The Role of E-Commerce in the Kenyan Hotel Industry
A report by World Travel Market predicts mobile channel is expected to account for 30% of online travel value sales by 2017. At the same time, United Nations World Tourism Organization places e-tourism at a global 59%. Both reports evidently point to a shift in the hotel industry, a main player in the tourism industry. It’s important for local industry players to take the hint and embrace e-commerce.
Second only to the country’s natural resources, the hotel industry is integral to the booming tourism industry. Tourism is a significant factor in the global economy, responsible for 10% of the world’s GDP. The industry also accounts for 30% of service imports and one out of every 11 jobs worldwide, according to a report by United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO).
To online booking platform Jovago.com, these numbers mean more than the fluctuating tourist arrivals in Africa. The company has been instrumental in creating an online presence for hotels in continent.
As explains Estelle Verdier, Managing Director for Jovago, the hotel industry is constantly changing and growing to meet new demands and expectations. One huge factor is the global shift to e-commerce, owing to the need to adapt technology in any company’s marketing structure.
So far, the website hosts close to 4,000 hotels in East Africa, half of which had no online presence before. In fact, if Kenya is to stay on an upward trajectory in the business, “we must embrace the rise of digital and mobile marketing methods, and remember a web based business knows no international boundaries.”
The explosion of online tourism is not only limited to hotel bookings, as indicated in a report by the UNWTO; 59% of research, actual booking, cost comparisons, payments and reviews are done online. Although guests may not fully discard traditional offline hotel research, the study indicates that the average consumer will visit 14 travel-related sites before making an online booking, roughly using each site three times. They will also carry out nine travel-related searches on Google and other search engines.
Before making the decision, guests heavily consider online reviews from other customers, which means hotels should not take lightly what previous guests have to say. Travel sites such as Trip Advisor have an active customer review system. Closer to home, booking platforms such as Jovago.com have a Customer Review System embedded on the website.
“Feedback is important in business, and especially as the world steadily shifts to e-commerce” says Ed Barrow, The Managing Director for hellofood.co.ke, an online food delivery company. Reviews and feedback from a consumer are as important to the service as well as the company providing the interface. The market demands better service and increased convenience in the way they consume. Internet and mobile penetration in Kenya is one of the highest in Africa and keeps growing rapidly. Hotels can capitalize on this with a mobile-optimized customer experience. With an increasing choice of restaurants, hotels and cuisines in Nairobi, the consumer can compare prices, rate efficiency as well as consider previous reviews without having to visit the provider.
Just half a century ago in 1950, only 25 million people travelled the globe. Last year, the annual number topped 1 billion, a forty fold increase in just 60 years. Upgrading technology to meet a changing industry must be on the forefront of any business operating online. For instance, provision of various payment options, accessible customer care and mobile application to ensure a seamless service on the go is incredibly important, says Verdier.
Both entrepreneurs also agree that integrating features such as LiveChat on both the service website and the hotel website is as essential to an effective customer care department.
If UNWTO’S predicted 5-7% travel growth is to be expected, Africa can count on a hearty portion of the 1.8 billion global travelers by 2030.
Hellofood together with its affiliated brands foodpanda and Delivery Club, is the leading global online food delivery marketplace, active in more than 38 countries on five continents. The company enables restaurants to become visible in the online and mobile world and provides them with a constantly evolving online technology. For consumers, hellofood offers the convenience to order food online and the widest gastronomic range, from which they can choose their favorite meal on the web or via the app.