THE advent of digital platforms and services presents great opportunities for Namibia’s tourism fraternity and Africa at large with such services gaining traction in the way they are being used to bolster the sector.
Namibia has long been regarded as a mobile-first environment. However, recent years have solidified the country’s position on the global map when it comes to mobility, thanks to more affordable devices, faster internet speeds, and increasingly accessible wireless hotspots.
While challenges such as reliable electricity and problematic water supplies are well-documented, the dynamic nature of residents has seen aspiring entrepreneurs embrace digital tools as effective means of driving the potential that tourism offers.
Already, technology is doing its bit to make the sector more accessible for women.
Women already account for a huge chunk of the tourism workforce. Digital platforms have made it even easier for women to access the market and profit from an increase in tourism overall. This way of working is not reliant on the old-school networks so typical of men in business and offers significantly more flexibility. People with little or no formal training and no tourism background are now active in the space and stand to reap the benefits.
What used to be stumbling blocks for these individuals are now springboards to create new revenue streams. Take the sizeable unbanked population on the continent as a case in point. World Bank research has found that 66 percent of people living in sub-Saharan Africa do not have bank accounts. In the past, this would have been an insurmountable obstacle to overcome in terms of building a tourism business. But thanks to how mobile money has become an integral part of commerce in Africa, this is no longer the case.
In December 2016, there were 277 million registered mobile money accounts in the sub-Saharan Africa region, more than the total number of bank accounts there. Thanks to this digital innovation, entrepreneurs can forego traditional banks and credit unions and use their mobile device to empower themselves.
This is challenging the status quo when it comes to perceptions around how business should be done. Combining the gig economy with tourism, micro-businesses and digital transformation have resulted in the development of a thriving environment where African entrepreneurs are using digital platforms to generate income and the Namibian entrepreneurs can follow suit.
Even though tourism operators, airlines, hotels, and other role players in the sector are starting to wake up to the opportunities offered by improved data analysis, the agility of SMEs and start-ups cater more quickly to fickle customer expectations.
If digital technology has shown organisations anything, it is that people have come to expect more tailored services. In an industry that is focused on such a personal experience as tourism, the benefits digital tools provide smaller companies and entrepreneurs become a significant competitive advantage.
The days of going to a travel agent, browsing through a brochure, and getting them to make a booking are quickly becoming a thing of the past. In a digital environment, it is about using mobile applications, social media, instant messaging platforms and other digital channels to deliver a more engaging online experience that takes out the middleman.
In essence, the digital world provides an easier way to meet the needs of every type of tourist, whether it’s those looking for a luxury hotel or to backpack on a budget.
Confidente. Lifting the Lid. Copyright © 2015