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Technology Disrupting Global, Local Travel Industry

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By Gbemisola Aruwayo-Obe

 

Nigerians from all walks of life love to travel. Like folks elsewhere, they feel deeply emotional about travelling. Although they may chit-chat about banking, shopping and similar experiences, discussions about their favorite airlines, miles, discounts, upgrades and boarding privileges also strike a deep cord with them. Regardless of social status, we all seem to be united by two things: our aspirational lifestyle and our individual and collective urge for excellent service delivery. Embracing digital innovation (technology) would help fast track the attainment of these social and economic realities.

 

While travelers around the world may differ in their hospitality tastes and preferences, the Internet has helped to flatten the world. Commercialization of the Internet has also introduced digital innovation into the travel and tourism industries, bringing with it a raft of new products, services and experiences. The digital influence is daily transforming the entire value chain of the hospitality sector, and this digital disruption is being embraced by travelers and operators alike. Take online checking in and self-service terminals at airports, for instance.

 

What about software which allows travelers to select destinations, flights and airlines, hotels, car hire companies and concierge services from the comfort of their laptops or hand-held devices? 20 years, you would have needed to visit or place a phone call to an airline or travel agent to access these sorts of services.

 

In hospitality establishments across the country and even around Africa, innovative technology is gradually bringing disruption to business models and customer expectations. Digital innovation is creating new challenges and opportunities for the travel industry. As with other industries, travel services customers have grown accustomed to individualized arrangements.

 

Whilst service quality levels may not be optimal in the fast-developing economies of the world, travelers in these regions are also not shy of demanding more comprehensive and consistent experiences and are becoming less tolerant of both inconsistency and imposition. Travel customers now expect streamlined processes, convenient self-service options and one-of-a-kind experiences. They are willing to quickly shift buying behaviors and preferences if they do not get what they are seeking.

 

This is the way it should be. However, this is not always how things have been over the last 20 years or so for members of the public who need to patronize airlines, hotels, transportation providers and other service providers in the business or leisure travel value chain. While hospitality industry analysts have called for increased public sector investments in the sector and in some cases, sectoral reforms which will galvanize domestic and foreign direct investments, there is also the need to realize that the entire hospitality landscape is undergoing disruption, as new entrants continue to leapfrog established travel businesses by applying digital technologies in innovative ways, whether it’s businesses that rent private homes to strangers or provide one-way car services.

 

Executives in the industry recognize the ongoing disruption and the impact of digital innovation on their industry. In 2016, an IBM Institute for Business Value’s Global Ecosystem Survey, conducted in collaboration with the Economist Intelligence Unit, consulted the opinions of more than 2,000 cross-industry leaders. Study findings include:

 

63 percent of the surveyed travel industry executives report that traditional value chains are being replaced with new value models.

Half of the surveyed travel industry executives indicate that boundaries between their industry and others are blurring.

57 percent of surveyed travel industry executives say that competition from new and unexpected sources is beginning to impact their businesses.

 

According to another report from the IBM Institute for Business Value, the global travel industry can sustain its momentum by meeting and hopefully, exceeding travelers’ personal expectations by embracing the philosophy of a Digital Reinvention.™ There is a three-step process, which includes:

 

1) Digitization improves efficiency by applying technology to individual resources or processes. Within the context of travel, digitization involves setting up digital systems that support processes such as online ticketing, but has evolved into online services where customers book directly with providers rather than through traditional travel agents.

 

2) Digital transformation involves the integration of digital functions or processes across an organization. By combining a set of systems and processes, digitally transformed travel businesses can offer their customers individualized experiences. An example of increasing importance is the ability of travel providers to combine data collected through travel booking sites, as well as customers’ personal social media channels, to deliver highly customized vacations.

 

3) Digital Reinvention of travel goes even further. Digitally reinvented travel involves a fundamental re-imagining of the way an organization operates and engages with customers and other stakeholders. Digital Reinvention at its most fundamental puts the customer first in all of the organization’s dealings to deliver travel experiences that are personalized for individual customers.

 

Digital Reinvention combines multiple digital technologies, including cloud, blockchain, mobile and the Internet of Things (IoT), to transform customer and partner relationships and to create new business ecosystems. Often, the most successful digitally reinvented businesses establish a platform of engagement for their customers and partners.

 

These are the steps, the benchmarks if you like, that many Africa-based travel industry operators need to adopt to take their game to the next level. Digital disruption is a reality of the global travel industry. The earlier and faster we embrace digital disruption locally, the more efficient our travel and hospitality systems will be.

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6 Best Tips To Improve Your Networking Skills

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By Ogunfowoke Adeniyi

Networking is all about interacting with people to exchange information and develop professional or social contacts.

Clearly, it is everything in the business world. From gaining job opportunities to bringing in business for your company, networking is the key to success. Jumia Travel, the leading online travel, agency shares tips for networking like a pro.

