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E-Tourism Africa – an impressive best-case

E-Tourism Africa is an initiative to develop a sustainable and equitable online tourism sector in Africa by education and provision of resources to both the private and public sectors. This writer on Views On Tourism is very impressed, please read below initiative introduction quoted from their web-page – would this be possible in Bangladesh?

Our Rationale
E-Tourism Africa was created from many years of experience of working in online consultation with both public and private sector Tourism bodies in Africa. While there is among some of the leading African tourism economies a growing awareness of the need to utilize ICT in tourism marketing, and to some extent sales, investment, development, generally progress has been very limited. The global domination of online sales has created over US$74 Billion in annual sales. Data clearly shows that the crossover point between rising online sales and descending offline sales is upon us, as Europe and Asia follow the trends that have revolutionized the US Travel trade. A recent poll of UK travellers shows a remarkable 89% preference for online reservations .

Yet Africa is excluded almost entirely from this business. A survey of any of the continents leading tourism economies shows that actual online conversion of sales, either directly of via intermediaries is virtually non-existent. This is a clear example of Larry Irving’s “Digital Divide” theory, by which technology widens the poverty gap between technologically able business communities in the developed world and a new generation of “information have-nots” in the developing world. In most African countries, e-commerce is illegal, and banks cannot (and in some cases are not willing to) accept online payments. This is a major block to the basic ability to carry out ICT sales- and must be overcome.

While some tourism economies have invested in large scale, information rich, destination sites (particularly South Africa and Kenya) which have achieved high search rankings and visibility, very little has been done to move them beyond information only status. There has been little investment in targeted contextual marketing, and only limited attempts to develop public- private sector partnerships for conversion of traffic to sales through portals. This is matched at a private sector level by a lack of investment in inventory management, online reservations systems or CRM technology, or even in use of dynamic. This also presents a threat of developing inequitable sales models, by which inventory in form of package sales are commoditized and sold on by foreign based operators.

Social Networking, blogging and consumer generated media trends that have become vital tools in the promotion of travel generate a great deal of discussion and media on Africa, but without proper contextual advertising programmes or conversion models this does little to generate any direct business.

Yet there are relatively simple ways to reverse these trends. Online tourism has become a booming business, and African tourism produced 36 Million arrivals and $32 Billion in receipts in 2006 . The digital divide in Africa represents a vast potential for commerce, investment and infrastructural development. For travel intermediaries, technology firms and marketing media, this is a rich new frontier. But this needs to be regulated, sustainable and equitable, to prevent the predominance (through lack of educated decision making processes and strategic planning) of inappropriate or exploitative business models. Equally, there is a need for a level online playing field to be sure that SMEs and community based and eco tourism ventures are not left behind and find solutions for representation in portals and regional partnerships, and e-commerce solutions to allow equitable distribution.

There is a clear need for extensive public-private sector partnerships and shared resources and initiatives. Several of these are already in place, such as Microsoft’s programme to provide a Self Provisioning Portal for tourism SME’s in Africa- giving them access to the web for the first time. In South Africa now there are plans to create a united and universally accessible payment and booking gateway for Africa to be used for the 2010 African World Cup.

By bringing together key players to be educated, informed and inspired at E-Tourism specific conferences, and including international intermediaries, technology and service providers, we can create a shift in local business cultures and practices, encourage strategic investment and planning and generate business.

Our Objectives
• To educate and inform the public and private tourism sectors in African countries and to raise awareness of the importance of ICT in adapting to the rapidly changing travel distribution channels in order to avoid the creation of a digital divide between Africa and the global travel trade.
• To provide working models of sustainable e-tourism business solutions in action, and provide the local trade with resources to initiate both e-marketing and e-business.
• To locally analyse the status of E-business at a public and private sector level, and identify key issues and challenges to development, and to incorporate these into conference and workshop agendas.
• To identify, explain and demonstrate new business and marketing technologies in a practical and simple manner that will allow the local DMOs and trade to make informed destinations about their own strategies.
• To create opportunities for exposure and networking opportunities with international online intermediaries and technology providers.
• To ensure equitable involvement of SMEs and community and eco-tourism projects in an e-tourist environment.
• To provide a platform for new initiatives, development and assistance programmes for the sector to be fully integrated into local tourism economies.
• To provide direct support and training for integration of e-tourism solutions at both a public and private sector levels, combining international and local expertise.
• To create increased opportunity for local, national, regional and Pan-African initiatives to cooperate and compete in an equitable environment.
• To provide an ongoing source for resources, discussions and further education for African Tourism stakeholders.

This information is quoted from E-Tourism Africa. The article is uploaded by Majbritt Thomsen, administrator on ‘Views On Tourism’.

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Posted in Africa, Best practice, Cooperation and network, Education and qualification, IT, Performance and management, Sale and marketing, Sustainability.

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