CHARLENE SMITH discusses how smartphone apps are revolutionising travel
In three years 60% of all the information we receive will be video on hand-held receivers. Pretty remarkable isn’t it? At the weekend I watched a clip from NBC in 1994 where anchor Bryant Gimble and his cohosts were laughing at news reports that one day we would all be using something called, “the Internet.”
“It’s apparently quite useful,” one commented.
Welcome to 2012, you need to be looking at your smartphone and figuring out how smart is it in terms of using apps? Blackberry’s fortunes are dipping badly because it seems incapable of rising to meet this new world.
But Samsung and Apple have bet the house on it. By October, 10 billion apps had been downloaded from some 500,000 available. If you haven’t explored a travel app yet then I hope, South Africa Travel: The Rainbow Nation on ITunes and in Android Stores by May 10 (US$3.99) is the first you look at.
South Africa Travel: The Rainbow Nation is the first app on South Africa for tourists written from a South African’s point of view. It has more than 3,000 photographs, around 400 videos, Facebook, and Twitter entries (even though South African travel establishments are remarkably bad about tweeting) and close to 60 towns, villages and cities. Every month to six weeks the app gets upgraded and at least 50 more sections are added and with them another 500 or more photographs and endless links.
Brand South Africa and South African Airways have strongly supported the app. They’re buying copies for clients and business class passengers. Brand South Africa and SA Tourism in New York also helped provide photographs and others have been gleaned from companies, friends and tourism agencies. Brand South Africa’s support has paid off; SutroMedia in San Francisco – the world’s largest travel app distributors (through ITunes and Android Stores) – with some 600 writers and thousands of apps says that South Africa Travel: The Rainbow Nation is one of their top 10 apps this year.
Living in the United States one sees how pervasive, and important, smartphone apps are.
Why an app? That’s like saying, why do I need a cellphone? Or can’t I rather use a typewriter instead of a computer? As a writer of 14 books, working on this app with SutroMedia really turned me onto the power of apps. At a writers conference in New York last weekend speakers from CBS television, Google, Kindle, and others only had one three-letter word on their lips – app.
My publishers in Cape Town, Random House Struik, recently closed their travel books section and began a smartphone app division – are you getting the picture?
In the months of very long hours developing this app I put in more information than in any book that I spent years researching. Last night I did a new entry on Nieuwoudtville, as an example, and in around 150 words gave links to Bushmen art and history, accomodation options in that town, a link to the West Coast Fossil Museum, Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park, sport, agriculture, and links to botanical and birding information for South Africa and that area. I loaded 12 photographs, and included Twitter and Facebook sites, a video of Namaqualand in bloom, a Google Map for visitors, and a telephone contact number for the recommended b&b. That would have taken me days of research and pages of copy in a book.
Apps are cheaper than books and constantly updated, something that no book can do within days or weeks. Plus the writer, me, gets guided by your comments. There will be a large international Paediatric Cardiology conference in South Africa next year; I’m including information relevant to the visiting doctors. I’ve included specific information on marathons, cycling, birding, archeology, extreme sports, wildlife and wine, and kid-friendly places and activities, among other areas.
A sixth-former in England is volunteering on a wildlife rehabilitation project in South Africa next year and is a keen hiker – I already have info on that in the app but I am adding more based on his questions and interests. An American asked: “where are the shacks?” And so I am adding more on township tours and baby-boomers who like to travel and do good works. And if an establishment or tourist venue I have included gets bad reviews, I’ll remove it from the app.
If I have words of advice for those involved in the tourism sector in South Africa it is this – keep your prices low, the economic recession has bitten the northern hemisphere hard. People used to short hops in Europe, Asia and the Americas are slow to invest in costly long flights and when they get to their destination, they want low prices and good value. South Africa would get more tourists if you kept prices lower.
Also update your Facebook page and include interesting places to visit near your tourist attraction. Give some of the history of the area, and advice on restaurants and things for children to do. Link your Facebook page to a Twitter feed – if you don’t have Twitter nowadays you’re simply not serious about getting international travelers.
If you are eco-friendly, source only South African products, are sensitive in the food you prepare to those who have allergies, advertise it. People appreciate your thoughtfulness and it could push you up the ranks to become a must-visit site. Oh yes, and shoot a one to two minute clip of your establishment and put it on to YouTube. Don’t do a voice over, rather use text and have great local music.
The world is changing so fast, come along for the ride – you’ll love it!
- Charlene Smith is working on updates to South Africa Travel: The Rainbow Nation. Follow the progress on @SARainbowTravel or go to https://www.facebook.com/