The #MeetSouthAfrica bloggers pose with South Africa Tourism at the bloggers conference in Durban.

The #MeetSouthAfrica bloggers pose with their South Africa Tourism hosts at the bloggers conference in Durban.

The recent iambassador #MeetSouthAfrica blog trip was truly historic in many respects. In the course of ten days, 15 international travel bloggers from around the world embarked on four different itineraries covering all nine provinces of South Africa – the largest travel blogger event of its kind in Africa. The trip culminated in the very first travel bloggers conference at Africa’s biggest travel trade fair, INDABA, in Durban on May 10th.

Speaking about why South Africa Tourism has chosen to collaborate with travel bloggers, William Price (Global Manager, E-Marketing SA Tourism) said, “The biggest thing about online is that 90% of travel decisions today are being made online. So people are using everything from Tripadvisor to Facebook to inform their choices. And what’s exciting about that is the information is rich. So we’re not just seeing someone share an image, they’re talking about what they’ve experienced, who they’ve experienced it with and what they look forward to doing next in travel”.

“The bloggers will reveal how they ‘met’ and interacted with South Africa’s people to convey an intimate, personalised story about our beautiful destination. Through their extensive networks, their #MeetSouthAfrica experience will reach an audience of hundreds of thousands worldwide in real time. These bloggers’ stories are set to considerably increase awareness of South Africa and encourage potential travellers to seriously consider South Africa as their next holiday destination. The bloggers are covering fashion, lifestyle, travel and food, and are touring the country on four different itineraries crafted to expose them to a broad spectrum of activities, experiences, attractions and accommodation that South Africa has to offer”.

Using social media to tell the stories in real-time

During the blog trip, the bloggers utilised numerous social media channels such as Twitter, Instagram, facebook, Vine, Pinterest, Google+ and YouTube to share their experiences in real time (all vehicles were equipped with wifi) whilst using the hashtag #MeetSouthAfrica. The result: comprehensive coverage of the breadth and depth of the amazing experiences South Africa has to offer. To date, more than 1,000 photos have been shared through Instagram alone. Here’s a selection:

Crocodile cage-diving at the Cango Park (photo courtesy of @thenadwork)

Crocodile cage-diving at the Cango Park (photo courtesy of @thenadwork)

Kate overcomes her fear of birds! (photo courtesy of Adventurous Kate).

Kate overcomes her fear of birds! (photo courtesy of @AdventurousKate)

Traveldudes takes a picture of VelvetEscape filming a passing leopard. (photo courtesy of @Traveldudes)

Traveldudes takes a picture of VelvetEscape filming a passing leopard (photo courtesy of @Traveldudes)

The stunning Rondavels range (photo courtesy of @Landlopers)

The stunning Rondavels range (photo courtesy of @Landlopers)

Kate gets a kiss! (photo courtesy of @AdventurousKate)

Kate gets a kiss! (photo courtesy of @AdventurousKate)

Kruger National Park (photo courtesy of @Claudiabia)

Kruger National Park (photo courtesy of @Claudiabia)

The Nelson Mandela statue in Bloemfontein (photo courtesy of @VelvetEscape).

The Nelson Mandela statue in Bloemfontein (photo courtesy of @VelvetEscape).

Fisherman in the Western Cape (photo courtesy of @UncorneredMarket)

Fisherman in the Western Cape (photo courtesy of @UncorneredMarket)

The bloggers hanging out with Mama Tofu, at 93, the country's oldest tour guide (photo courtesy of @SimLewis).

The bloggers hanging out with Mama Tofu, at 93, the country’s oldest tour guide (photo courtesy of @SimLewis).

And there was time for some Pinotage (photosourtesy of @1step2theleft)

And there was time for some Pinotage (photo courtesy of @1step2theleft)

The bloggers shared their experiences in real-time, covering a broad array of themes including adventure sports, luxury lodges, safaris, landscapes, city life, and food and wines. The response from South Africans was incredible – locals joined the conversations on social media with great enthusiasm, offering advice, tips and information to the bloggers. Many locals tweeted thank you’s. Followers from around the world expressed their interest in the varied attractions in South Africa, whilst locals reminisced about their holidays in the country.

