few who will be reading this at late hours, so won’t keep them long, I do promise to write the finishing section of this article, on how the destination agencies including the tour operators can market the destination before the client is ready to buy.

We have seen some search stats, the balls are in our coat guys, lets market the destinations and we will never get defeated anymore.


Also guys just got this now, South Africa is the leading African destination in Social media.

Speak Soon


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