As the travel industry builds up to Indaba in May, tourism-dependent Africa should give mobile apps their serious consideration, as apps can help them capitalise on commercial opportunities more swiftly and build more lasting relationships.
Mobile is an exciting new direction being embraced in many sectors, overseas as well as locally, says Wesley Lynch, CEO of Realmdigital, the Cape-based software development company for Web, mobile and social platforms.
Time is now
“But travel has been slow in adopting mobile, considering the pioneering role the industry played in online commerce,” he says. “So far, the travel apps that have made an impact include mobile check-in, trip advisories and various other content-driven services.”
Lynch says the time is ripe to extend mobile services into the retail environment. “There have been some successes that will pave the way for others to follow,” he says.
For instance, Sure Travel, the SA retail travel group with 107 agency outlets, launched their mobile app a couple of months ago which has seen positive results already. A number of booking enquiries have been made via their app, showing that the market is ready for the adoption of mobile.
“Travel agencies and operators can have significant benefits from utilising mobile that are not necessarily commercial in nature”. For example, corporate travel buyers can use travel apps to access the company repository of travel-related information, from travel arrangements to booking references and travel insurance,” Lynch explains.
Mobile is also a convenient medium for travellers, should the need for information arise, he adds. “We’ve even seen apps like that being used to report on the location of staff, should a travel emergency leave loved ones and colleagues incommunicado. Obviously, privacy issues would have to be dealt with in consultation with the traveller.”
Lynch adds that mobile is a very natural way in which to engage customers and an opportunity to spur impulse purchases.
“While travellers are unlikely to research their next holiday on their mobile phone, ‘post-booking’ services such as booking a car rental, renting a mobile phone or buying travel insurance is better suited to mobile devices.”
Travel companies need to start getting excited about the new class of so-called ‘travel companion’ apps, Lynch says.
“There are major up-sell opportunities within their grasp. And where an app doesn’t lend itself to monetisation, it can nevertheless be essential for maintaining the relationship with the traveller. Sure Travel’s enquiries, for instance, increased as a result of offering a mobile app, which leads to more opportunities.”
It is easy to see the benefits for anyone in the industry, or for the country as a whole.