In a 2018 Tech Pro Research survey, 70% of survey respondents said their companies either had a digital transformation strategy in place or were working on one – and rightly so, as digital innovations are creating opportunities faster and on a daily basis.

The travel and tourism industry is experiencing a great deal of disruption, with trends such as virtual reality (VR), artificial intelligence (AI), and mobile bookings and payments taking centre stage.

In a statement released by the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) during the 63rd European Commission meeting held in Prague in June 2018, the importance of tourism and technology was stressed, providing opportunities for innovation and creating the jobs of the future. Secretary-general, Zurab Pololikashvili, affirmed the organisation’s aim to make innovation part of the solution to the challenge of marrying continued growth with a more sustainable and responsible tourism sector.

In a world of digital interaction, old systems and processes must be rethought and new technologies put in place for businesses to stay competitive within their industry. 

Tourism is a dynamic sector with phenomenal potential in Africa. As one of the fastest-growing sectors of the last decade, tourism already contributes about 8% to Africa’s GDP, employs 6.5% of the workforce, and offers a window of opportunity. The cultural attractions in Africa – cultural heritage, beliefs, storytelling, ancient knowledge, music, and dance – are intangible and continue to enhance the continent’s travel and tourism competitiveness.

From flights to hotel bookings, travellers are highly dependent on mobile applications and the digital space for their travel purchases, which need to be easily accessible online, thus making them convenient and user-friendly.

There are new ways to involve your customers such as more modernisation of the labour force, and more opportunities to harness data insights – all of which should be looked at and attended to at every level of the business hierarchy. The question all industries must ask is, how can we rise to the digital challenge and add value to our customers through digitisation?

Fundamentally, it is about adopting a digital mindset. By adopting a digital-first mentality in both business operations and customer experiences, the tourism industry can position itself to acclimatise and advance into the future, as technology and customer expectations continue to evolve.

More than ever, and in a bid to drive sales, revenue and operational efficiency, the trade sector in Africa needs to increase its efforts to provide top-notch customer travel experience for all those coming to enjoy our continent. This can only be done by embracing the digital transformation.

Data and digitisation are impacting businesses

In an era of technology, we are all surrounded by data in our personal and professional lives, with data and digitisation impacting our businesses. Earlier in 2018, Cisco reported that by 2020 there would be 5.5bn mobile users, representing 70% of the global population. Every leader in an organisation should ask themselves how this digital influence can be utilised to the betterment of the business.

Start from the inside

From the very core, a company’s culture must drive growth through digital transformation. If there is a lack of budget in one department or a lack of expertise in another, it will cause hurdles for the sought-after growth. Other challenges can include buy-in from management, training your employees on new technologies, defining guidelines for governance, and ensuring that the right IT skill sets are involved to back digital technologies. However, if the company itself has a digital mind-set and is committed to creating this culture of transformation, the growth will follow, regardless of the challenges.

Will you let this digital age disrupt or fast-track your business? Whether its virtual reality convincing someone to take their first overseas trip or another advancement, there is no end to the value the digital sphere can add to the tourism industry.