March, 2020 history was made in the travel industry, when the skies shutdown and went to rest due to #covid19 pandemic. Guess what! we bring good news, the travel and hospitality industry is reopening its doors again as the world economy reopens in phases. Industry players and stakeholders are working hard to provide solutions that will make travel safe while simultaneously slow the spread of the virus.
From most of the webinars that I have participated in, centered on the impact of Covid-19 on the travel industry, a chunk part of recovery plan is to maximize the use of “Technology and innovation” to rebuild confidence to travel again. According to experts, travel will certainly take a new shape globally #NewNormal. One troubling question, is Africa ready for the revolution of the new way to travel?
We can rightly say that the pandemic was the catalyst Africa needed to develop her travel and tourism industry. According to statistics, the tourism industry in Africa is the 2nd fastest growing in the world. Prior to covid-19. I somewhat disagree that the industry had fully adopted the use of advanced technology for all its operations.
From a personal perspective, the tourism industry was growing really fast but developing at a slow rate. The unprecedented challenge that stares hard at us requires an aggressive response to act now to bridge the gap amidst the pandemic.
There are set of protocols released by global organizations such as the World tourism organization (UNWTO),International air transport association (IATA), World travel and tourism council (WTTC) Airport council international (ACI) to restart travel and tourism. For this guidelines to work effectively requires a well structure system put in place.
Low standard of international airports
Clearly seen across most countries in Africa is the low standard of international airports. Its quiet shocking to see busy international airports with over 15 outbound flights operating with just 2 departure and arrival gates in one terminal. Due to the traffic, these airports are usually overcrowded with travelers bumping into each other, with poor infrastructures and outdated facilities. To ensure social distancing is observed by all travelers will likely be a struggle given the condition of the airports.
Little participation and support from the Government
The World Travel and Tourism council reports that Tourism generates over 100 million jobs globally, tourism is one of the world largest employer of labor. Take a look at your last holiday to probably one of your favorite destination, or your last business trip with extended stay to explore the beauty of host destination. What made either of these trips a memorable experience, was not only the fabulous services from the entire customer journey. The support facilities that I like to call “add-ons” they are integral part of any destinations,some of these are efficient transport system, good road mapping and network, effective communication and WiFi network, electricity that light up the streets. All of these infrastructures form part of what makes a destination attractive for business and leisure tourism to thrive.
I am completely mystify at the role Government play in developing tourism in Africa. Despite the potential of untapped destinations with great history, preserved culture, natural attractions that breed income, yet poorly supported by the Government. The recovery of the travel and tourism industry globally, will be gradual with local tourism taking the lead. Which is the perfect opportunity for domestic tourism to thrive. Now is the right time to foster collaboration between the public and private sector in planning, developing and coordinating tourism in Africa.
Advanced technology and innovation
Before the pandemic, we were still grappling with implementing technology in travel operation activities. Take a look at Nigeria the most populous and largest economy in Africa. The demand for travel is impressively high with increase in outbound flights and airline operators, but yet the lines at the airport never disappear, why? self service facilities at the airports is like a dream far away.
A different ball game entirely in other parts of the world where advanced technology and innovation drives services that are not just fast but convenient for a seamless end-to-end travel experience. The new approach to health and hygiene in this Covid-19 world increases demand for the use of innovation to rebuild confidence to travel again. Contact less and touch less will replace most touch points, best practice such as self check-in kiosk and bag drops, home printed bag tags, online payments, use of bio-metrics e-gates and boarding cards reading at the gates. In some parts of the world like Australia, hotels who are savvy with technology have apps that guests can use to request through their stay which includes room service and house keeping.
The travel industry is a high-touch one, the primary goal is to make people feel good when they leave their homes to travel. With technology infuse into travel and tourism, the result is fast, convenient and seamless customer experience.To guarantee safe travel involves smart designs to replace most touch-points. Going contact-less, the new approach to travel will largely be dependent on technology which poses a big challenge for now but not in the foreseeable future.
Travel and Tourism is a major player of any economy, whether developed or developing . The implementation of the African continental free trade area (AFCFTA) has been moved to January 2021, now is time to take action and unitedly work together to bridge the gap towards achieving a common goal. Strategic planning, enabling polices, regulations, collaboration between public-private sectors and reforms is needed to beef up security and safety for cross borders trade activities.
Together we must save tourism in Africa, build trust and confidence to travel again,advanced technology is the antidote to a safe travel experience.