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Travel industry missing the esport boat

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There are 20,300 seats at the Accorhotels Arena in Paris. Come Sunday this week, they’ll be filled with thousands of esports fans, many of whom will have travelled vast distances around the world and paid between 40-80 euros just for an entry ticket to the final of this year’s League of Legends tournament.

With South Africa quickly onboarding the global esports trend, just last week – Red Bull hosted the first national finals for Street Fighter in SA which welcomed a wave of professional gamers to SA’s shores. In fact data from esportsearnings.com that tracks international esports revealed that FIFA and Counter Strike earned SA’s top 10 esport stars a whopping R2.6 million.

And when it comes to the commercial impact emerging from this and other multi-million-dollar esports opportunities, everyone seems to be getting in on the act—everyone, that is, except the travel industry.

The meteoric rise of esports has thrust the industry into the news and broadcast agendas of the world’s biggest media outlets. International competitions have been broadcast globally by the likes of ESPN and NBC, and have sold-out some of the world’s most recognizable arenas—think Madison Square Gardens.

Dedicated arenas are springing up in cities all over the globe, as investors attempt to maintain pace with demand from travelling fans for a front row piece of the action when the world’s gaming elite go head-to-head. Marvel Entertainment and Disney have signed eye-watering commercial deals and Intel have also partnered with Tokyo 2020 to run two major tournaments alongside next year’s Olympic Games.

Yet, while our analysts identified a 20 percent spike in solo travelers making weekend bookings to Seoul and Busan ahead of the 2018 League of Legends World Championship—arguably one of the biggest live tournaments on the planet—few, if any, travel businesses are proactively targeting these travelers.

The stats painted a similar picture in Vancouver in 2018, where we witnessed a 40 percent rise among solo, weekend and group travelers before and during The International, a major esports event organized by the creators of DOTA 2. And with prizes reaching into the millions of dollars, interest shows no sign of abating as the 2019 League of Legends Championship races towards its dramatic finale on 10 November.

How big is the video gaming opportunity?

The reason why travel brands aren’t engaging esports travelers isn’t exactly clear but is likely to revolve around perceptions of video gaming as an armchair activity watched from living rooms and basements.

Many esports enthusiasts are also committed gamers and are notoriously resistant to advertising as we know it—and they’re incredibly territorial about the games they are prepared to play and watch. Market research company Newzoo estimates that 70 percent of esports gamers are only interested in watching one game, while their research revealed how 42 percent of viewers don’t play the games they watch.

However, millions more watch esports casually and don’t necessarily share the same characteristics as the gamer audience, making personalization even more critical for those looking to build a connection.

Those who do venture into the world of spectator esports can expect to find huge opportunities and, for the moment, very little competition. In a recent Global Entertainment & Media Outlook, PwC suggested the revenue generated by the video games market will pass US$30 billion within the US alone by 2023.

That’s over six times the revenue of China’s largest online travel agency, Ctrip, and it doesn’t stop there either. The management consultant’s five-year forecast for esports specifically, includes annual growth forecasts of more than 18.3 percent, making it by far the fastest growing segment in gaming globally.

Understanding what esports travelers want

Like all personalization efforts, securing bookings from esports travelers requires knowledge of what motivates enthusiasts and passive audiences to travel to an event, as well as where they can be found.

Platforms like Amazon’s Twitch have become more popular than mainstream broadcasters like ESPN and NBC among those choosing to watch online, with global audiences are set to swell by an additional 200 million by 2020. Can these audiences be enticed into arrivals?

In the search for answers to this question, travel brands can learn a lot from the way the video gaming industry has developed into the best example of personalization in the world, through the use of ideas like customizable characters or countless features that can be purchased in-game, among other things.

When combined with data from 14 billion monthly shopping searches processed by Travelport systems, insights like these are likely to be especially useful for online travel agencies who despite collecting more data than ever before, have traditionally found creating a tailored experience far easier said than done.

According to Skift and Adobe’s 2018 Digital Transformation Report only 36% of travel executives rated their personalization efforts as four or five on a scale of one to five. Our own research, is helping to turn this tide by providing our partners business intelligence generated by over US$89 billion worth of annual travel spend and helping them turn this into an actionable basis for their strategic investment decisions.

In the case of esports, this means building out engagement plans that reflect the lengths that traveling fans will go for the experience of being at a live event and lead times that can range from 7 to 30 days, depending on the likelihood of a team’s success and the results of qualification and knock-out stages.

This approach is central to creating any uniquely memorable travel experience and will only grow in importance as we transition to a customer-centric world packed full of new motivations to travel.

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TikTok takes on COVID-19

The fastest growing social media platform in the world has also become an epicenter of public education about the coronavirus, attracting more than 30-billion views, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK

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The young have been getting a bad rap for wanting to party on while COVID-19 sends the world into lockdown. But a different movie is playing itself out on the social platform that is growing fastest among teenagers: TikTok.

Awareness campaigns by TikTok itself, collaboration with the International Red Cross, and spontaneous videos made by TikTok creators have combined into a barrage of information, education, awareness and social consciousness around the coronavirus.

