Information and communication technologies inevitably induce a profound change in the strategic dynamics in tourism, opening up new possibilities for African destinations, especially for the less known among them. And while social networks have already acquired the power of benchmark prescribers, competition is now based on the experience of the traveler and the use of big data.
Here is a sector which, in Africa, illustrates well the technological leapfrog. Tourism is an undeniable developmental sector for the continent and, increasingly, the growth vector of this industry depends on information and communication technologies (ICT). According to Euromonitor, 96% of searches for travel and tourism products were carried out on the Internet in 2015, allowing many African tourism operators to gain unprecedented visibility and target expansion.
And while e-tourism is establishing itself as a primary channel for travel and leisure across the world, Africa is already experiencing a marked orientation for m-tourism, passing through the mobile channel. Indeed, on the continent more than elsewhere, tourism and new technologies are inexorably doomed to converge towards digital and connected tourism. A convergence that goes in the direction of the democratization of tourism and travel for Africans, as the democratization of access to ICTs accelerates, but obviously subject to an economic recovery of the large countries hit hard by the oil and commodity crisis. A recovery that would give confidence and resources to the growing African middle class.
“To democratize travel to Africa is to fight against the three obstacles that keep people from traveling. The first obstacle is knowledge: how to know where the hotels are. The second obstacle is the price, obviously: people think that hotels are expensive, because they most often think of 4 or 5 stars in the city center, whereas on our online offer, we have a lot of of 1, 2 and 3 stars of good quality and at an affordable price. Finally, the third obstacle is the risk: for example, the risk of not finding a free room during a late arrival at a destination ”, explains Paul Midy, CEO of JumiaTravel, on the occasion of the publication of the “Hospitality Report Africa” report, jointly with AccorHotels.
From the point of view of the traveler, therefore, e-tourism services provide a more comprehensive as well as a more precise vision of the choices of destinations and tourist products.
The method of payment, the keystone
In Africa, the other main limitation to the development of tourism, especially intracontinental, relates to the method of payment. There, the convergence of digital, mobile and finance holds a nodal place in the development of the activity. “One of the major challenges for tourism on the continent is finding the best means of payment for African travelers, when less than 10% of them have a bank card. We absolutely have to find a solution to this and offer new payment methods, especially via mobile, “said Souleymane Khol, VP sales, marketing distribution and revenue management for Africa and the Indian Ocean at AccorHotels.
In this regard, e-tourism and m-tourism offer solutions particularly suited to the constraints of the continent. Indeed, one of the primary advantages of the digitization of the tourism industry is the possibility of adaptation and extensive personalization of offers, from one country to another and from one destination to another. A Kenyan tourist will thus be able to pay for his stay by m-payment, while other travelers will have the option of paying in cash, in the absence of electronic payment means.
More and more often, tourists are turning to tourist information sites and especially sites that allow reservations for accommodation or transport services. Thus, tourists have high expectations of website services: ease of use; utility; informational content; Security ; speed of use; and personalization.
From the point of view of operators in Africa, e-tourism offers an important source of prospecting, targeting and, above all, productivity gain. In particular, allowing direct contact with potential travelers, by minimizing the intervention of intermediaries, operators can offer reduced prices, while optimizing their costs. Better still, the gigantic amount of information collected online on “touristonauts” allows the designers of tourism offers to go further in the optimization and targeting of travelers, once they manage to take advantage of the data. tourism now included in the field of Big data.
Indeed, demographic or lifestyle information is essential in shaping the profiles of the clients to target. On the other hand, if the choice of a holiday destination was considered to be a decision of the heads of households, recent research has revealed the increasingly important role of children in this decision-making process relating to the choice of destination and travel category. Thus, managers of tourist destinations that target young audiences have the opportunity to offer, using online means, content as appropriate as possible to attract this audience.
