Editorial

ID #5356

The Problem with Google.

Google is a wonderful tool if used correctly. However it has its limitations, as illustrated by the following example.

Suppose you live in San Francisco and find the idea of a trip to Southern Africa intriguing but know little or nothing about the place. So you search Google using the keywords accommodation South Africa and get X million hits. You browse through the first 10 hits, which leads you to a hotel which advertises that it has 39 bedrooms, all of which have en-suite bathrooms, underfloor heating, 24-hour room service, an indoor swimming pool and an online booking service. You browse through the pictures which are stunningly beautiful. Are you sufficiently interested that you immediately make a booking? Clearly it is of little interest. Why not? Because what you are looking at is data -- it may as well be an advertisement for accommodation on the dark side of the moon for all you care.

Suppose instead that you are familiar with a town called Hermanus and are searching for accommodation. You search using the keywords Hermanus and accommodation and up pops the abovementioned hotel. In this instance it is of significant interest. Why? The reason is that you know what you are looking for. You know by some way -- e.g. word of mouth or personal experience -- that Hermanus is one of the best land-based whale-watching sites in the world, which is why you are interested.

In other words, Google is useful if you know what you are looking for. However, its usefulness is limited, particularly insofar as international tourists are concerned, because much travel involves going to new and exciting rather than familiar places. This leads to the following problem:

  • On the one hand, there are literally millions of tourists sold on the idea of a trip to Africa who never arrive because it is unfamiliar and hence risky to them. Word of mouth doesn't work because they do not know anyone who has been to Africa. Neither does searching the internet for the reasons mentioned above. In other words, their only alternative is to approach travel agents and pay far more than would otherwise be the case. So they never arrive because it is too expensive.


  • On the other hand, there are many places in Southern Africa that have something unique, interesting or exciting to offer at an affordable price. But they have no way of contacting or communicating with tourists print media, brochures, word-of-mouth and websites do not work because such attempts are either too expensive or have a limited chance of reaching their target audience (or both).

How to solve this problem? One way is to create a tourism portal i.e. a virtual marketplace -- to facilitate direct communication between potential tourists and service providers, thus eliminating middle men who add little value. This is the thinking behind Quo Vadis the creation of a portal that enables browsers to learn about the magic, excitement and drama of Africa, encouraging them to visit and experience it for themselves. Whether or not Quo Vadis is successful will depend on its ability to do just that. So what you are looking at is a work in progress. If you have ideas on how I might better achieve this objective please let me know.

Alan McIver

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Last update: 2014-03-10 11:27
Author: Alan McIver
Revision: 1.24

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