[Column] Bob Koigi: To remain globally competitive, Africa tourism must fully train eyes on tech
Seven out of every ten holiday bookings globally are done online in what points to the unrivaled space of tech in modern day tourism.
Each year online tourism contributes some $ 2000 billion in global revenue with numerous businesses in the hospitality industry investing in modern tech infrastructure to reap from this boom.
Yet Africa’s share of the global e tourism is still negligible thanks in part to over reliance on traditional forms of marketing and sales even as studies show that over 80 percent of customers across the globe visit the internet to identify travel destinations.
Africa’s obsession with traditional channels of marketing such as travel agents has been its Achilles heels due to long bureaucratic procedures between inquiry and the actual holidaying.
The argument that moving tourism entirely online, in terms of online marketing and sales, is defeatist and simplistic. In the era of tech every sector must evolve if it still wants to remain relevant.
Even with the explosion of the internet in the continent, buoyed by a large scale investment in modern infrastructure, including the fibre optic cable harmonization of online transactions, from hotel bookings, travel and access to services, is still lacking and travelers are usually forced to have a representative on the group to make follow ups.
This has mostly disincentivized many a tourists who just want to make a booking at the comfort of their gadgets. The onus is therefore on the hospitality industry players to push the envelope further in making ICT work for tourism, one of the greatest foreign exchange earners for most African countries.
Indeed tourism can reap the many dividends that other vital economic sectors in Africa have, like agriculture and banking.
It is however encouraging to note that a growing number of vanguard techpreneurs have identified this gap and are driving the new ICT renaissance in the industry. The idea has been creating an electronic marketplace with elaborate internet interfaces that enable communication with clientele and partners to enable direct sales.
Customers can remotely view destinations, make informed choices, book online, make payments online, visit the destinations and get value for their money. For starters this saves time, energy and cultivates trust without both parties meeting.
This also ultimately offers the tourism industry in the continent opportunities to provide wider, deeper and more customised offerings than before to a pool of clients, by achieving active relationships at affordable cost, and without substantially altering the quality of information delivered
Indeed there can be a synergy between traditional marketing strategies and ICT in driving tourism, but businesses must realize that creating a seamless interaction in the entire tourism chain is the only surebet to reaping the full dividends of the 21st sector.
As the world becomes globalized with technology being at the driver’s seat of this revolution, African hospitality sector must reinvent itself if it intends to be counted in the global market.
To quote a report from the African Journal of Hospitality, Tourism and Leisure, “ICT technologies dominate the global business world, the times of relying on managing businesses seating behind the desk have reached a dead end. Thus appreciating ICT as management tool for small tourism businesses is highly practiced in developed economies. Similarly in the context of African economies ICT must be embraced as a mechanism of managing tourism business.”
Multiple award winning Kenyan journalist Bob Koigi is the Chief Editor of East Africa at Africa Business Communities