Have your business cards with you all the time

You do not know whom you might meet on your itinerary, it is therefore important for you to have your business cards with you all the time. You never know when you’re going to need your business cards.

Brag about your accomplishments

There’s absolutely nothing wrong with bragging about your accomplishments or your company to get people interested. However, do not overdo it so that you won’t appear arrogant.

Use social media

You should be on all of the major social media platforms, and you should use them often. Network with everyone in your industry that you can, and post frequently so that you stay on everyone’s minds.

Network with everyone

There is no need to discriminate when you network. So, endeavour to network with everyone and do not forget to be friendly.  This will make everyone remember for good reasons.

Attend Events

You can’t network if you’re stuck in the house or the office. Attend industry and community events so that you can meet people.

Make plans

When you hand over your business card, ensure that it results in something concrete. Tell the person to call you on a particular date or you can tell them to expect your call. And ensure you call.

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Need to Ignite Tech Consciousness among Women and Girls in South East

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By Ugwoke Udoka

Technology has come to stay. People from their homes can pay for their children’s school fees, buy items and get them delivered at their doorsteps or even sell their wares and get money paid to them instantly.

With the deluge of technology start-ups in the South East, it is disheartening that women and girls are seemingly oblivious of technology.

Many of them are not interested in partnering with these start ups neither do they want to be pioneers of any invention. This may be attributed to the Nigerian girl child mentality of her “duties ending up in the kitchen”.

Besides, the current President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria believes that the duty of his wife is only in the kitchen. Could it also be that women and girls are resistant to change? Does this really explain why in a Mechanical Engineering class of about a hundred students, less than ten are women?

There are women all over the world that have created or partnered with inventions that have made life easier for the world. Margaret Wilcox in 1983 created a combined clothes and dish washer. Dr. maria Telkes and Eleanor Raymond in 1943 created the first home entirely heated by solar power.

Sheryl Kara Sandberg is the Chief Operating Officer of Facebook and the founder of leanin.org. Tracy Chou is the lead soft ware developer at Pineterest; Virginia Marie “Ginni” Rometty, an American business executive is the CEO of IBM.

As a country, we have women who are leading from the front too: Dr. (Mrs) Omobola Johnson, was the first Minister of Communications (Nigeria); Funke Opeke is the founder of MainOne. Nkem Okocha is the founder of Mamamoni, a social enterprise and FinTech startup that empowers poor rural and urban slum women with free vocational/financial skills and micro-loans; Juliet Ehimuan is Google’s Country Manager, a position she assumed since 2011. But, they are mostly based in either Lagos, Abuja or operating outside the radius of South East.

These are technology driven women, who have identified problems and solved them with technology.  It amazes me that women in the South East Nigeria are not towing this path enough. Many of the tech start-ups in the South East are owned by men. Take for instance Raadaa.com, Teneece, TechEconomy.ng, Genesys Tech Hub, CfaTech.ng and many others. You could argue that Linda Ikeji is one of us; Adanma Onuegbu is the CEO of Signal Alliance. How about if more of our women and girls were more technology conscious?

To an extent, women are blessed with patience and the sixth sense to go through various processes. What if this quality was put into technology? Just like Sheryl Sandberg, many women and girls in the South East are gifted and can improve our tech world if they can get interested. That’s why I was very happy when Awka, Anambra State based start-up, extraclass.ng, has emerged winner of the N1 million Taiwo Bankole Ogunyemi prize at the Techtiary Forum 2017. This is a morale booster for women/girls in the technology space- developers, start-ups, etc.

The Forum was put together by Paradigm Initiative, a social enterprise, which connects youths with ICT-enabled opportunities.

The Executive Director of Paradigm Initiative, Gbenga Sesan, presenting the N1 million cheque (mock) to the Co-founder and Chief Executive Officer of Extraclass.ng, Onyinyechi Nmecha, applauded the innovative platform and urged them to work harder; making good use presented by the prize money. Now, that’s cheering news, but Onyinyechi and her team are starting from scratch; in a region that seem alienated when it comes to women and girls in technology.

An article , The Real Reason Most Women Don’t Go Into Tech, published by Gene Marks on Forbes.com on the 16th of arch 2015 stated that in many software development companies, startups, construction firms and other businesses that employ engineers, developers, database experts and other technology types, there are always more males than females, with the feminine number almost inconsequential.

He identified that most graduate degree taken by women lean towards Education, Nursing, Social work and Counseling. This is majorly because women love to be ‘stay at home moms’ as it offers more flexibility than a typical technology job.

What greater output it would be if women are ignited with the passion for technology. Greater problems would be solved majorly in collaboration, which does not necessarily have to be only between the make folks.

If women in the South East can be more technology conscious, it would spur a passion for technology in women in other regions of Nigeria, which would make Nigeria more competitive when it comes to technology.

Igniting the technology passion in women takes education, awareness, sensitizations and opportunity creation.

