E-tourism, or the ability to book hotel, flight and other travel reservations online, accounts for about 56 percent of global travel today. Yet as late as 2005, e-tourism accounted for less than “2 percent of tourism revenues in Africa.” However, the disparity seems to be narrowing due to South Africa’s hosting of the 2010 FIFA World Cup when online booking jumped to 5 percent. Now, continued growth is expected and projections predict that the percentage of bookings made online throughout Africa will reach “15-20 percent by 2015.” Although there remain challenges to overcome before more of Africa’s hotels, parks and resorts are available for reservation online such as “high cost of bandwidth, the lack of integrated, real-time reservation systems and local online payment gateways.”
However, the challenges to online business on the continent have not hampered interest by major online travel agencies. As interest in tourism to Africa increases and the internet becomes more accessible on the continent, these companies see a major opportunity to expand their markets. In fact, the popular travel site Expedia has even gone so far to open a new office whose sole purpose is to focus on African travel. Many businesses which offer travel accommodation on the continent are jumping through hoops to offer online booking as “international travelers have credit cards and increasingly expect to be able to book online.” A survey also found that nearly “50% of Americans read an online review before booking internationally” giving those who have an online presence a major advantage.
The major obstacles for African businesses who wish to get involved with e-tourism are primarily related to the lack of online tools and experience necessary to become involved with the online markets. Expensive bandwidth costs and slow connection speeds can hamper the availability of e-tourism as online travel agencies require “a reservation system that offers real-time availability.” Successful e-commerce also requires marketing tools and expertise, which now requires more and more presence on social media sites. These problems are being overcome by increasing the awareness of e-tourism’s profitability, availability of “real-time software reservations system[s]” and training for online marketing strategies. One company, e-Tourism Frontiers, has capitalized on the disparity between the desire to become involved with e-tourism and the lack of availability and experience required to do so on the continent. They set up conferences in different regions between online travel agencies and all types of accommodation, from major hotel chains to small backpackers, in order to bring the two together.
As the internet becomes more accessible throughout Africa and bandwidth costs decrease, Africa’s travel accommodation is becoming increasingly accessible online. The evolution towards e-tourism has been the fastest in South Africa, mostly due to the race to prepare for the World Cup, but is expected to spread across the continent. Even in Africa’s remote travel destinations e-tourism has begun to take root. For example, one game reserve in Uganda has already created Facebook pages for their Gorillas which include a link to online booking for interested travelers. The potential for increased tourism through online booking is an accessible and exciting prospect for Africa’s growing economies.
Reference: Southwood, Russell. “E-Tourism in the Continent Starts Spreading Post World Cup.” Balancing Act. AllAfrica.com, 3 June 2011. <http://allafrica.com/stories/printable/201106060402.html>.
An article from Business Daily titled “Battle for clients goes hi-tech as airlines turn to smartphones”: http://www.businessdailyafrica.com/-/539444/1177236/-/122hfe6z/-/
A video from the ‘E-Tourism Africa Summit 2009’: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ET1w4l-g5KQ
1. Do you believe markets must be online in order to be competitive? Which markets in particular?
2. Do you think aid aimed at increasing internet access wasteful or necessary to develop economies? Where is internet access on the priority list?
3. What other benefits, besides increased tourism, can a community or a household gain from internet access in developing countries?