Why tourism sector should embrace digitisation of products and services

Businesses in tourism and hospitality sectors have been advised to embrace digitisation to improve efficiency and customer interaction. Courtesy photo.

As Rwanda continues to see growing numbers of tourists, the move to digitise products, experiences and services in tourism and hospitality sectors could help double profits and tourism revenues, experts have said.

According to figures in 2017, Rwanda received 1.3 million visitors generating $438 million in tourism revenues with the sector also creating 90,000 new jobs.

Revenues from Meetings, Incentives, Conferences and Exhibitions (MICE) have amounted to $52 million in 2018 through 201 conferences attended by 35,000 visitors compared to $48 million in 2017.

Ariella Kageruka, the Director General of Chamber of Tourism in Private Sector Federation, told Business Timesthat considering that the industry is Rwanda’s largest foreign exchange earner it digitization of services to maintain growth.

Revenues from Meetings, Incentives, Conferences and Exhibitions have amounted to $52 million in 2018 through 201 conferences attended by 35,000 visitors. 

A programme to establish Digital Transformation Clusters has been launched so as to bridge various sectors like tourism, agriculture audio-visual, trade and industry sector, transport and logistics, health care services, financial services to accelerate the digital transformation of the Rwandan private sector.

She said that business digitisation in tourism and hospitality will improve efficiency and productivity, improve customer engagement and satisfaction. The development, she said, will also give stakeholders insights into potential innovation as well as better understanding market segments.

“Businesses in tourism and hospitality sectors will be more efficient thanks to digitisation potential that should be exploited. Online business is the way to go as technology and cashless payment is redefining numerous industries,” she said.

“We want that, for instance, a hotel enhances booking visitors and be able to run cashless payments between them safely,” she said.

There are applications that will help businesses in the sector manage customer relations, keep up customers, ordering food items online, reduce travel cost, direct bookings without middlemen, managing inventory system, tracking the trend of expenses and profits every month all which can be eased through digitalization, she noted.

Kageruka said there are over 600 member businesses registered in tourism chamber along the whole supply chain of hospitality, trade, tours and travels and tour guiding.

She added, “Rwanda continues to leverage different tourism products such as the returning of lions to Akagera National Park, introduction of tourism in Gishwati- Mukura Park, the growing number of mountain gorillas, the new Bugesera International Airport all of which are big opportunities for enabling growth for tourism companies that will be boosted by creating online presence and digitalisation.”

The move, she noted, also ensures sustainable tourism.

 Clement Uwajeneza, the Chairman of ICT Chamber at Private Sector Federation, said that ICT should transform the way current businesses operate.

 “Digitalising different businesses including the hospitality sector will help owners capture more value from what they produce. In the tourism and hospitality sector, we hope that tourist attractions are better opportunity to exploit digitalization which can increase and maximize visits. We need new business models enabled by ICT,” he said.

The foundation for the future development of the ICT sector is based on the “SMART Rwanda 2020 Master Plan” (SRMP).

He said that the ICT Chamber has been working on a comprehensive private sector development strategy with the goal of reaching 100 tech-companies, each valued at $50M by 2025.

“This vision can only be achieved by building a strong private sector with high adoption of innovative digital solutions among non-tech businesses,” he said.

Soraya Hakuziyaremye, the Minister of Trade and Industry, said: “ICT is here to transform the economy and lives of citizens, transform service delivery and has the business potential for profitability and revenues increasing.”

She said that the digitalisation step could help companies in different sectors to access more markets.

“We are also moving to cashless payments which are a key element in digitalization,” she said.

Samson Niyomucamanza, a proprietor of apartments and restaurants in Kivu Belt Region in Karongi District, said that the move could help them embrace cashless payment system.

“We have a website but get clients through other booking companies. We have to optimise it and improve customer relations engagement. We get at least 30 clients every day so we need to attract more through our efficient online presence,” he said.