This is a report on the efforts game lodges are making to expand their online presence. Before I get into it though, I’d like to look into why it’s so important for lodges to be doing their own (or outsourcing) online marketing and what has led to more lodges trying to attract guests directly.
The game lodge industry in Africa is extremely competitive. From luxury lodges to the smaller, state owned establishments, you can literally find thousands of game lodges scattered around the wilderness areas of Southern Africa.
This is a wonderful thing for tourists of course, they get to see the incredible wildlife which Africa is so well known for, however, for game lodges to market themselves effectively, this can pose a challenge.
In the days before the internet, and even up to a couple of years ago, game lodges relied on the multitude of tour operators and travel sites to sell their offerings to different audiences around the world, looking for a safari experience.
The playing fields have however changed since the economic crisis – budgets are getting smaller (for the tourist and the lodges) which has led to establishments doing more of their own marketing, especially online.
What do I mean by online marketing?
Online marketing is the broad term used to refer to what you are doing online, in order to sell yourself. This will include:
- Your website (design, branding & development)
- Social profiles (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, etc)
- Online advertising
- Online PR
- Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
- Reputation Management (TripAdvisor)
These elements need to work together communicating exactly what you offer, in a credible way. Credibility is of course quite important online, especially for high-price items and services, because people want to know that what they see on your site, they are going to get in real life.
This is one of the reasons why a website without social media will struggle online. As much as what social media may have seemed like a fad just 5 years ago, in the game lodge industry, it’s a non-negotiable if you’re wanting to get more direct bookings.
Potential guests want to see the experience they can expect to have, before they part with their hard-earned cash. A website alone can only communicate so much – it’s only with the help of a blog and active social profiles, that you’ll really be able to capture what it is that makes you special.
Below are the results of the research I did on a few of the top South African game lodges, highlighting those that are clearly doing well. I scored them based on their backlinks (the most important thing in SEO) and their social following.
|Backlinks||Facebook Fans||Twitter Followers||Score|
|Singita||15 800||51 424||13 900||81 124|
|Sabi Sabi||12 000||29 531||12 300||53 831|
|Londolozi||4 400||29 738||11 600||45 738|
|Tintswalo||929||4 491||4 177||9 597|
|Kapama||370||26 512||3 270||30 152|
|Timbavati||26||2 344||0||2 370|
|Kings Camp||249||3 760||26 562||30 571|
|Nambiti Private Game Reserve||185||4 814||26 800||31 799|
|Leopard Mountain||270||22 249||554||23 073|
|Thula Thula||725||29 512||1 528||31 765|
|Amakhala||820||9 586||1 410||11 816|
|Kariega||4 100||18 601||4 160||26 861|
|Shamwari||8 600||23 631||9 886||42 117|
|Kwandwe||501||5 497||1 348||7 346|
From the results you can see that Singita is way ahead with a score of over 81 000. Their backlink profile is prolific and the number of fans on their fan page is simply staggering! They have done an excellent job at building their brand online, although this is expected from a group of lodges with their level of exclusivity and no doubt a pretty active network around the world as well as a very large budget.
Sabi Sabi is doing a great job on their SEO. Their backlink profile is vast thanks to over 1500 pages on their website! This is no mean feat – it takes a lot of effort to create this many pages of content for a website. This does however include their sites in different languages, but nevertheless – it is clear why Sabi Sabi is in the top 3.
Londolozi is next up. This reserve been operational for many years so they have time and branding on their side. Londolozi actually has an on-site media unit, which captures the most exquisite images and video which they populate their social profiles with.
In my opinion, they are the benchmark to work towards because they do such a great job at crafting compelling stories around their animals, which gives past guests a reason to not only stay in touch, but to also engage with them online on their various platforms.
For the rest of the game lodges I’ve listed, you can clearly see that some effort is being put into getting social profiles up and running. With so much raw material to work with, and such an easy way to publish it, social profiles are a great way to engage with past guests and gain credibility around your offering.
Where to from here?
Making sure that you are not only found online, but that you are also engaging with your target market, will help you be found online. If you’d like to see similar reports done for other Southern African game lodges, then let me know. Get in touch if you feel like you need a hand in doing this!