Developer Brandon Wilson has released his Awesome South Africa mobile app, which offers vendors and merchants in the tourism industry a platform on which to promote products, services and establishments to tourists.
Awesome South Africa is available on Google Play and Apple’s App Store for free download, and is endorsed by Tourism South Africa. The app gives vendors a choice to list in one of 15 main categories, providing users with a free, detailed guide to South Africa’s tourism services.
Searches are location-based and specific, making it ideal for easily identifying resources and services in the near vicinity. Awesome South Africa is designed with both foreigners and locals in mind, allowing users to locate and book accommodation, rentals, restaurants and leisure activities while also providing a currency converter and list of embassies.
Wilson told Disrupt Africa he was initially inspired to build the app by South Africa hosting the World Cup in 2010.
“I wanted to develop an application that would help SMEs connect to the throngs of tourists descending on the country and looking for places to eat and sleep as well as things to do and see. I approached various tourist boards with the idea and was not greeted with much enthusiasm,” he said.
However, he said during the long development process he became more convinced of the opportunity for SMEs to connect with their target market via mobile.
“The mobile industry was exploding and apps were becoming more mainstream as an everyday tool. Simultaneously, the SME market was growing but one of the biggest challenges faced by small business is the exorbitant cost of advertising and marketing,” Wilson said.
“I believed this app was the answer to connecting demand and supply cost effectively and conveniently.”
Awesome South Africa is self-funded, with Wilson relying on personal bank loans and overdrafts to finance the project, as well as briefly returning to paid employment while completing the project.
“Self-funding has its limitations. To facilitate the growth and expansion, we’ve identified the need for a telemarketing call centre to more effectively reach out to vendors nationally and are currently exploring investor options,” he said.
While Awesome South Africa will not charge commission on any bookings, and vendors are allowed to list for free, they do have the option to subscribe for an annual fee of less than US$200 to an advertising portal that allows them to advertise their latest specials, promotions, news and events in real time.