Keep abreast of the travel tech wave to boost tourism

The Mercury - - BUSINESS REPORT -

TECH­NOL­OGY is rev­o­lu­tion­is­ing travel. To keep grow­ing its tourism in­dus­try, South Africa must con­tin­u­ously in­vest in new tech­nolo­gies to de­liver the right ex­pe­ri­ences to dis­cern­ing trav­ellers.

It is widely recog­nised that tourism has the po­ten­tial to help South Africa and other African coun­tries grow their economies and cre­ate jobs.

Tourism is con­tribut­ing around 9 per­cent of South Africa’s gross do­mes­tic prod­uct, a growth to the econ­omy of R412.5 bil­lion in 2017, which trans­lates into 1.5 mil­lion jobs or 9.5 per­cent of to­tal em­ploy­ment.

By 2028, it is es­ti­mated that al­most 2.1 mil­lion South African jobs will de­pend on tourism.

Sim­i­lar sce­nar­ios are play­ing out across many other African economies.

How­ever, en­sur­ing a grow­ing tourism sec­tor will mean con­stantly as­sess­ing fast-mov­ing tech­no­log­i­cal de­vel­op­ments that have the po­ten­tial to change ex­pec­ta­tions and cre­ate new op­por­tu­ni­ties – or might not come to fruition.

In time, it’s pos­si­ble that driv­ing it­self will be out­dated, and faces and fin­ger­prints will re­place pass­ports al­to­gether.

To­day, how­ever, we are still jour­ney­ing to that fu­ture world. The next few years will be an ex­cit­ing time for travel tech­nol­ogy as ad­vance­ments made in the past decade be­gin to scale up and make net­work-wide im­pacts.

Here are some ad­vance­ments and new ex­pe­ri­ences trav­ellers should ex­pect to add to their ad­ven­tures, and that tourism op­er­a­tors should be con­sid­er­ing.

While no­body can yet say with con­fi­dence how au­ton­o­mous ve­hi­cles (AVs) will be de­ployed at scale and within open con­text, it is cer­tain that AVs can work in ded­i­cated ar­eas to trans­form care­fully cho­sen tourist ac­tiv­i­ties in an en­vi­ron­ment-friendly way.

Heathrow Air­port in London has the proof. Its self-driv­ing shut­tles have been run­ning on ded­i­cated road­ways since 2011. Air­port of­fi­cials told the BBC in 2014 that they re­place an es­ti­mated 70 000 bus jour­neys each year.

The pods also com­plete their jour­ney faster than buses while re­duc­ing car­bon emis­sions by 50 per­cent as com­pared with typ­i­cal air­port shut­tle buses, and by 70 per­cent as com­pared with in­di­vid­u­als in cars.

Here in South Africa, the po­ten­tial for AVs to im­prove cer­tain tourist ex­pe­ri­ences is very much on the radar. The non-profit Mo­bil­ity Cen­tre for Africa was set to run South Africa’s first pub­lic AV tri­als. This will be­gin show­ing the many ways in which these ve­hi­cles could be used to trans­form tourism. Ex­am­ples in­clude link­ing the Sand­ton Gau­train sta­tion with other lo­cal des­ti­na­tions, run­ning along Dur­ban’s fa­mous beach front, or con­nect­ing Cape Town’s V&A Wa­ter­front with the con­ven­tion cen­tre and CBD.

Get­ting through air­ports is con­sis­tently ranked as one of the top stres­sors for trav­ellers, along with money and safety.

Thank­fully, bio­met­ric se­cu­rity tech­nol­ogy is hav­ing the rare ef­fect of mak­ing air­ports more se­cure while also mak­ing air­port pro­cesses more con­ve­nient.

South Africa is set to au­to­mate its bor­der-con­trol pro­cesses for cit­i­zens us­ing fin­ger­prints stored in the Home Af­fairs Na­tional Iden­ti­fi­ca­tion Sys­tem, or Ha­nis.

A joint project by the Air­ports Com­pany of South Africa and the Depart­ment of Home Af­fairs will see bio­met­ric scan­ning in­tro­duced at Cape Town In­ter­na­tional in March 2019, with OR Tambo and King Shaka air­ports fol­low­ing suit there­after.

A pro­gramme for in­ter­na­tional trav­ellers, Trusted Trav­eller, will also be de­vel­oped in time. Be­lieve it or not, rental car com­pa­nies may soon of­fer trav­ellers the eas­i­est ac­cess to the lat­est travel tech­nol­ogy. In the US, they’re the largest buy­ers of new cars, re­plac­ing the vast ma­jor­ity of their fleets – mil­lions of cars – each year with newer, more con­nected mod­els. This trend is likely to af­fect many mar­kets in which car hire is widely used.

To­day, trav­ellers can at least ex­pect Blue­tooth con­nec­tiv­ity, even in bud­get op­tions, but rental com­pa­nies are quickly ex­pand­ing their con­nected ser­vice of­fer­ings.

In­ter-city sub­ways and fly­ing cars are on the hori­zon, but travel and mo­bil­ity won’t change all that dras­ti­cally for sev­eral more years.

In the mean­time, the tourism in­dus­try in South Africa and Africa must lead the way in pioneering travel tech­nolo­gies that make sense for their mar­kets – and trav­ellers should en­joy the jour­ney and join in the live test­ing of tech­nolo­gies that em­power per­sonal mo­bil­ity and keep us all safe on our way.

Sherry Zameer is a se­nior vice-pres­i­dent, In­ter­net of Things So­lu­tions for the CISMEA re­gion at Ge­malto.

SHERRY ZAMEER

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