|“Innovation is the calling card of the future…”
The world is on the move. A report by World Tourism Organization (WTO), estimates that by 2030 a global population of 8.5 billion people will take approximately 2 billion international trips. People are travelling more than ever, further than before, and faster!
The travel industry has had to transform itself to adapt to this shift. The basic unit of the travel industry, the travel agency, has had to forge itself afresh from the agent of ‘yore’ to a forward-thinking, innovative travel partner of the modern age. The biggest catalyst for this reinvention has been the emergence of a savvier consumer. One driven by passions, influenced by and adaptable to whims and trends and who is harnessing the power of technology.
The modern traveler has more control over their travel. Technology has bridged the gap between those with information/experience, and those seeking it. The modern traveler is leveraging this tool, search engines, social media, aggregators and apps.
The modern traveler wants a more personalized, tailor-made travel experience. With content that speaks to individual needs. Their demands cut across conventional travel and tour packages where. For the most part, the modern traveler is calling the shots. He is a master negotiator; he does his homework on every aspect of travel. The travel agent is no longer dictating the terms. He is now a travel partner expected to facilitate the traveler’s needs.
Technology as a Tool in a Travel Agency
Like any tool in any other profession/industry/craft, wielding the right technology, the right way and harnessing it’s potential to the maximum makes all the difference. You would be hard pressed to find a business process that has not and cannot be digitized or automated. While technology has made all this possible, it is constantly adapting to consumer needs and trends.
Adopt Environmentally responsible travel: “…I’m am Green…”
Technology gave us a paperless environment. The world is embracing eco-friendly, sustainable, renewable, recyclable, green business practices more and more. No more paper airline tickets, boarding passes and hotel vouchers. E-tickets and E-vouchers, QR codes and NFC. The new traveler abhors waste and will pay more to save the planet and reduce his carbon foot-print. Technology allows us to buy and check-in online. No need to commute for this. Airbnb’s beat a hotel in that the running costs for the owner are lower, and the experience is more ‘home-like’ & cheaper for the traveler.
Adopt Cost and Time saving practices: “…Click-Click-Cash…”
Online transactions mean we save time otherwise spent commuting to the travel agency. The traveler saves time and money that they could very well put back in the travel package. The agency too no longer needs to set up shop at every corner up every street. This means a leaner staff, lower wage bill (medical, insurance, benefits etc.) Running costs are lower for the agency so they can afford to offer their customers discounts.
Diversify. Language is no longer a barrier: “…Hello World…”
The modern traveler no longer considers language a barrier to selecting a travel destination. Technology exists that allows for easy translations of text in books, speech, signs, etc. This means the travel agent can offer up any destination as a choice the customer.
The travel agency would be wise to market itself with packages covering regions beyond the usual destinations. The more off the beaten path, the better. They should also build capacity to handle clients from these destinations too, because they are coming.
Offer a Seamless Experience: “…From Hero-to-Home…”
The modern traveler demands a travel experience devoid of interruptions. There are apps to notify them how long their cab will take, they get mobile alerts when their flight is delayed, they have directions to their hotel from the airport, seaport before they set off. They expect that bus or airline ticket to be a guarantee that everything has been put in place to ensure their safe and comfortable travel experience. And should any glitches arise, the turnaround in solving them should be fast. Only way this is possible is by maintain contact with the traveler at all times. Not just to fix problems for them, but also to gather feedback from them concerning their experience on real-time. The traveler is left to do the most important part of the process. Enjoy a worry-free trip.
By designing a platform that provides real time information on flights and other travel arrangements, travel agencies can help business travelers save time.
E-Commerce: “…a moment of silence for fanny packs… : -\”
Electronic payments are fast taking over commerce. They are safer, more reliable and faster. Online banking, money transfer apps, mobile payment platforms, all these and more should be modes acceptable and embraced by the modern travel agent.
