Technology Development in African Tourism Sector

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The limited use of technology by the tourism sector within Africa presents various business technology opportunities for tourism in Africa.  Investing in technology innovations is said to be the solution that will take the African tourism industry to world-class tourism. Experts say that in order to fully exploit Africa’s tourism potential, it is opportune to invest in modern technologies that are used in tourism and hospitality sectors such as the Internet, reservations systems, specific software, mobile communications and security systems.

In 2011 David Rowan, an editor of Wired Magazine wrote an article titled “Want to become an Internet billionaire? Move to Africa”. He was advising his U.K readers about the great opportunities of technology development on the African continent.  Fortunately, these opportunities are still available today and the African tourism sector hasn’t yet reaped the benefits of technology.  

 The status quo of the usage of technology in Africa by most tourist attractions is only seen in static websites which are websites that only serve or capture information but do not allow engagement with the audience directly.  Well-developed tourist attractions in Africa allow clients to book, make reservations online and conduct relevant customer services online. However, there are not enough interactive websites that have that capacity when compared to under developed tourist attractions, specifically since the tourism sector in Africa is dominated largely by these very same tourist destinations. This presents an inconvenience to international customers who want to and are used to doing everything online and within reach of with their fingertips.    

Most developed countries do not offer the beauty of nature that Africa has but the international tourist industry fully exploits modern technology to maximize and tap into global markets. A perfect example of innovative technology usage in tourism and hospitality sector is the Mondrian Hotel in New York City’s Soho neighbourhood which provides each of its 270 rooms with an iPad specifically for guests to use as a means to order food, plan their travels and coordinate transportation and whatever else. The “Roadside America” app helps travellers uncover hidden gems and roadside attractions during their road trips” according to their website https://www.morganshotelgroup.com 

 Speaking at INVESTOUR 2015 in Madrid, Spain, where 16 ministers of tourism from Africa and The Middle East gathered, the Secretary-General of The World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) Taleb Rifai said: “In order to fulfill Africa’s tourism potential, key challenges such as infrastructure development, travel facilitation and the full usage of modern technologies to maximize marketing and services need to be addressed. INVESTOUR facilitates fruitful partnerships that helps transform these challenges into opportunities for a brighter future in Africa and a more inclusive growth for all”.

The low usage of technology in the African tourism industry can no longer be blamed on technology illiteracy in Africa. According to World Internet Stats, Africa has the population of over 1.1 billion. The number of Internet users for 2014 in Africa is 297 million. This extensive Internet usage in Africa requires more innovative ways to use technology to advance the tourism industry in Africa.  The African tourism industry need to realize this potential and invest in technology since it will be a definite game changer for it on the African continent.    

For instance, the South African government is helping to increase the Internet usage by introducing free Wi-Fi to poor communities. The primary objective of the initiative is to improve the standard of living in these targeted areas. This is another reason why investing in technology by tourism industry is essential. Tourist attractions operating in remote areas can increase their productivity through technology such as free Wi-Fi and with the support from their respective governments, the sky is the limit. 

Mobile communications is the second unexploited technology opportunity by tourism sectors in Africa. Many travellers take some form of mobile communication device with them on the road, whether it is a tablet, computer or a mobile phone. You can keep customers advised of travel changes and updates. Many tourism and hospitality businesses use mobile communication to offer deals and sponsor location-based advertising.

Mobile communications is the second unexploited technology opportunity by tourism sectors in Africa. Many travellers take some form of mobile communication device with them on the road, whether it is a tablet, computer or a mobile phone. You can keep customers advised of travel changes and updates. Many tourism and hospitality businesses use mobile communication to offer deals and sponsor location-based advertising.

“In order to fulfill Africa’s tourism potential, key challenges such as infrastructure development, travel facilitation and the full usage of modern technologies to maximize marketing and services need to be addressed. INVESTOUR facilitates fruitful partnerships that helps transform these challenges into opportunities for a brighter future in Africa and a more inclusive growth for all”

Here are just some technology opportunities needed by African tourism sectors. They are essential and should be innovative and have proved themselves in tourism industries of developed countries.

Firstly the Internet: Most tourist attractions only have a static website that shows basic information of the business. These websites do not allow interactivity with their visitors and do not add much value towards interaction of potential customers and specific tourist attractions. If these websites were to be used for blogging, online advertising, social media campaigns, online ordering, ecommerce and information storage, the economic growth for these tourist attractions will almost be guaranteed and inevitable. 

  Mobile communications is the second unexploited technology opportunity by tourism sectors in Africa. Talking about the usage of this innovative way to conduct business by developed tourism industries in the world, Elizabeth Smith from Demand Media said: ” Many travellers take some form of mobile communication device with them on the road, whether it is a tablet, computer or a mobile phone. You can keep customers advised of travel changes and updates. Many tourism and hospitality businesses use mobile communication to offer deals and sponsor location-based advertising”

Thirdly: Reservation Systems. These systems are booking engines that make it convenient for customers and travel professionals to make reservations and to compare prices. The African tourism sector mostly lack the usage of such engines. They do not allow customers to be in control of their purchasing process. They operate in the old way of booking and it is inconveniencing customers.

Security Technology: According to Collins Dictionary, security technology is “the use of the mechanical arts (e.g. barriers) and applied sciences (e.g. electrical/electronic engineering, etc) to provide or enhance the security of people, property and information”. If the tourism sector in Africa can introduce new technologies within its operations, then it ought to find ways to protect itself from hacking, white-collar crime and other devious computer criminals.  

These are just some of the technological opportunities emanating out of the tourism and hospitality sectors in Africa and investors and tech savvy-entrepreneurs should grab this opportunity with both hands to help improve the tourism sector in Africa. The potential for technology growth in Africa has surpassed expectations and it will continue to do so for the future – so all you Bill Gates’ of the world – Africa is waiting….

This article was written by MKHUSELI VANGILE

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