Unlocking Africa’s Potential Through Tourism: The Role of Online Travel
The services sector, in particular tourism, is one of the major contributors to Africa’s economy through such functions as providing foreign exchange and employment. It is therefore crucial that governments and the private sector are increasingly working together to grow the sector, that accounts for approximately 7.8% of the African GDP.
“We believe that business opportunities and investment potential within Africa’s tourism sector are significant. It’s a vast market that holds promise for businesses looking for new markets,” said President and CEO of Corporate Council on Africa. Florizelle Liser was addressing the ongoing 41st Annual World Tourism Conference in Kigali, Rwanda on Tuesday.
Sharing the same platform, UNCTAD’s Secretary General Mukhisa Kituyi commended intra-African tourism, saying that due to its non-seasonality, and characterized by conference, medical, education, and business tourism; is one of the fastest growing tourism in the continent, providing more sustainable support to the hotel industry. “Over the past 10 years, intra-African tourism grew from 34% to 44% of the total number of tourists in Africa, with a projected growth of 50% over the next 10 years,” said Kituyi.
The Role of Online Travel
In this light and in today’s globally digital world, tourism related businesses are striving to position themselves on the online map. The travel sector is one that has over the years evolved in its online presence, notably from the mid 1990’s. Today, most travelers for both business and leisure plan their trips, book their hotel stays and flights online.
In a report published earlier this year by Jumia Travel highlighting Ethiopia’s hospitality trends, 30% of travelers search for hotels online and book the same day. Globally, the number of bookings made on the internet stand at 148.3 million while the percentage of same day hotel reservations via smartphone stand at 65%.
Also speaking at the 3-day Kigali conference whose theme is – Unlocking Africa’s Potential Through Tourism – Jumia Travel’s Kenya Country Manager Cyrus Onyiego, noted that “the convenience brought about by the availability and accessibility of services online at the travelers’ comfort, has been a key contributor to this evolution that has made a vivid impression on the travel industry.”
Internet penetration in Ethiopia is still low with less than 5% of the population, but the potential is huge to increase the number of users from the current 11.5 million users. The Ethio telecom project is set to increase wireless telecom coverage from 64% to 90%, while the e-government strategy that was approved in 2011 envisages the implementation of 219 e-services, comprising of 79 informational and 140 transactional services over a five-year period. All efforts by both the government and the private sector, go towards improving the efficiency of online travel in the country.
By enhancing travelers’ options, online travel is changing tourism trends in the region. Thus, adopting unique and seamless models such as online payments will help relevant players including travel agents, hotels, and even government ministries to give tourism consumers personalized experiences, while maintaining strong margins.
Credit: Josephine Wawira