From product to experience
Beyond the operators’ own sites and applications, social networks are widely used for communications and collaborations between people and between organizations. More recently, some identified technologies will have a significant impact on the future tourism industry, especially in Africa. These technologies primarily offer interconnection and software innovations that allow tourism businesses to communicate directly and in real time with partners and customers.
Communications via networks thus make it possible to interact in a sustainable manner in terms of time and cost, which on the one hand reassures the traveler and on the other hand, encourages the act of travel by removing a major obstacle.
Also, the digital medium makes it possible to give an idea of the tourist experience, beyond the simple travel product. In tourism promotion, an image will always have more impact than a long descriptive text. Using 3D animation or video clips, interaction and enrichment of tourist information can be carried out and thus can lead to the creation and transmission of the image to the destination, and from the destination to experience. All this with relatively accessible means, especially if we compare these techniques with the production and broadcasting of a television commercial, for example.
Virtual tours have been adopted by online businesses to attract customers and encourage the online purchase of tourism services, in order to maintain customer loyalty and above all, for some emerging African destinations, to introduce and promote a new experience. for “touristonauts” who are discovering them for the first time. Tourists can view tourist information on digital maps with an aerial perspective in 2D and 3D representations, and simulate a real visit inside the most remote places. What to highlight the new African destinations at a lower cost and with a wide impact.
Telecoms, an e-tourism infrastructure
3G and 4G mobile telephony has taken multimedia information to a new level. Sales on an upward trend of smartphones have enabled tourists today to get the tourist information they need without the constraints of time or location. In addition, mobile services allow the tourist to book rooms before arriving at the hotel reception or to book plane tickets, rent cars, access information on the traffic program. means of transport and to consult the tourist guides of the destinations.
Currently, smartphone users have a multitude of applications that can be installed on this device, which makes it easy to explore a space by offering information based on the geographic location of the customer. Thus, a tourist can visit a tourist destination without needing a guide.
Information and communication technology place the end customer at the center of the decision-making and production process. Each tourist is different, each with a unique background of experiences, motivations and challenges. The tourist today is less and less inclined to wait for the information he is looking for and, therefore, the key to the success of tourism businesses is to quickly identify customer needs and respond to potential customers. with offers as diverse as possible, personalized and updated according to trends. In this sense, ICTs have a direct impact on the competitiveness of operators.
Change of strategic dynamic
Thus, the Internet has forced tourism operators to adapt the dynamics of their strategies. The flexibility offered by the Internet has allowed tourism organizations to tailor their messaging for each market segment, with customers seen as dynamic and mobile goals to which marketers distil specific promotional and direct messages. During the pre-Internet era, tourism businesses had no choice but to rely on the intermediation capacity of tourism agents and the capacity of tour operators. An even more crippling requirement for African operators who often have to negotiate with these market makers, in a weak position.
On the other hand, a well-informed customer has the ability to interact more effectively with local resources, to find goods and services compatible with their demands and thus to have a more memorable experience of their journeys in Africa.
Dimitrios Buhalis, expert in e-tourism strategy (International Center for Tourism and Hospitality Research) highlighted in his studies that potential customers are becoming more and more independent and sophisticated in the use of a wide range of instruments by which they plan their journeys.
Social networks, or the power to prescribers
The spectacular growth of social media has also significantly impacted the tourism and leisure sector. About 40% of travelers said social media comments influenced their travel planning, while 50% actually based their travel plans on the experiences of other people, according to a 2011 Google survey.
By analyzing virtual communities and the big data they generate, tourism organizations can achieve a deeper understanding of customer needs and behavior and can thus adapt their offerings accordingly. In addition, thanks to online communities, they can increase awareness of their brands or destinations, whether it is states or territories. The future of e-tourism will be focused on consumer-oriented technologies. The development of new, more powerful ICT applications allows suppliers and destinations to improve their efficiency and revamp their communication strategies. Innovative technologies will support interoperability, customization and constant networking. Travelers are socially connected, all the time, not only before and after, but also increasingly during their trips which they share in real time.