Online payments are the future. With Amadeus at its side, AFRIC Voyages has become the first fully online travel agency offering online payments in Ivory Coast.
Created in 1979, AFRIC Voyages is an old travel agency, but that does not mean it is not innovative. Marie-Reine Koné, who bought AFRIC Voyages in 2005, says she always wanted to create an e-commerce site for her travel agency. However, as a result of certain challenges in Ivory Coast, she could only have an online presence for AFRIC Voyages without e-commerce. “That was far from satisfactory, of course,” she tells us.
Mrs Koné explains that no bank in Ivory Coast agreed to collaborate on the creation of an online payment platform. “It has been a very long and difficult process, and unfortunately, Ivory Coast has a fairly high cybercrime rate, which is why local banks are so reluctant to build an online platform,” she says.
Nevertheless, Mrs Koné never gave up. “Roughly two years ago, the Amadeus CWA team was able to reach an agreement with a Nigerian bank,” she says.
However, Mrs Koné was reluctant to work with a Nigerian bank mainly because communication with Nigeria was primarily in English whereas Ivory Coast is a French-speaking country. She explains she felt uncomfortable signing an English contract and having to deal with an English back office.
Mrs Koné then contacted the bank BICICI, an Ivorian subsidiary of the French BNP Paribas. “I met with the director to tell him about my online travel agency project. Although he was very interested, he told me he had no solution at that time,” she recalls.
At the end of June 2017, there was finally good news when the director of the BICICI called Mrs Koné and said: ” I found the solution! I can offer you a platform for online payments and connect this to the Amadeus booking platform.”
Since July and August fall within a holiday period in the region, Ms. Koné had to wait until mid-September to see her project take shape. But, finally, at the end of November, AFRIC Voyages officially had an operational e-commerce site. “That’s when we were able to issue our first tickets online,” she says proudly.
Although Mrs Koné is delighted, she tells us that the agreement with the bank was only the first step. “The most important thing now is to promote our merchant site online. We still need to do a lot of e-marketing, which requires a major financial investment.”
The biggest challenge Mrs Koné currently faces is that there is no culture of online shopping in Ivory Coast yet. “Online payments are not yet well accepted and people are reluctant to make online payments. Another challenge is that only two Ivorian banks offer secure 3D bank cards,” says Mrs Koné.
Mrs Koné explains that her goal for the online agency is to target the African diaspora. “African companies in our region are not very well represented in the different BSPs in the world. Africans in West Africa sometimes have problems buying air tickets. Our online travel agency will primarily target this diaspora.”
Another dream and goal for Mrs Koné is to grow inbound tourism to Ivory Coast. “For years, the situation in Ivory Coast was not conducive to even consider leisure tourism. Today, Ivory Coast is reviving its inbound tourism sector. We hope to be able to sell Ivory Coast tours online and to promote the destination online.”
Mrs Koné explains we can expect more travel agencies in the region to become end-to-end online agencies now that AFRIC Voyages has pioneered the concept in Ivory Coast. She says: “With the Amadeus e-Power solution, the process is quite simple. The only problem is connecting e-Power to the payment platform offered by the bank, but we have already paved the way.”