, NAIROBI, Kenya, Jul 29 – Kenya’s tourism sector faces long term revival if it capitalises on the Internet and digital marketing.
According to Jovago, an online hotel booking portal, travellers are adopting technology to find the next hotel they check into now, more than ever before.
Nafisa Fazal, the head of marketing at Jovago quoted a World Travel and Tourism Council that reveals that more than 50 percent of global hotel bookings are searched, booked, paid and reviewed online.
Additionally, 96 percent of primary travel researches are done on the Internet while 50 percent of travels are booked between 48 and 24 before check in time.
However, Africa’s e-tourism is still lagging behind despite the uptake of e-tourism and technology.
“Africa needs to step out of her comfort zone and position her products where the customer is likely to be found,” she explained.
The use of online research and booking is however opening the country up to more tourists.
“We have had people in as far as Australia booking hotels in places such as Turkana after they found places they wanted to travel to online,” Fazal stated.
Its biggest challenge yet
Jovago however states that during the last two years since it was founded; bookings went down especially after the issuance of travel advisories.
“One of our biggest destination as a hotel booking portal has been Diani. However, after the Mpeketoni attacks last year, bookings went down immediately.”
She further explained that the attacks were adverse, in that people shied off from booking hotels in places such as Maasai Mara or Lodwar which are miles apart from Diani. This is because of the perception that the rest of the world has had of Kenya and other countries on the continent.
“The Ebola crisis also had adverse effects whereby many foreigners did not understand that Kenya is very far away from the epidemic. This is why we therefore market destinations instead of marketing the country as a whole,” Fazal explained.
This is why Jovago is actively pushing for a huge online and offline impression in order to sell more destinations on the continent.
“We are committed to supporting tourism in Kenya and the rest of the continent. This is why we have some of the best booking rates, more than anyone one else,” Lillian Gaitho, Jovago’s Head of Public Relations said.
Jovago also stated that local tourism was also on the rise stating that business tourism was especially on the rise.
“It is also important to note that it is not just the conferencing sector that is doing well, college students are especially logging into our website to find camping places around the country especially in Naivasha.”
Jovago also revealed the kind of hotels that were popular.
“Three and four star hotels are popular among the business fraternity interested in conference halls. The same hotels are also popular among international tourists. However, college students both locally and internationally are more likely to check into hotels with camping and backpacking facilities as that is what they prefer. Five star hotels are in the reserve of dignitaries, international tourists or business meetings,” Gaitho explained.
Jovago also said that the presence of mobile money especially in Kenya was very important. According to the company, Kenyans especially trust M-PESA more and fear using electronic payments due cyber crime.
The company is however not working alone on opening up ‘Magical Kenya’ to the world. The Kenya Tourism Board, Travel Advisory, Safari Link and Precision Air some of the key companies it is collaborating with to market its more than one thousand six hundred hotels in Kenya and twenty five thousand and counting hotels across Africa.
But the recent visit by US President Barack Obama and the thousand of delegates who attended the just concluded Global Entrepreneurship Summit have played a huge role in opening up Kenya to the world.
According to the booking company, more and more people have been logging into the website to find destinations in the country.
Additionally, the summit also almost coincides with the world’s Seventh Wonder – The Great Wildebeest Migration- which is scheduled to take place.
“The lifting of the British travel advisory issued against Kenya following a series of terror attack has also led to more bookings internationally especially in Europe which is one of the country’s key markets,” Gaitho explained.
Jovago is therefore carrying out a major campaign that coincides with Kenya Tourism Board’s campaign dubbed ‘Choose Kenya’ which has been validated by Obama’s visit.
“The most powerful man alive just spent a weekend in Kenya and he was safe, anyone else will also be safe,” she stated.
Going forward, Jovago is hoping to utilize the data it has to get more people to find places to go and find hotels for them.
“Just like we checked people into hotels during the beatification of Sister Nyaatha, we hope to help people attending sporting events such as Masaku Sevens, those who will travel to see the Great Wildebeest Migration and to see Pope Francis when he comes,” said Fazal.