I look forward to a Nigeria that can compete with Japan, USA, China, Germany and other tech countries if only women can be more conscious.

Ugwoke Peace Udoka, writes from Lagos

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Affordable Smartphones, Tablets Answer to Broadband Penetration

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Two recent polls by independent international ICT agencies have confirmed long held views that Nigerians are very resilient and are moving towards meeting global competitiveness inspite of government’s indifference towards upgrading the nation’s poor IT infrastructure. A survey by Zoomsphere shows that South Africa, Nigeria and Egypt top Africa’s LinkedIn subscription put at about 5.7 million. Statistics from the agency shows that there are lots of opportunities for growth for LinkedIn in the continent. LinkedIn statistics put figures from the countries on the professional social networking site as South Africa 1, 700, 672, Nigeria 656, 528 and Egypt 543, 699. Perhaps viewed against the backdrop of factors like literacy level and infrastructure adequacy, one would surmise that Nigeria was making giant strides in citizen education. At the 2011 Microsoft’s global Imagine Cup competition, Nigeria didn’t fare as much as Egypt and that despite the latter’s social upheaval that led to deposition of long term president Hosni Mubarak. In an earlier survey by Alexa.com, Egypt, South Africa and Nigeria also topped the continent’s facebook user account. Egypt registered 9 million users on the social networking site which continues to be a favourite in Africa. South Africa ranks second with 4.8 million users and Nigeria 4.3 million. But it is evident that with the mobile broadband explosion in the country, it is just a matter of time before Nigeria overtakes both nations using its huge population advantage as evidence in the mobile phone revolution. According to Alexa.com 3.2 million Users in these three countries were added to their combined 18.1 million in the last six months alone. Nigeria faces huge infrastructure challenge including public power supply, broadband penetration amongst others. Despite the huge mobile phone customers base put at over 110 million and the landing of two submarine fibre optic cables to the country in 2010, Nigeria still lacks in critical telecom infrastructure development in much of the country. For example, the two privately owned undersea cables, MainOne and Glo1 systems are only effective in Lagos commercially. “There has to be a government assistance to take the fibre up country from Lagos. We have landed the fibre in the shores of Lagos, but it will cost huge financial investment to take this infrastructure to the hinterlands,” said Ms. Funke Opeke, CEO of MainOne. Sunil Mittal, chairman and managing director of Bharti Airtel noted that for countries in sub-Saharan Africa like Nigeria, the answer lies with cheap tablets to spur adoption of the fast evolving technological trends. Mittal who spoke at last weeks’ mobile world congress (MWC) in Barcelona, Spain advocated that OEMs should focus on bringing down cost of tablets and smartphones to enable access in emerging markets like Africa and India. The Airtel chief recommended retain tablet price range of about $50 to give these markets access. He was speaking from a position of customer point of view from a poor market economy, not necessarily as an operator who aims for the profit alone. Both the India sub-continent and sub-Saharan Africa have a common bond of poverty and Mittal understands. While stating that smartphone market penetration in India accounts for about five per cent, he lamented that the need for affordable access to mobile broadband was even more pressing in Africa than on the sub continent. He believes cheap and affordable devices would increase mobile penetration and capacity building in both markets. “We are seeing tremendous uplift in the data usage in the developing world. The problem is on the devices side. We need to be able to build very affordable smartphones.” “The cost of operations in Africa is very high. We can’t bring the tariffs down yet. In India the first dollar goes on phone and then the next goes on telephony. In Africa, any savings on telephony will go into food.” The high point of Mittal’s speech was his recognition of the fact that Africa lacks the critical transformational middle class. India, he stated has a subsidized middle class which takes the heat off the wealthy. This contrasts with Africa where you are either very poor or wealthy! The advantage of mobile broadband was quite evidenced in the 2011 Arab Spring revolutions that witnessed age hold political dynasties dethroned in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya. Nigeria had a taste of this new media ascendency last January when masses of people converged on major streets across the nation in carnival moods and shutting down the economy over a period of seven days following government’s announcement of increase in fuel pomp prices. The government was forced to backpedal midway when it became apparent the people would precede to totally shutdown the entire petroleum production process if it did not soft pedal. The outcome was hailed as victory for people’s power and triumph of democracy. But more than democracy and people’ power, what took place in Nigeria last January was a triumph of the emerging mobile broadband evolution in Nigeria. Due to the dearth of critical telecom infrastructure in the country, much of the acclaimed 40 million internet subscriptions are mobile driven. And here the call for cheaper tablets and smartphones becomes even more critical. The Nigerian PC OEMs have been challenged by no other than the Qualcomm managing director for West Africa, Alex Dadson to begin the process of producing tablets locally. He believes local production of tablets would drive down cost, generate employment and fast track the learning process in the education sector. Again, nobody talks about what government could do because the government isn’t just responsive to the people it claims to govern.

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