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When you board a plane today, you’ll soon realise that all passengers have a smartphone with easy access to the Internet. For travel agents in Africa – or anywhere else in the world – that means it has become crucial to establish an online presence.

We chatted with Eric Frerotte, Commercial General Manager for Amadeus CWA, on his take on digitalisation in Africa. He tells us that digitalisation is not a new initiative for Amadeus. “Already twelve years ago, we recommended that travel agents needed an online presence. We designed Amadeus e-Power specifically to help them build this presence.”

However, at that time Frerotte explains, the banks in Africa were not ready to follow Amadeus on the online commerce journey. He adds that the fact that a very limited number of people had credit cards was another challenge as well as the fact that Internet usage was reserved to only certain sections of the population.

Says Frerotte: “The situation today is totally different. Many airlines have decided to invest in digitalisation. Both European and African airlines are now offering websites where you can buy your air tickets online. We’ve also seen the emergence of large online agencies planning to establish a presence in Africa.”

Does digitalisation mean the end of the physical travel agency?

“By no means,” says Frerotte. “Those agencies that develop an online presence must capitalise on the strong brand they already have in their physical agency. They need to reassure customers. This is especially important in Africa, where human contact is essential.”

Frerotte further explains passengers need to know that behind the online purchase of a ticket, there are people who can intervene at any time and who can, for example, change a return date during their trip.

It’s also important for travel agents to keep in mind that not all customers are ready today to pay for their tickets online, so travel agents need to continue to offer other possibilities and services. One example is sending a courier to deliver a plane ticket: this is the kind of service other industry players, such as airlines, will not offer.

How will your travel agency benefit from digitalisation and an online presence?

Frerotte explains that the first opportunity for travel agents is that an online presence will give the travel agency a dynamic image. By being present on social networks, travel agents can show that their agency is looking forward into the future …

Secondly, the online travel trade is growing in Africa with many new online competitors. And, lastly, through an online presence, travel agents will be able to offer their clients so much more than what clients think they can and will receive at a travel agency.

Security First

Any travel agency wanting to establish an online presence, need to keep in mind that security comes first. Any traveller visiting your website needs to know that transactions are safe. Of course, the Amadeus booking engine is completely secure as well as the payment solutions provided by our partner banks.

To view the interview (in French) with Eric Frerotte, please check out the following link.