The travel and tourism industry is steadily recovering, albeit with a degree of concern as we approach next month’s general election.
The industry has fared quite well over the past decade under challenging circumstances, with punctual setbacks related to security issues or perceptions of them related to election campaigns, terrorist attacks and the constant terror-related travel warnings. It was a stop-start affair that really tested a tired but remarkably resilient industry.
The priority for most global destinations is to regain and restore confidence in key source markets. The Ministry of Tourism recently launched the new Kenya Tourism Strategy 2021/2025 in May 2022 in response to recent challenges in the global market.
Despite its rich and attractive natural and cultural resources, sub-Saharan Africa’s travel and tourism metrics currently do not compare well to the rest of the world.
This could be attributed to the fact that tourism in Africa is still at an early stage of development. The continent still grapples with longstanding development challenges.
These primarily include infrastructure, flight connectivity and security. On a positive note, sub-Saharan Africa continues to outperform the global average in international tourism arrivals and revenue. Sub-Saharan Africa is the second fastest growing tourism region in the world with 5.6 percent growth in 2018 after Asia-Pacific and a global average growth rate of 3.9 percent.
In 2018, the continent recorded 67 million international tourist arrivals (+7 per cent increase), compared to 63 million in 2017. This may partly explain why Kenya broke the two million international visitor arrivals mark recorded in tourism for the first time Sector performance report from 2019, just before the outbreak of Covid-19.
Unlike the financial sector, the travel and tourism sector has not yet fully benefited from digital technology.
The phenomenal success on the frontline of mobile money services is a strong indicator that travel and tourism alike have an excellent opportunity to repeat the same success story by adopting mobile commerce to enable seamless access to tourism products.
The distribution channels in the travel industry have hardly changed for a long time. These channels have worked well in the past but are now ineffective in a highly competitive global industry that is in recovery mode and is constantly evolving and introducing new technologies.
Digital platforms allow businesses to track the metrics and analyze the data generated by digital marketing. These data-driven insights help businesses better understand their customers and recommend better buying options.
Effective and fast ICT infrastructures and software applications are crucial for the development and transformation of this sector through mobile commerce.
Improved connectivity and cell phone usage are making tourist destinations’ sights more accessible. This allows companies to strengthen their market presence
make their products available online 24/7, and brands can sell services and products to customers 24/7 from anywhere, anytime. The mobile phone has become indispensable for a variety of everyday transactions in the country.
Intense competition in the mobile phone market has led manufacturers to lower prices in order to increase sales and make this device affordable to more Kenyans. The sector statistics report of Communications Authority of Kenya for the first quarter of fiscal year 2021/2022 shows that the number of mobile phones accessing mobile networks stood at 59.0 million in September 2021, of which 33.0 million were feature phones and 26, 0 million smartphones.
According to Datareportal, there were 23.35 million internet users in Kenya as of January 2022, and the current internet penetration rate was 42.0 percent of the total population in early 2022. This shows the extent of the possibilities on digital platforms for travel agents.
And with 97 percent of all netizens in Kenya accessing the internet through mobile phones, it is evident that mobile penetration in the country is poised for the adoption of mobile commerce in the travel and tourism sector.
The success of mobile money platforms has created an impressive digital culture, an established foundation to tap into. Kenya’s leading source markets are from the west. Tourists from these destinations are already familiar with online booking and other digital platforms.
They would therefore greatly welcome digital solutions that enable deeper authentic experiences in Kenya. This also applies to local travel enthusiasts who are similarly confronted with digital platforms.
This means we have the opportunity to develop and launch new digital platforms and integrated omni-channel experiences that offer all destination travelers from the national, regional and international market segments comprehensive digital access to the full depth and variety of local travel experiences.
Ready-made vacation packages may no longer have the allure and appeal of yesteryear for a rising generation of relatively young, hyper-connected, tech-savvy travelers aged around 24-40.
This segment of travelers is more likely to seek travel inspiration through mobile devices including: smartphones, tablets, iPads, desktop computers, social media and internet-based technologies.
The tourism industry of the future will be technology-driven. Embedding a digital culture will inevitably support innovation in the industry. This will allow travel suppliers to acquire skills to anticipate customer behavior, adapt to their needs and subsequently attract more bookings, which will create jobs and increase income in the industry.
It now seems imperative that the local travel industry incorporates more technology into their business models to remain competitive in both the domestic and international markets. This will increase the competitiveness and sustainability of the Magical Kenya brand.
The relevant ministries and respective agencies should therefore maintain close cooperation for the strategic uptake of ICT in partnership with the travel industry in order to maximize the potential of this sector.
Author: Joseph Sanna
E-mail: [email protected] (This is a .co not .com) email address
Director: Wasafiri Destinations and Travel Advisor