Partnerships with financial institutions to assist their clients do business with them is a definite plus. Build a secure platform for online commerce with customers, and you will keep them. The technology for this is mature; tried and tested.
Unique & personalized Experiences: “…hello dream tips…”
4IR is rapidly changing the tourism and travel industry. Consumers are in the driver’s seat and they are flexing their power by dictating terms and imposing their tastes and needs. Travel agencies are faced with better informed consumers, with more power and with higher expectations in relation to what they expect from providers.
“Everything is personal these days.
Technology has allowed us to seek out customizable travel experiences as opposed to going for prepackaged ones. Search engines, aggregator websites, internet bloggers and critiques with their reviews and insight. There is a vast pool of information about almost every imaginable travel destination and experience out there.
Millennials want their experience to be as unique as they are. There are real-time reviews on Websites and people get to post their genuine experience regarding their travel experience. The Agencies online presence can incorporate these via social media platforms and websites.
Connections: “…networks & partnerships…”
Social media is a tool of both trade and lifestyle. Leveraging this for business is no longer just a good idea. It is a requirement. Apps to connect the destinations to the agency and the traveler help track and gather feedback necessary to make smarter and more accurate/relevant decisions. Reputation translates to revenue. Shares, Likes, Follows, Tweets-Retweets, Hash-tags, Live etc. are the new currency. #travelenjoyrespect
Artificial Intelligence, albeit still relatively new, will assist with the creation of feedback loops allowing travelers to comment and rate different aspects of their trip, thus improving future experiences. Watch out for Blockchain technology too and its potential to revolutionize the industry by providing better data communication.
Big data for those that can process it is a gold mine. Access to more and more information about the tastes and activities of travelers at destinations, recognizing trends in the seasonality of demand, and other key factors of tourist behavior are fundamental in the development of product linked strategies. A travel agent and or service provider can use it to better understand trends, predict outcomes and develop more personalized services for their clients. The processing and management of Big Data by smart destinations helps to enrich the visitor experience and compete more effectively.
|A recent report from the World Travel and Tourism Council and Travelport revealed that business travel accounts for $1.3 trillion of global travel spending annually, and is set to rise at 3.7% per annum over the next ten years.
One key reason for this impressive growth has been the industry’s adoption of pioneering technology. Leverage this market with some after-work leisure travel and you are a travel partner with vision.
“A dream will not become an innovation if there is no realization…” Ciputra
In a wrap, travel agencies have to adapt to the modern traveler by harnessing modern technology and looking out for emerging ones. Then use these tools for intelligent data gathering and management, analyzing the market in real time, studying and predicting travel trends, adapting business processes to change in the shortest time, all these practices are vital to stay afloat in the new travel world.
In presenting this article to your notice, kindly bare in mind certain truths, which might escape your memory on this subject of data collection. Be pleased to remember that data collection activities dates back to the 10th century and we are by no means challenging its discipline. However, we are questioning the relevance of a data that is collected and recorded by hand over a period of 6 months, transformed into digital format, verified and analyzed into useful information over another period of 8 months and published towards the end of the following year.
A thousand years and counting, you must be very familiar with walk-in visitors by the name of field interviewers from “so and so research” institution. Once admitted, the interviewer is always very swift to pull out the booklet only to be publicly embarrassed in your audience, with the sheaf of pages coming loose, the spine of the book cracked and ripped, with dog-eared corners at the pages duly equipped to start the interview. This experience of embarrassment inadvertently alerts you to the substandard data collection exercise, which threatens the beliefs you hold concerning the integrity of the research institution and the reliability of the survey outcome.
And yet, the explosive growth in the availability of mobile phones in Africa even in some of the poorest, most remote communities of Kenya does not seem to interest these institutions into adopting automation in data collection, management and delivery. You have heard it said before that if the eyes did not see, the hands wouldn’t take it; and so DewCIS Solutions Ltd has seized this opportunity to create innovative mobile data-centric applications that explore how these devices might be used effectively as part of large scale data collection efforts across various sectors including census, health, market trends and general information gathering.
