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Nicholas Hall

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Nick is a living breathing product of 21st century travel, always in a different country and always connected he has decided to share his worldly escapades and encounters on tumblr with an eager eye for digital innovation in travel.

Today’s post comes at the tail end of a short trip to Cape Town during which I discovered how to enjoy life and scratch a little beneath the surface of a destination, despite having minimal time to do so.

When I came up with the idea to create the Digital Tourism Think Tank back in 2012, I did so out of a passion for digital and a desire to create a community around digital and like minded destinations without the politics which so often comes with it. I wanted to turn my passion for destinations and digital, the talent of my team of graduate recruits and the enthusiasm of the destinations who responded so positively to our entry onto the scene, into a powerful movement for people to get behind, one built upon something that people do actually care about.

For me the the passion for what I loved came before a clear business model. People would often ask, “but how do you make money?” To which I would simply answer, “we do”, meaning ‘we make it work’. A few years on and that same passion still fuels what we do, in fact we now do so much more, from workshops with entire industry gatherings to experimental innovations such as live online events and walkshops. I’m fortunate to have a talented team behind me and the unfaltering support of destinations worldwide, for which I am always grateful.

What motivates me more than anything however, is the buzz of finishing a talk and walking out of an all day workshop and seeing just how motivated we’ve made people. Last year at #DTIC2014 in Barcelona it suddenly dawned on me just how much of a difference our work makes, when many destinations presented their post-event team workshops and the creative ideas that stem out of it. This appreciation is what keeps us going and while today the business model of what we do has started to take form, it’s not what drives it but simply what enables us to go on and do even more. Believe me, we still have a long way to go!

So thinking about the journey that we’ve been on and the experiences of my short stop in Cape Town this week, I wanted to touch on the importance of 'being the authority’ in whatever you do. When we first started out, my message to the team was always “we aim to be the authority on destinations and digital” and on reflection, I think we’ve done a pretty good job at that.

So what is authority all about? For me, it’s about having the ultimate knowledge and relationships in a specific area or 'owning’ that space, if you like. Anybody can find their niche and own it but it has to come out of a deep rooted passion and a will to turn that into something. Apple famously did a lifestyle campaign video around 'find your verse’, showcasing the work of talented creatives and inviting the Apple community to carve their own out of the tools they have. And this is an important message.

In tourism, being the authority is so important. It is what makes a destination, business or experience stand out. It is something that every business should aim to become. Whatever passion lies behind their business, it should be asserted as their signature on the business. Today in Cape Town I discovered just this when I met up with one of the owners of Coffeebean Routes, a local tour business so deeply rooted in the local communities of Cape Town that you can’t help but be inspired. They are passionate about taking visitors to engage with local communities, experience everything from the local arts and music to discovering the Malay passion for food and even eating in people’s homes. Their most recent vision has been to sell the work of local artists and talents in their boutique on Hope Street, where they invite people on twitter to pop by for an espresso and a chat, so I did. How welcoming!

 

This encounter was the real world South African Etsy if you ask me. In fact, it is AirBnB, Dining with Locals and Etsy combined, yet without the San Fran tech entrepreneurs creaming their percentage out of the country.

And so with this in mind, my discovery of Cape Town’s more authentic edge continued. I discovered Uber Lux, something I could never afford to ride back in London but pleasantly convenient and local over in Cape Town. What started as a time saving measure to see as much a possible in a couple of hours ended up becoming the only way to travel, because you know what? These drivers are fascinating storytellers of their city and this is one hell of a way to see it!

I checked out a brilliant restaurant too, heading over to Beluga’s, this time motivated by my good friend William Price, whom I consider to be the authority on anything food and experience in South Africa. William is a steam of inspiration on Facebook, but this neat little find was on Foursquare where he is also an influencer. It wasn’t a bad find either, in fact probably the best meal I’ve had in three visits to South Africa and distinctively authentic too.

Many businesses struggle to really grasp how to communicate and succeed online, often preoccupied with tools and channels and frustrated by a sense that these are a distraction from 'running the business’. In fact, the truth is that if they just channel the passion that drove them to start a tourism business and find with what they do that signature that makes them unique, then the rest will follow.

Being the authority means being driven by something and making it part of everything you do, from how you run your business to the communities you engage with online and the content you share around what you do.

When you’re passionate about something there will always be a community to share that passions with you.

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