KATA Members Tipped on Going Online and Staying Relevant  16th Nov 2018

Only 1% of travel agents in Kenya are online with a majority of these staying online for the sake of presence rather than facilitating bookings.

As at the end of 2017, 95% of the bookings registered were happening offline signifying the huge potential online presents has to the industry players. Disappointingly, the investments made in digital projects are on the rise while the returns in terms of bookings and revenue remain unimpressively low.

This revelation was made at a recent travel industry meeting held for KATA members in Nairobi whose main theme was “Going Online; What Travel Agents Need to Know”. The meeting sponsored by Amadeus, was facilitated by Thierry Dongier, the Regional Director, for Online Travel Agencies’, Middle East and Africa.

Kenya is globally renowned as a technology hub with pioneering inventions such as Mobile money Mpesa emerging from the country, so why does this scenario prevail?

There are various reasons why despite the online presence, travel agents in Kenya do not convert online packages into sales.  Just to mention but few, bad design of websites is number one.  The first interface that the clients interact with will make them go ahead with the booking or step back and rethink. Secondly, there is low investment in technology; where travel agents expect to reap from their online platform yet there is minimum to zero investment. Use of jargon is another reason that contributes to the low online booking rate. Most agents may use jargon with the myth that it makes them look smart. However, consumers are very easily vexed by the use of words and language that makes no sense to them – it makes them feel dumb hence leads to no booking.

Most travel agencies desire to go online, but are they ready? There are four major ingredients for digital transformation; leadership, resources (talent hiring), budget and creativity. Travel agencies need to recruit personnel with different skill set for better maximization during the transition. Also the need for a budget for the people recruited and the marketing campaign is crucial.

The foundation for succeeding online lies in a business strategy that clearly provides a value proposition for both the business and clients and is underpinned by technology, content, marketing and customers service.  Resistance to adopt to the changing environment only invites disruptors who mainly come from outside to the chagrin of industry players.  As travel agencies, we must work on incorporating technology in our business strategy, considering unique solutions to inspire and service customers throughout their journey.

Chances of driving bookings through the online channels and getting good ROI are close to Zero without digital marketing. Generally, successful Online Travel Agencies invest at least 25% of their revenue in advertising only. In some cases, their total marketing budget exceeds 40% of their total budget. This is not to say that brick and mortar agents should invest to this level but it is critical to understand that going online will require a lot higher investment than what is currently being spend.

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