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News from Africa
28 October 2016 , 6:05 am

Technology as an enabler

“As a frequent traveller, I want to be able to breeze through my journey and for my employer and TMC to facilitate that as part of their travel policy” – Global Business Travel Alliance conference in Sandton, Johannesburg

Technology, as the enabler, is a general service we offer travellers to ease their lives and travel journey and as such, one needs to understand where you want to go for it to be truly effective instead of trying to apply technology, for technology’s sake.

The travel technology space in Southern Africa is very dynamic at the moment with areas such as payments and mobile still evolving, and particular the latter where the cost of roaming is prohibitive and impacts on the uptake of mobile technology.

We also see that there are far too many apps which hinders the customer travel experience, instead of travellers having access to aggregated app technology in one usable system. Seamless, personalised travel experiences are where it’s at at the moment. As a frequent traveller, I want to be able to breeze through my journey and for my employer and TMC to facilitate that as part of their travel policy.

The true value of the TMC is their problem-solving ability and knowledge of their customer’s preferences when things go wrong. I take great comfort that I can phone the TMC and sort things out when technology fails me. But we recognise currently that TMCs have yet to see the value of using Big Data to drive value to their customer.

It’s interesting to note that the leisure space innovates more than the corporate space because in leisure, the travel agent is as only as good as their last transaction and everything boils down to excellent customer service.

Leisure is definitely ahead of the curve when it comes to technology. It’s an extremely exciting space to be in at the moment and is extremely low touch, so much so that 90% of bookings would never need to use my human hand – they are completely automated end to end.

Leisure travel agents are also working on very fine margins so they need to keep their costs down. Furthermore, the needs of their customers are different, i.e. access to lower fares because there are fewer changes than in the corporate space.

Travel companies – whether they are leisure or corporate focused, should be thinking of the management of their systems behind the scenes, increase their experience in technology and ensure they have the right people in the right place.

Where we’re ahead in the tech space? We’re definitely seeing improvements in search booking functionality and power behind the user experience. Payments have also come a long way. In Africa, we have a particular challenge because there are so many other forms of payment than credit cards.

And in South Africa, in particular, we have one big advantage. We have the benefit of learning from the experiences of markets that are more technologically advanced and thus don’t have to make expensive mistakes by trying things out.

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This post was written by Andy Hedley

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