The Department of Tourism and tech giant Google have entered into a new partnership to develop tools and skills for the South African tourism sector to accelerate growth.
Minister of Tourism, Patricia de Lille, and MD of Google South Africa, Dr Alistair Mokoena, signed the MOU during a press conference at Parliament last week.
The partnership will see Google collaborating with the Department of Tourism and South African Tourism on technological skills development for officials and businesses, information sharing, and the promotion of South Africa’s cultural heritage.
“In an era of digital transformation, collaboration between technology giants and government entities has the potential to reshape industries and enhance public services. As stated in the Tourism Sector Green Paper, there is a ‘lack of support mechanisms for the (tourism) sector, particularly SMMEs, to adapt to a digital future and other technological advancements,’” said De Lille, who believes that the quicker South Africa picked up on technology like the use of artificial intelligence in tourism, the better.
Mokoena noted that with each tourist contributing towards the creation of eight jobs, the partnership was focused on using technology to accelerate economic growth.
“We believe that technology, used properly, can be the tide that lifts our boat.”
Tourism's tech partner
Google, which has partnered with 25 emerging countries on tourism programmes globally, will provide the Department with insights into global travel trends to inform strategies for targeting specific markets. It has also committed to launching studies to understand the impact of digital platforms and online content at no cost to the government.
In addition, the MOU outlines a jointly hosted thought leadership seminar, where the results of commissioned research will be revealed alongside a showcase for global best practice in the use of digital platforms.
Tourism businesses that are not online are less discoverable, said Mokoena. Therefore, existing Google skills development programmes such as the Hustle Academy and support initiatives such as the Black Founders Fund and Startup Accelerator would be extended to individuals and businesses in the tourism ecosystem.
He explained that the focus was on ensuring that the digital maturity of the tourism sector was raised in order for the tourism sector to benefit from digital technology by having the right skills and tools in place.
“We want to say, ‘what if every tourism establishment in this country was discoverable on the internet to anyone in the world wanting to visit the beautiful Drakensberg mountains, the beautiful rural villages, our landscape, visit our national parks or come to our beautiful hotels and enjoy our beautiful cuisines?’ We want to ensure that technology helps us do that in the most efficient and effective way.”
Promoting South Africa’s heritage – digitally
The company will provide a digital showcase of some of the country’s unique tourism sites through Google’s Arts and Culture platform.
“This is already being done, however through closer partnership with the Ministry of Tourism, more information will be shared on unique travel sites and hidden gems like South Africa’s townships, villages and dorpies (small towns),” said De Lille.
Google has already partnered with a number of cultural institutions such as Durban’s Phansi Museum and Iziko Museums to provide online exhibits and tours of the country’s rich cultural heritage to people around the world.