There is no longer a debate as to whether tourism is a significant aspect of the development story of many countries around the world. It is one of the few industries that almost every country in the world invests heavily in. Developing countries blessed by some of the most spectacular animal and physical attractions depend on tourism in much the same way as developed countries.
While some are selling the famous African Safari in this region, others like in the Arab Gulf States are selling their desert safari while places like France continue to receive visitors who just want to see with their own eyes what the Eiffel Tower really looks like from up close. Therefore the movement of people for the purpose of tourism is actually something that the whole world can relate to. You are either moving yourself or welcoming others to your home.
The universality of the tourism industry means that it is also arguably the most competitive industry out there. Policy makers are always troubled with questions like why should a visitor come to my country instead of any of the other countries in the world? What more are we offering these visitors? How do we convince people born in the midst of this beauty that it is worthwhile to visit their own countries?
Last Thursday was marked around the world as the World Tourism Day under the theme, “Tourism and Digital Transformation”. A lot has been said about digital transformation and the impact it has on tourism in an era where people almost literally live digital lives.
Tourism policy makers no longer have the luxury of looking at digital platforms as an option but instead as something they have to harness in order to keep their doors’ hinges well-oiled and swinging as visitors flock in.
All those in the sector should be cognizant of the mantra that it is no longer important to merely adopt digital transformation but to actually adopt smart ways of utilizing digital platforms in their day-to-day work and activities.
New ways of marketing tourism products now go hand in hand with new ways of experiencing the same products. Gone are the days when tourists would be comfortable with only sitting in a safari jeep and looking at wild animals.
The tourists of today also want to share that experience, often in real time, with their friends and families back home. They are armed with the latest gadgets to capture, enhance and share the experiences in real time. Digital tools are also particularly vital if one is to tap into the growing numbers of young and tech savvy travellers around the world. They book their trips online and also use digital platforms to give real time feedback on their experience.
The industry will also continue to ride a lot on innovations that countries can roll out in a big to remain competitive. Africa as a continent competes with other parts of the world for the same travellers. Then in Africa regions also compete for the same travellers. For example East Africa has to contend with the fact that Southern Africa especially South Africa itself and the Arab North (Egypt, Morocco and Tunisia) take in a huge chunk of the people that come to this continent as visitors.
East African countries have to keep innovating so as to boost the competitiveness of the region as a destination. It is for example good to see that a lot is happening in the aviation industry that is primarily viewed as one of the vital cogs in the tourism wheel. Rwanda has over the years grown its national airline while Tanzania has managed to get theirs back in the sky as Uganda plans to the same.
The buzz in Kenya is now about the impending launch of Kenya Airways flights between Nairobi and New York at the end of October. RwandAir has similar plans set for early next year. It is expected that such flights will ease travel between the region and the US, a key source market for the East African tourism industry.
Ultimately the general development and packaging of tourism products requires constant monitoring and evaluation resulting in better experiences for foreign, regional and domestic travellers. It is an ongoing learning experience. I personally look forward to learning more about what our Kenyan brothers and sisters are doing in this direction as I take part in the Magical Kenya Tourism Expo that kicks off next week. For so many years, Kenya has been the region’s pacesetter in this industry.
The views expressed in this
article are of the author.