Diverse types of accommodations such as hotels, lodges, resorts, motels, tented camps etc. which carter for travellers’ needs are changing overtime. These changes have been influenced by a number of factors which include changing consumer needs and preferences. The tourism industry in Africa has taken remarkable measures to respond to the changing trends in order to match tourists’ expectations and perceptions when it comes to the accommodation sector. Additionally, there lies seamless opportunities and threats in the process of these transitions which must be taken care of for the growth of the industry. STTA young change makers took to this discussion on twitter to explore what these transitions mean for the tourism industry. They also noted that while change is inevitable there are some aspects of the industry which are better kept authentic for the purpose of tourist experiences.
What are some of the global transitions in accommodation trends?
In the tweet chat the STTA Changemakers identified the following global transitions in the accommodation sector.
- Commercialized hosting like Airbnb has been globally acknowledged as a cheaper and convenient facility compared to the hotels due to their most engaging and enjoyable nature.
- Technology has remarkably changed most operational features of the accommodation sector. The use of robotics, introduction of blockchain for payment acceptance in cryptocurrencies and the increased use of biometrics for security. Technology has also expanded to advancements in immersive virtual reality which enables prospective guests to get a better idea of the property they intend to book.
- Emergence of the millennials who are seeking unique experiences hence shifting accommodation businesses to offer lifestyle experience and do boulder design choices with spaces set up to mix work and play for groups or individuals.
- Global perspective of sustainability in business is also a new trend in the accommodation sector which has given demand to eco-conscious guests in demand for nature-friendly accommodation such as eco-lodges and Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) bandas.
- Changes in marketing information which communicate safety of visitors and assure safer environments healthwise as a result of the global coronavirus pandemic. Also minimizing physical interactions by use of chatbots.
- Increasing shifts towards consumer centric product development for competitiveness, increasing demand for personalized experiences, and increasing technology influence in customer journeys has driven growth of boutique accommodation and shared accommodation.
- Guests are at the forefront in influencing how hotels are designed as they now prefer eco-friendly products and services, accommodation facilities are in turn listening by adopting new environmentally sustainable practices and realigning their overall strategies to that of guests.
- Finally, as a result of the transitions, various governments in Africa have come up with policies to govern the rising competition between different accommodation facilities such as the hotels and Airbnb for instance taxation of Airbnb in Kenya
What market changes influence these trends?
- Shifting consumer preferences towards safety and health. Consumers today are willing to pay more for precautionary measures.
- Shifts in consumer behaviour and expectations e.g. search for eco-friendly accommodation.
- Digitalized guest experiences and contactless technology that is now shaping the guest journey.
- The growing middle class has seen a continuous construction of properties with creative and innovative offerings to wow the luxury travellers who continue to have an appetite for over-the-top experiences.
- Cratering to millennials. Companies today define their strategies based on this demographic group’s personality traits and habits.
- A focus on environmental sustainability by providing the guests with eco-friendly products and services.
- Interests in tourist markets to create ties with local communities has seen booking with homestays gain popularity.
How African tourism is responding to the transitions
- Tourism rich areas in the continent are attracting hotel investments from international brands to bring new idea development on matters accommodation.
- Hyper personalization in which smart rooms and technology has enabled most hotels gather specific data from their device ecosystem that can be used by hotel operators to enhance the guest experience and anticipate specific guest demands.
- Value addition is the basis of competing effectively unlike traditional ways like pricing strategies. Most accommodation are upscaling their values with an aim of retraining customers
- Adoption of touchless technology. Ever since the start of COVID 19, contactless technology has experienced a big boom. Areas such as reception and room service have been made contactless to reduce the spread of the disease.
- Repositioning to attract suitable market segments as a result of the changing trends
- Government supporting tourism development in rural areas to encourage alternative accommodation business like farm houses and home stays.
- Providing new experience whether through wellness, outdoor activities, gastronomy, or specific interest like sports or music
- Technology based luggage tags have tracking system that track the traveller’s luggage and can send real time data via text message, email, or special app.
- Embracing social media like chat bots and automated messaging, especially Instagram.
Opportunities and threats for Africa’s tourism in the transitions
- Generating new knowledge that can provide insights to the industry on how to transform their operations under the emerging customer needs and wants due to the pandemic.
- Challenge of revenue leaks from high commission charges for accommodation business listed online through third parties like OTAs
- Forming synergies and partnerships locally, regionally, and internationally to attract investors and travellers.
- Adoption of various technology in the accommodation for instance artificial intelligence and social service robot technology.
- Increase and leverage on eco-friendly accommodation types like camping and home stays as more travellers will want to spend more time at the destination and have a positive impact during their stay.
- Climate, weather, and environmental factors. Air pollution can be serious concern in some areas. Travellers with asthma or other respiratory issues may opt to avoid these locations entirely for health reasons.
- Opportunity to increase and leverage on eco-friendly accommodation types like camping and home stays as more travellers will want to spend more time at the destination and have a positive impact during their stay.
Africa’s tourism has come to a level in which it has to conform to a changes in the new normal. Different sectors including accommodation have thus indicated notable transitions in order to conform with the current normal. As discussed by the STTA young changemakers, accommodation has embraced various changes especially a great transition to technology, which is mainly a self-service platform.
Summary by Collins Atieno and Sharon Akoth