Global trends driving the travel and tourism industry are quickly catching up with East Africa and are likely to have a big impact on the way travel agents engage in the trade.
Data and customer centricity; IT openness and modularity; and the evolving distribution landscape are just but a few disruptions gaining currency in the travel trade space.
In a recent meeting with members of the the Kenya Association of Travel Agents (KATA) held in Nairobi, Mathieu Dutrisac, the General Manager of Amadeus East Africa predicted that Kenya being one of the leading tech hubs in Africa will be among the early adopters of these new global trends. “Kenya is renowned globally as a technology hub and therefore I will not be surprised to see some of these things here pretty soon.”
The explosion of data in travel is literally challenging the traditional travel agency models with customers demanding for more value in travel arrangements. Travellers are now demanding end-to-end seamless travel experience right from pick-up time through to the travel experience and final destination. This implosion has seen new start-ups emerge and forced travel tech players to build customer centric digital system and broaden their scope towards meeting the demand for end to end service.
With possession of data, Travel Agency owners or business owners are able to make analysis of their clients and in return make personalized customer specific content to drive performance. Customer centric businesses ensure that the customer is at the center of a business's philosophy, operations or ideas.
Another trend challenging the traditional way of doing business is the increasing openness of information technology and modularity. After years of pressure from airlines, travel technology players are now opening the Application Programming Interface (APIs) bringing in new players and therefore driving growth in the industry.
The technological disruption in the travel industry is perhaps best depicted by the evolution in the distribution landscape. The traditional GDS mode of distribution is seriously being challenged by IATA’s New Distribution Capability (NDC) standard that is set to bring in more players in the distribution channel. There has also been the growth of Low-Cost carriers that have become popular with many domestic travellers across East Africa. These carriers opt to by-pass the GDS and distribute directly or through private channels.
Other interesting trends that we are seeing in the region include the rise in shared economies with new players such as Uber and Airbnb slowly gnawing away at businesses traditionally conducted by travel agents. The Mobile gadgets have taken over with statistics now showing that an average of 85% of mobile users spend their time on mobile apps and messaging. Travel agents should tap into the mobile space to make more sales and increase the scope of business. Innovation in payments is now a click away from one’s phone (mobile wallets) hence travel providers are now integrating mobile payments into their mode of payments.
Finally on the list to watch are various innovations shaping up the industry including Virtual Reality (VR), Artificial Intelligence (AI), Chatbots and robotics for customer support. VR is used for inspiration where travel firms can demonstrate to their clients the real-time experiences on the airplane cabin; select their seat before booking, the different room types in hotels and resorts, restaurants and any destination available. Airports are equally embracing new tech to improve security and processing.
Technology is picking up every day giving travel firms opportunity to explore the various digital marketing trends available.
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