The focus of #MeetSouthAfrica was meeting local South Africans and telling their stories. The bloggers did this with vigour, chatting with, amongst others, fishermen in the Western Cape, kids in Soweto, park wardens and Mama Tofu, the country’s oldest tour guide. These stories will be revealed as the bloggers publish their blog posts in the months to come.

Travel bloggers conference at INDABA

The bloggers ended their trips in Durban, in time for the INDABA travel trade fair and the first travel bloggers conference in INDABA’s history. There was a phenomenal response to the bloggers conference, which took place at Durban’s Moses Mabhida Stadium; the event was oversubscribed and received 300 confirmations in just 48 hours.

Keith Jenkins speaking at the INDABA blogger conference.

Keith Jenkins speaking at the INDABA blogger conference (photo courtesy of @Mzansigirl)

At the conference, the bloggers discussed the changing face of destination marketing and the importance of personalised, user-generated content and social media engagement and its impact on the tourism trade. Keith Jenkins spoke about how bloggers contribute to destination marketing, Melvin Boecher spoke about the ROI of online media whilst Daniel Noll and Audrey Scott spoke passionately about responsible tourism and digital story-telling. As a consequence of the great interest in travel blogging and social media, a second session was held the next day at INDABA. iambassadors, Matt Long and Kate McCulley delivered an excellent presentation about how bloggers worked and the type of content generated during the #MeetSouthAfrica blog trip. During the Q&A, the iambassador bloggers answered questions from the audience.

The iambassador bloggers answered questions from the audience (photo courtesy of Mark Vogler).

The iambassador bloggers answered questions from the audience. From left to right: Audrey Scott, Daniel Noll, Melvin Boecher, Claudia Saleh, Kate McCulley, Matt Long and Simon Falvo (photo courtesy of Mark Vogler)

#MeetSouthAfrica in numbers*

  • 15 travel bloggers
  • 4 itineraries
  • 9 provinces
  • 9,000+ tweets
  • 77.8 million tweet impressions or ‘opportunities to see’
  • 3.3 million twitter accounts reached
  • 1,059 photos on Instagram
  • 31,500 views within 12 hours of a single photo on Facebook posted by Uncornered Market
  • 60,000+ views of Viajando con Diego’s bungy-jump video on YouTube

*as at 24th May 2013.

Media coverage of #MeetSouthAfrica

The media coverage of the #MeetSouthAfrica blog trip and INDABA events was unprecedented. The campaign was mentioned by the likes of the South African Minister of Tourism and the CEO of South Africa Tourism during the opening ceremony of INDABA, and #MeetSouthAfrica was discussed several days later in the South African Parliament.

The bloggers were featured during the official opening of INDABA 2013.

The bloggers were featured during the official opening of INDABA 2013.

The iambassador bloggers were also interviewed by various television and radio stations, and were featured prominently in publications and press releases. During these interviews, the bloggers were asked about their impressions of South Africa, their thoughts on the campaign as well as their insights on blogging and social media.

Melvin Boecher being interviewed by SABC at the foot of the Drakensberg.

Melvin Boecher being interviewed by a SABC tv crew at the foot of the Drakensberg.

Follow the #MeetSouthAfrica stories as they unfold on the blogs and social media channels in the coming months.

The 15 #MeetSouthAfrica travel bloggers are:

iambassador is proud to be a part of this historic campaign and hopes to remain involved with the promotion of both domestic and international tourism in South Africa and be able to bring more bloggers from all over the world in the future to discover the beauty and magic of this amazing country.

A big thank you goes to South Africa Tourism, INDABA, Cape Town Tourism, the #MeetSouthAfrica bloggers, Simon Lewis (Travel Concept Solutions) and Shaheed Ebrahim (Escape to the Cape), all sponsors and South Africans for making this blogger campaign a great success!

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