Steve Duley, Sabre Airline Solutions Portfolio Executive, spoke at the AFRAA Aviation Stakeholders Convention, in Kigali, Rwanda, on Monday May 8.

Africa is on the cusp of a travel boom, encouraged along by the 56% of African consumers owning smartphones. The continent continues to push through global macro-economic headwinds, posting 3.4% growth in 2015. And by 2020, smartphone adoption is forecast to reach 70%.  With this growth comes increased travel for both leisure and business, creating significant opportunities for suppliers to focus resources on using technology to harness this growing market effectively.

Travel brands are most influential by mastering the 3 Cs of technology — Connection, Context, and Convenience. These are the three top things that today’s techie travelers expect, across devices and regardless of stage of the journey. As more African consumers leapfrog the desktop, and go straight to mobile, these fundamentals remain relevant to players across the continent.

Connection

There has never been a more connected world. Travel brands must adapt to consumers, who quickly shift focus from activity to activity and device to device. The smartphone makes this cross-device consistency even more important, as devices act as the hubs of digital life. The growth of the Internet of Things, which is only accelerating, enables new forms of communication between devices and objects. For travel brands, this means new channels to engage with consumers.

In a country like Africa, where nearly everyone who accesses the Internet does so via mobile, this enhanced connectivity is an important asset to delivering a great passenger experience. There is a craving for control and customization on mobile, as it connects the user to personalized, real-time services that improve the overall travel experience.

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Smartphone growth is now outpacing feature phones in Africa.

Connectivity also shifts and expands expectations of customer service. With the ability to connect instantly comes a desire to get help quickly in cases of disruption. The mobile platform is an affordable way to connect with customer service. Real-time messaging, whether via chat apps or SMS, allows fewer customer service representatives to handle more volume. As air traffic increases alongside Africa’s growth, the efficiencies from connectivity are enjoyed on both sides of the traveler/supplier relationship.

Context

Personalization is a key benefit of the correct context. By knowing who the passenger is, what she prefers, and her stage-of-journey, an airline can deliver a targeted offer specifically for that traveler. Whether it’s a complimentary lounge pass or updated departure information, communications should be geared towards improving their travel experience.  

Travelers want their airlines to understand them and communicate with them in a way that is relevant to their individual journeys, says Steve Duley, Sabre Airline Solutions Portfolio Executive:

“They want to be offered services, products and information in the right place at the right time. For example, imagine if your airline knew when you had boarded your aircraft and sat down in your economy class seat. Imagine if it then sent you a text giving you the opportunity to upgrade.”

Context also matters when addressing the traveler at different points in the purchase funnel. With increased access to mobile, travelers in Africa are mirroring shifts seen elsewhere: they are searching more and seeking out the best offers. “It’s no longer enough for airlines to sit back and hope that consumers come to them,” Duley says. “They need to do more to reach consumers during their ‘inspiration’ phase of looking for travel. This mirrors closely all the other segment of travel including hotels, car hire and even entertainment like restaurants.”

Convenience

Convenience is ensuring that anything the traveler needs is always available. The traveler should have what they want at the time they need it. The African passenger expects a much more streamlined travel experience, and alongside new technologies like biometrics, expectations of convenience across the continent are rising. As Duley points out, technology has an impact across all stages of the customer journey:

“Technology continues to enrich the customer experience in travel by driving personalized experiences and a connected traveler journey. For example, rather than spending hours online searching through travel sites, travelers could experience and explore a destination through Google Cardboard right at home.”

Ultimately, convenient travel experiences are the most prized outcome. Whether it’s a flight search automatically moving from an iPad to an iPhone, automatic check-in prior to a flight, or biometrics boarding passes, technology serves at the intersection of convenience and commerce. The travel industry benefits wherever technology rapidly improves access and quality of transportation  — especially in on a continent like Africa, where growing connectivity means bigger business.

Steve Duley, Sabre Airline Solutions Portfolio Executive, spoke at the AFRAA Aviation Stakeholders Convention, in Kigali, Rwanda, on Monday May 8. The full presentation is embedded below.