Leisure market clicking furiously to be 2010 ready
By Dawie Hanekom, Marketing Director at Sulaco New Media
As the country prepares to host one of international football's most prestigious tournaments, the FIFA World Cup, a number of industries are gearing up to take maximum advantage of commercial opportunities. Situated at the top of the list of businesses jockeying for position are operators within the burgeoning leisure sector.
This particular market is broad and it is difficult to quantify the exact number of service providers, suppliers, distributors and other key role players that contribute to what is widely accepted as a thriving marketplace.
What we can surmise at this stage is that whilst technology has always played a role in this industry, a number of service providers, irrespective of size or specific target market, feel compelled to invest in the latest online facilities and equipment to keep up with global trends.
Many operators agree that ensuring Internet connectivity and offering digital capability is a primary service and has emerged as a pre-requisite for attracting visitors in 2010.
Online services can be slightly ambiguous and could refer to anything from basic Internet access in hotel rooms, LCD or plasma screens/ entertainment systems right through to comprehensive, high-tech multimedia centres and conference facilities.
Historically, service providers within the leisure market have acquired and integrated technology at some level to improve and enhance the booking systems they have in place.
This has always represented the front line of customer support and service for operators - and the motivation has been to improve competitiveness by enhancing data capture processes and basic customer retention and relationship management.
Today these same service providers have expanded their technical portfolio and capability with investment in websites to provide information on the premises, services and facilities. Online booking systems are now more developed and it is possible to make reservations and payments with ease. Availability checker systems are also proving to be useful.
South Africa is progressing at a rapid rate in terms of technology-readiness within the leisure market and there is renewed focus on sustainability and manageability.
This is really to ensure the country's ability to accommodate the volume of users and demand on infrastructure during the time of the World Cup. It is mission-critical to the overall preparation.
However the process is not without its challenges. A major concern is the ongoing pressure of load shedding/power shortages and its impact on this vital resource. Another is the target market - for example, the question arises as to whether one should focus on local corporate clientele or exclusively on tourists from abroad?
If the decision is made to focus entirely on corporate guests, then the key requirement is wireless access and connectivity.
There are a number of accommodation focused associations and regulation authorities, such as the NAA, that help guesthouses/B&B's with information/setting up an establishment.
Many young owners of establishments take the view of technology and the latest digital systems as representative of a business. They find it easier to adapt to - and cope with current trends and general requirements of growing domestic and international client bases.
Ultimately the level of tech-readiness of the country, and this market in particular, remains to be seen and will surely be tested in 2010.