Tanzania companies told to innovate online

Dar es Salaam — Lack of the basics of using a computer and inexperience in international marketing have been cited as factors that hinder Tanzania's tourism potential.

The General Manager of the Dar es Salaam based tour operator, White Lion, Mshely Ivan told East African Business Week last week, online tourism marketing is a challenge to a number of tour operators in the country.

Ivan said tourism agencies in Europe, America and Asia are moving quickly ahead of it's African counterparts. They are now marketing through social media such as Twitter, YouTube and
Facebook as a new channel to get clients quickly around the globe.

He said with tourists increasingly preferring to shop for tour packages online, Tanzania tour operators find themselves faced with the uphill but inevitable task of adapting to online marketing techniques.

"There is no question that online marketing is currently the leading way of getting tourists from abroad," noted Ivan from white lion firm Ltd., one of the fastest growing tour companies in Tanzania.

According to Ivan, the agents promote themselves extensively in Europe and America, the leading sources of tourists jetting into Tanzania.

"Foreign tourism agents for instance in the Netherlands have access to extensive TV coverage where they advertise for up to seven times a day," he said.

Ivan pointed out that a good website is essential, but notes that it is not enough to capture the tourism market from abroad.

"After designing a good website, the website must be advertised on TV. You don't just design a website and wait for tourists to log on to it. However good it is, if it not aggressively promoted no tourists will even know about it, let alone visits it,"

He noted that expertise in websites is needed. Yet to get a good design cost up to two thousand dollars "it should be the best website," he said. However he conceded that$2000 is expensive for small tour operators.

Ivan said it is a great challenge for tour operators in Tanzania, because they don't have direct access to the tourists. Despite it being difficult to have direct contacts, the truth is that all successful companies in Tanzania have tour agents abroad.

The situation is made complex by the fact that most Europeans prefer to shop online from domestic agents because first they feel very secure and second for the reason that they feel comfortable when contacting someone they feel are closer to them.

"That is where the biggest marketing challenge lies, most of the tourist don't shop online straight from us, it is very rare to find a tourist who logs into a website and chats direct with a tour operator in Tanzania," Ivan said.

From his experience, he says over 70% of the deals are closed through agents. However, online marketing challenge affects mostly smaller companies, which cannot raise the large capital needed for traveling and advertising.

East African Business Week via AllAfrica.com