Both globally and in South Africa, TikTok’s COVID-19 campaigns have gone viral.

The local #HayiCorona challenge, designed to remind people not to touch their face and wash hands regularly, has passed 1.5-million views. The TikTok collaboration with the International Red Cross, the #WashingHands challenge, has passed 12.6-million views.

One of the best-known participants in these challenges is the past year’s icon of South African talent, the Ndlovu Youth Choir, took up the global challenge with a 20-second hand-washing video. It put together a performance that brings tremendous energy to what can be a clichéd message, and ends with a punt for the Department of Health’s WhatsApp information service. The video can be viewed below.

@ndlovuyouthchoir

Our community has limited access to running water. Follow these instructions on how to safely wash your hands using a bucket. ##coronavirus##washinghands

♬ original sound – ndlovuyouthchoir

“On a global scale, TikTok also partnered with the World Health Organization (WHO) to ensure that, while creators are still having fun and expressing themselves on the platform, they stay informed with COVID-19 information coming from a reliable source,” a TikTok spokesperson told us. “Through the partnership, the WHO has created an informational page on TikTok that offers information to curb the spread of the coronavirus as well as dispelling myths.”

The page can be viewed at https://vm.tiktok.com/GHTEGf

TikTok has hosted a number of livestreams with WHO experts, attracting users from more than 70 countries, tuning in for live question and answer sessions. It has also introduced labels on coronavirus-related videos, to point users to trusted information. Resources are also offered directly in the app and in a dedicated COVID-19 section of TikTok’s Safety Center, at https://www.tiktok.com/safety/resources/covid-19.

If users simply want to explore videos on the topic, they can search via the #coronavirus hashtag, or click on https://vm.tiktok.com/swKbn4. The hashtag has had an astonishing 33.8-billion views, indicating the scale of activity and interest around the topic on the platform.

Read more on the next page about how South Africans have embraced the campaign.

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On World Backup Day: backup, backup, backup

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It was World Backup Day yesterday, 31 March, at a time when business continuity is threatened as never before. That makes calls for protecting email and defending against ransomware all the more urgent.

The global coronavirus pandemic has brought into stark relief many organisations’ lack of business continuity plans and policies. With more than two billion people around the globe in forced lockdown in wide-ranging government efforts to stem the tide of infections, an unprecedented number of employees are working remotely.

This interruption to the normal way of work is precisely what an effective and resilient business continuity strategy should plan for, says Heino Gevers, cybersecurity specialist at Mimecast

“Companies need uninterrupted access to critical business applications during times of disruption, including safe and secure web and email access for workers that are now operating outside the normal perimeters of the organisation,” he says. “In addition, comprehensive backup and archiving solutions should be ready to restore access to critical business applications should there be any unplanned downtime to ensure continuity until the crisis passes.”

According to Gevers, the current global crisis is likely to push business continuity up the list of priorities for many organisations that have been disrupted by the effects of the coronavirus.

“Organisations are facing new challenges to their productivity; for example in terms of technical support. If a remote user is infected with malware or ransomware, how does the IT team restore that device or do any remediation without being able to physically access it?”

Gevers advises that organisations implement tools that enhances the data protection capabilities of commonly-used tools such as Office365 and can leverage archived data to provide quick recovery of email data in the event of accidental loss, malicious attacks or technical failure. 

“As adoption of cloud-based business applications grow in the wake of forced lockdowns around the globe, companies need to ensure they have the tools to recover in any situation,” he says. “This includes a data management strategy that combines archiving, backup and data protection capabilities to allow for quick restoration of critical systems and applications in the event of disruption.”

Jasmit Sagoo, head of technology at Veritas for the United Kingdom and Ireland, warns that this is a golden age for cybercriminals looking for ransomware opportunities.

“As the global cost of ransomware continues to grow, this World Backup Day, Veritas is saying: ‘don’t pay up, back up!’,” he says. “Ransomware is said to generate an estimated annual revenue of $1 billion a year, and companies who are not consistent in backing up their data are allowing criminals to line their pockets.

“Ransomware attacks exist only because some businesses can’t survive unless the hackers give them back their data.  So, the key to survival is removing that reliance and being able to regain access to data, without engaging with the cybercriminals.  The best way to do that is with a sound backup strategy.

“Sagoo advises organisations to create isolated, offline backup copies of their data to keep it out of reach of any attackers.  They then need to proactively monitor and restrict backup credentials, while running backups frequently to shrink the risk of potential data loss. Businesses should also test and retest their ransomware defences regularly.

“Ransomware strikes without warning and it doesn’t discriminate between its targets – it can happen to any organisation, large or small. Despite their best efforts, most companies will fall to at least one attack. What distinguishes one victim from another is the ability to bounce back, which ultimately depends on its backup strategy.

“When ransomware hits, organisations that aren’t prepared often feel helpless to do anything other than to submit to their attacker’s demands.   That’s why we’re urging all businesses to use World Backup Day as a catalyst to get ahead of the situation and get their data protected.”

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