The application of technology in tourism, whether in the holiday planning process or during the actual holiday, is changing the entire industry. Nowadays the tourism customer is not the traditional customer of yesterday. The average traveler nowadays is a sophisticated technological user. In the global tourism industry great strides have been made. Africa and Kenya have not been left behind as technology has changed the face of the travel industry.
One of the uses of technology is the use of social media and the internet for marketing. Customers are able to see images, videos, texts and they can then be able to decide what they would like. Customers are able to use the net to look at pictures of the location and get a feel of the place where they will be vacationing. Companies on the other hand are able to deal with customer complaints or comments as they come in. Social media for the travel industry is a double edged sword as it can go either way. Airlines, hotels and travel professionals have been on the receiving end of customers backlash after bad customer service or advertising.
The internet has also created platforms for people to buy travel services online and pay through credit cards or mobile money. Mobile Money has also been a technological advance in Kenya. This has made it possible for people who may not be able to pay by credit card to be able to get services. In Kenya Kenya Airways started the trend and now Mpesa is spreading its wings in the travel industry with many tours firms and travel agencies accepting Mpesa payments through paybill numbers.
Many hotels now offer Wi-Fi. For some it is complimentary, others it is offered with certain limits and others charge for the use of the their Wi-Fi. Many hotels and camps now have Wi-Fi through their properties in order that guests may be able to enjoy the internet wherever they are.
In this mobile age many travelers carry mobile communication gadgets with them. Travel agencies and airlines are able to send delay notices, travel advisories etc to their clients in real time just in case there is a situation that might impact on a client’s travel. Many customers are now able to check in to flights and hotels with their mobile devices.
Some hotels take hospitality to the next level by providing guests with iPads like the Mondrian Hotel in New York. This is used specifically as a means to order food, plan their travel itinerary and coordinate transfers and transport. Richard Branson’s Mahali Mzuri in Kenya offers guests iPads if they need to use them.
Developers have created apps like Roadside America which helps travellers uncover roadside attractions during their road trips. Tourism Radio another app from South Africa produces location based technology which can be used in cars and smartphones. The app acts like a tour guide and helps the user to take a tour of their preferred destination. It is also geo-located and has pre-recorded audio info which is triggered when a user approaches a particular spot. Nokia have also created Nokia HERE which offers the most accurate, up-to-date and comprehensive maps and navigation services available in the local market. We used Nokia Here on a road trip and I have to say it was very accurate. I was impressed because you can download the maps on WiFi then you can use it offline.
Mobile technological advances like online mapping facilities, search based on location, GPS service, geo tagging have also made it easier for customers to find their way around new destinations.
Some camps and lodges are now using solar powered lanterns and power systems. This has enabled camps that previously had to have lights out at a certain time because of generators to be able to allow guests to stay up for longer hours. This though seems to be a slow adaptation by many lodges and camps and it needs to be adopted at a faster rate.
Nowadays you will find modern tour vans or safari jeeps fitted with electrical outlets that allow guests to be able to charge their mobile devices or laptops.
Another milestone is the use of e-visa programmes, which South Africa and Nigeria are currently implementing. Other countries are due to embrace this process as well. I am not sure where Kenya stands on implementation of this.
Countries have also advanced in their use of technology at border points. Uganda for example uses biometric border check which scans your eye and get the data of the person entering or leaving the country. Countries are also introducing new types of passports that are harder to forge and that can also be easily scanned for an individual’s information.
Other extras that tour firms are coming up with include onboard fridges that can keep drinks both hot and cold, laptop charging facilities and satellite tracked vehicles.
Looking at the big picture.
Shaheed Ebrahim, is a tour operator of a very innovative tour firm in South Africa, who has made technology a key component of his service offering. He offers Wi-Fi in his vehicle and 3G internet access with complimentary iPads.
Gabon has done a lot to bring the attention of the world to itself. Gabon has created a multimedia interactive 3D on the internet to share with the rest of the world.
Kenya Wildlife Service needs to go beyond its use of smart cards as the only technological advance they have made in the last couple of years. They need for example to have a multimedia centre at the Nairobi National Park where they should have videos and books on what animals are in the parks. Considering the number of children who go the Nairobi National Park they need to do more in order to engage children and encourage them to take care of their national heritage. There is just so many times a child can see a sleeping lion or a cheetah in a cage. They need to have lectures where children and adults are allowed to ask questions about the animals. This should be included in the purchase price which should not be increased.
Maybe KWS should also get into a collaboration with some animators to make a series of animations about the animals in our parks. Programs like Tinga Tales are loved by both children and adults alike. Look at the example of Diego and Dora the Explorer. They have done so much to teach children to take care of animals. This is the easiest way to pass on the conservation message to the next generation.
Kenya needs to invest heavily in travel technology for the tourism industry especially because it is the second highest source of foreign exchange revenue. We need internet connectivity all around the country for example. This will enable us to remain competitive in the rapidly changing technological climate where clients with mobile devices are King. These clients may want a bush experience but not want their internet to be interrupted in order to do it.