By Josephine Wawira
Currently, there are approximately 345 million internet users in Africa, representing 9.3% of the total population and a penetration rate of 27.7%. These analytics presented in a hospitality report by Africa’s leading online travel agency, Jumia Travel, reflects the opportunity that lies for tourism and hospitality industry players in exploiting the internet to grow e-tourism.
The growth of 4G network has also extended to more than half of the African countries, with 72 live LTE (Long-Term Evolution) networks in 32 countries as at mid-2016. Although its adoption still lags behind the rest of the world with only 20% 4G population coverage, taking advantage of 4G solutions currently in the market will provide more efficiency and convenience to any e-tourism business.
For instance, the report identifies Wi-Fi as a top priority preference for hotel guests in Africa with 23% demand. For this group of travelers, most likely those who take up 31.4% of business spending are looking for a fast and reliable network connection and a huge amount of bandwidth to ensure their dealings continue uninterrupted. Investing in the 4G therefore can help hotels provide more personalized guest experience as well as improve operational efficiency.
Mobile services and technologies, generated 6.7% of GDP in Africa (around USD 150 billion of economic value). This is expected to increase to more than USD 210 billion (7.6% of GDP) by 2020, while the number of unique subscribers is estimated to reach 725 million.
In this case, the more internet connected Africa becomes, the more likely the pressure will be for service providers in the tourism and hospitality industry to adopt the internet and rip from its massive advantages. Capitalizing on technological advancements presented by the invention of the internet as well as its massive penetration in the continent, is sure to give players like hoteliers a competitive edge. Possible direct ROI is prospective from increased bookings from new and return customers.
A notable fact from the hospitality report is that low levels of digital skills remain a major barrier to mobile internet adoption especially in Sub-Saharan Africa. Supporting digital literacy by tourism stakeholders in the continent is therefore an essential element in promoting e-tourism in Africa. In its aim to connect the whole world to the internet, Facebook launched its Free Basics initiative in 2016; connecting almost half the African countries to its free internet service. Furthermore, African Union recently launched the Africa domain name for the continent, a move that gives Africa its digital identity and aims to decrease the cost of acquiring a URL which then allows people and businesses to better reach the world.