Digital Tourism In The New Age Of Technology, by Inyene Ibanga
Digital technology is changing the way people live, do business and travel. Transformative digital technologies and innovation have opened up new opportunities for tourism businesses to compete in global markets.
With this development, we now have the term “digital tourism”, which refers to how we use digital tools to organise, manage and even enjoy the travel experience. In this regard, digital tourism deploys tools of digital transformation to change how we travel and how the sector itself operates.
Digital technologies are helping the tourism/travel industry to improve day-to-day operations, modify business models, while also improving the customer experience.
Increasingly, operators in the tourism/travel sector are embracing digital technology as a crucial part of the business. It is important for hotels, airlines, restaurants, and other allied companies to keep up with technological innovation within the travel industry.
While the sector was one of those that took a direct hit from the effect of the COVID-19 Crisis, operators are turning to technology for restoration of the abundant colour and verve in the tourism, travels, and hospitality industry.
With customer expectations shifting remarkably as a result of the health crisis, tourism businesses are adopting technology to deliver high-value services. And these digital technologies are transforming and reshaping the global tourism ecosystem.
According to the World Travel and Tourism Council, the industry accounted for 334 million jobs, and about $9.2 trillion of the world’s gross domestic product (GDP) before the pandemic.
However, latest reports show that the global tourism and travel sector dropped to $4.7 trillion after suffering a loss of almost $4.5 trillion in 2020, with a significant drop in GDP by a staggering 49.1 per cent, compared to 2019.
In 2020, 62 million jobs were lost across the sector globally. And until the sector experiences a full recovery, the likelihood of more job losses may still be looming.
Nigeria’s tourism and travel industry contributed 4.4 per cent of the total GDP, amounting to about N7 billion and it created 3,333 jobs in 2019. But in 2020 the figure dropped to N4.2 billion (2.8 per cent of the total GDP), with numerous job losses.
Unarguably, Nigeria’s tourism industry has the capability to generate sustainable revenues that will rival current earnings from crude oil. But there is a wide gap between tech-driven and globally connected tourism businesses and the traditional ones that are yet to adapt to digitalised business practices.
The country’s tourism sector is still coming to grips with the adoption of productivity-enhancing technologies such as cloud computing, data analytics, and revenue management software.
But in all of these, global tourism and travels enterprises are leveraging the power of technology to improve customer relations and drive sales. They are using innovative technologies to customise and deliver high-value new visitor products, services, and experiences.
Technology is changing the way operators target travelers, and in the process, disrupting existing service offerings and forcing a re-imagining of the visitor experience and the end-to-end visitor journey.
The Internet of Things (IoT), drones, and various applications of Artificial Intelligence (AI), such as computer vision, voice recognition, predictive analytics and other automation possibilities have reduced humans from many routine operations in the tourism industry.
New technologies help to reduce human errors and accidents and thereby enhance the safety and security of tourists. Japan and South Korea are already integrating robotics in the tourism and hospitality business.
As in many other industries, IoT and big data technologies are the leading sources of innovations in tourism and travel. Smart things and spaces (cars, suitcases, buildings and more), real-time data analytics (tracking and predicting people), and automation of security checks makes traveling more efficient and secure.
The smartphone has become the most versatile digital technology, as tourists use it at every stage of their vacations. It serves as a tour guide, travel agency, best restaurant locator, map, and more.
Augmented Reality (AR) or Virtual Reality (VR) have brought fresh possibilities into the tourism and travels industry by allowing users to enjoy the sights and sounds of distant landmark tourist attractions.
More companies use AR/VR to show users a cabin on a cruise ship or transport them, for a brief moment to far-flung scenic locations on the globe. This means it is now possible to “teleport” you to the roaring oceans, the highest peaks, and experience the most remote corners of the globe from the comfort of your home.
With digital technology, millions of tourists find it easier to make pre-travel bookings/arrangements and also to navigate their way around Nigeria and other African countries. It is bad business for a company when tourists face difficulty in either booking a place or finding their way around the country of destination.
A few technology-driven tourism startups in Nigeria are, however, charting a new course by deploying technology to offer tourists/travelers a great customer satisfaction, while also helping to reduce cost and enhance operational efficiency.
Afritrip, Wakanow, Travelbeta, Jumia travel, Travelstart, Ajala.ng, and Hotels.ng make up the leading tourism/travel technology companies in Nigeria that offer online marketplaces for touring activity on the African continent.
By adopting digital transformation and investing in digitalisation, these companies are developing in-depth experience and transparency in business practices, which are vital for them to survive in the COVID-19 era.
As such, it is important for the tourism/travel/hospitality sector to fully embrace new technologies to remain competitive, and to take advantage of the innovation, productivity, and value creation potential.
Certainly, there is the need for synergy between the Nigerian Tourism Development Corporation (NTDC), the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA), as well as policymakers to help tourism businesses engage with the digital revolution, and flourish in response to these disruptive technologies.
Inyene Ibanga is Managing Editor TechDigest.ng and writes from Wuye District, Abuja.