By Josephine Wawira
Africa’s travel and tourism sector continues to make major strides, accounting for 7.8% of African GDP (US $ 165 billion) in 2016. However, there remains challenges that hinder simplification of travel especially for Africans travelling within Africa. Speaking during the just concluded INDABA 2017, Africa’s top travel show held in Durban – Kwa Zulu Natal, South Africa from 16th-18th; Jumia Travel CEO Paul Midy identified four main barriers to democratizing travel in the continent, as published on the INDABA Daily News Magazine.
1. Access to knowledge and information:
Internet penetration in Africa is still very low at 27%, with only 10-15% of hotels in Africa on par with international standards in their booking software and connectivity.
2. Language Barrier:
Africa has a highly diverse linguistic background with an estimated 1500 – 2000 African languages. This presents a problem when travelers need to communicate.
3. Hotel Connectivity:
Many hotels in Africa still do not have internet connectivity, and about 60% do not have an online presence at all – let alone a booking software, which is often still done manually.
It’s a hassle to apply for visa, which takes time and effort. Initiatives like that of the East African Community would open the continent to both regional and international tourism. Besides, African passports ratified by the African Union this year, face the complexities of border control and a host of other implementation challenges that need to be worked through.
Midy says the company is on the forefront of closing some of these barriers, by for instance conducting training programs on hospitality best practices not only for the staff but also for hotel partners. Besides, the online booking platform has also incorporated diverse payment options for both hotels and flights (cash, credit cards, mobile money such as Mpesa in Kenya), as well as introduced a loyalty program to incentivize its loyal customers. Such efforts by tourism, travel, and hospitality stakeholders will go a long way in opening African destinations in regions that would otherwise remain untapped despite their virgin tourism resources.