DewCIS has developed a workflow-driven mobile data collection application, named dataNomads, to streamline the process of data collection and synchronization with the online central database. The application is developed on the open source android mobile platform, allowing it to run on a wide range of devices.
One remarkable feature that makes dataNomads app particularly interesting and extremely useful in the field is that it is has been written to work without network coverage. It might not surprise you that most of remote Kenya is still outside the range of most Internet service providers. So, rather than enumerators collecting information continuously to an online database, all the data is collected and stored locally on the device and uploaded to the online repository only when access to Internet connectivity is restored.
As soon as data from field crew is synchronized with the central database, managers are able to review it in an easy to use Google Earth interface. This interface also allows managers to track progress, identify errors or inconsistencies, and provide feedback to field crew in real time. By exploiting the geolocation capability, exact locations and timestamp of data submitted are displayed on the map as thematically rendered icons, and can be updated in real time to reflect the most current state of the data collection effort.
With minimal training, dataNomads application has the potential to reduce field data collection time by over 50% while its validation features significantly reduce errors providing more accurate and reliable information. More importantly, with pen and paper, you are never sure if the surveyor has really gone to the field to collect the data or if he generated fictitious data while seated under the comfort of a sycamore tree.
In today’s rapidly changing markets, business leaders must make critical decisions like whom should they target with their products or which direction should they expand? They often rely on just internal business data, such as last year’s sales analytics. While internal data gives a great picture about how your business performed in the past, it does not reveal how your business will perform in the future. Faced with this dilemma, within the limits of your own resources, the answer may well be hidden in data outside of your internal systems! With our innovative dataNomads mobile application, we promise business leaders immediate access to diverse datasets gathered from the field, to drive highly targeted business decisions.
Surely, the earth has music for those who listen. Save trees by avoiding unnecessary use of paper and care for the environment by keeping it clean. Our contribution therefore, is to collaborate with research organizations and data driven enterprises to adopt innovative mobile data collection technologies that would waste less energy and boost their credibility, save money and shape how their businesses evolves into the future.
You, too, could have hit a jackpot had you invested in Bitcoins! Have you been a victim of this kind of lecture? Well, rest easy, for the most of us, with the exception of a very lucky few, it is an endless wait.
In an effort to make our readers understand this wilderness cryptocurrency, I will borrow the analogy of reconstructing a shattered pot to explain what Bitcoin business is all about? The intrinsic value of earthenware is easy to find when watching a skillful potter put his talent at play creating functional pieces, which are also decorative and often meant to be appreciated purely as works of art.
In the African setup, before the invention of the malleable iron and the versatile plastic, our adorable mothers used to carry water in these lovely shaped and delicately baked earthenware. You will agree with me that fetching water from the well and trekking several miles to the homestead while carefully balancing a pot full of water on the head, sometimes on high winds is a recipe for disaster. One occasion, the pot would come down and crash into scattered tiny bits of pieces called potsherds dispersing all its contents along with it. My dear reader, consider this unfortunate event of the crashing of the pot to mark the invention of the Bitcoin with individual potsherd pieces numbered a total of 21 million bitcoins.
Now, we set out to reconstruct the pot based on blockchain technology by mending the individual potsherd pieces together using fillers, glue and cold glaze to its original shape and form, and build the business of Bitcoin as a cryptocurrency over the Internet. The continuous process of searching, finding, identifying the correct potsherd piece to fit the puzzle and painstakingly building the original pot is christened Bitcoin mining; and this requires enormous resources and time as you can imagine.
As far as cryptocurrency is concern, this calls for expensive investment in serious computing power to negotiate and append a new unique block of code into an already existing, fragile and growing record of transactions. Because the pieces are so scattered, the source of the next find is somewhat distributed into a sort of organized chaos by design; for nobody in particular knows where the next solution will come from. This lack of an overseeing body like the Central Bank to release new currency whenever the market demands or requires it is a core feature of the definition of a cryptocurrency.
In the case of Bitcoin, new coins are released on a steady and predictable rate using a coded mathematical formula. This rate started with 50 new bitcoins every hour and is halved until around the year 2140 when there will be no more bitcoins to release. Dear reader, at this point to understand Bitcoin mining, think of it as the process of verifying these transactions in its simplest form. In the beginning, bitcoins could be mined on home computers and were awarded at about $2 each. Now mining is a much more complicated and energy-intensive process involving giant mining farms of thousands of computers across the globe.
Now that we have a better grasp of what Bitcoin and Bitcoin mining is, let us take a deep dive into the business of cryptocurrency and explore rumours, truths and lies. As at January 2018, there are over 1,384 cryptocurrencies available over the Internet similar to Bitcoin but based on different algorithms including Ethereum, Litecoin, Primecoin; and many more are being created every day.
A cryptocurrency only has value in its exchange, which means that in itself, it has no inherent value much the same as a ‘conventional’ currency. A Shilling is only worth what someone is willing to give another for that Shilling. If everyone stops accepting the Shilling, won’t it become worthless? So it goes without saying that a cryptocurrency is only worth what someone will exchange for it.
The burning question therefore is whether Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies are the future of digital money? Judging from what the inventors of the first popular cryptocurrency Bitcoin, Satoshi Nakamoto and others envisioned it for, it is becoming increasingly difficult to consider Bitcoing as a currency. Recent developments show that Bitcoin is becoming less of a payment network and is instead evolving into digital gold, much like when our precious 2,000-year old pot is fully reconstructed and auctioned to a collector for an antique. The initial price of a bitcoin, set in 2010, was less than 1 Kenya Shilling and as at December 2017 the value had surged to over KES 1,600,000 but has since dipped to KES 1,100,000 in January 2018.
This rally from the investment world is dampening any hope that bitcoin will mature into a means of exchange. Currencies need to remain broadly stable in their valuation to ensure that commerce can take place. Certainly, there is bound to be some shift in the value of the coins in your pocket and that is why foreign exchange trading is a business, but put simply, a shilling should buy you the same thing on Monday as it does the following Friday.
Understandably, Gold is valuable because it has many industrial and decorative uses. Its price can fluctuate due to speculation on financial markets, but it can never fall to zero. There will always be someone willing to accept gold because it’s a useful commodity. Conversely, one has to ask if Bitcoin is really valuable? It has no industrial or decorative use, and it doesn’t entitle the holder to receive interest. It was intended to be valuable as a currency that is accepted the world over, but that doesn’t seem to be happening either. Perhaps, the only major value that Bitcoin has now is its exchange value. Many people are willing to pay a lot of money today to get hold of some Bitcoin. But what they are getting for their money is simply the ‘hope’ that another buyer down the line will pay even more money for the same coins. One is therefore forgiven to hold that once the hype stops, there will be no fundamental value to prevent the bitcoins’ price from falling close to zero. To many of us, this reason definitely falls on deaf ears. We take comfort in a euphoric attitude that always leads to a bubble with some investors of initial coin offerings (ICOs) reaping big while the rest of the park is kept busy with occasional speculative and destructive busts which often leave many investors counting losses.
For the bold and wild investors, it may do you good to keep watch of the upcoming G20 meeting in March 2018, where policymakers will discuss tighter regulations or possible crippling of cryptocurrencies all together. For us in the technology industry, we must thank Bitcoin and the other cryptocurrencies not for their elusive ‘currency’ and emerging pyramid schemes but for the supporting technologies borne of these inventions. When I think about cryptography and blockchaining technologies, several opportunities stir my fancy including; cheap almost free money transfers methods, universal ID for every person alive, smart contracts, voting, Internet of Things (IoT) and many others.