Guido Verweij, is the Managing Director, Africa, for Travelport, a leading travel commerce platform, that is based in the UK. In this interview with Ugo Aliogo, he speaks about how technology is improving the travel commerce business in Africa
Travelport recently conducted a research on global digital travel solutions. What inspired this research?
Our purpose as a company is to build leading technology that makes the experience of buying and managing travel continually better. It is therefore important we fully understand demand and usage of digital travel tools in strategically important countries, like Nigeria.
What did the findings from the research say about the travel behavior /experiences of individuals?
The results of the Global Digital Traveler Research 2018 highlighted the increasing popularity in Nigeria of digital tools and services for every stage of the journey – from research right through to the very end of the trip. This demand for digital solutions is only going to continue as people seek ever more ways to improve convenience and enhance their overall experience, not only where travel is concerned, but in every part of their lives.
Apart from the individual behaviors of travelers, are there any emerging trends in the travel solution industry as a whole?
From a travel tech perspective, we believe that there are five key technologies that will continue to shape travel experiences in the short to mid-term. The first is the Internet of Things, which relates to the interconnection – via the Internet – of computing devices that are embedded in everyday objects required to send and receive data at speed. This can help improve things like real-time updates on the status of flights and baggage tracking.
The second is mobile. Mobile acts as a personal travel companion. Right through from the point of search to the point of return, it determines traveler’s experience of certain products and the overall journey. It offers a means of continuous, one-to-one engagement, enabling different offers and the availability of services to be tailored to an individual’s specific preferences or geographical location. The third is Artificial Intelligence (AI). AI can unlock insights to create the personalised, tailored and customised experiences travelers crave. But you need to constantly inform AI and that’s where the four technology comes in, Big Data. Data is the fuel that powers commercial intelligence. In the travel industry, specifically, by analysing a complex set of data points like travel history and demographics, predictive analytics can essentially plot travelers’ next moves before they even know what they are themselves. To utilise this data, we need access to significant quantities of computing power. Some of this can be provided by cloud-based infrastructure, the fifth technology. Cloud computing technology enables data and content to be moved with relative ease, as well as computed and delivered as close to the point of consumption geographically as possible.
One would have expected that more technological advanced countries like USA, UAE, Spain, Canada would rank above Nigeria in the 2018 survey, but this was not the case. What do you think is the reason for this?
It is likely Nigeria’s position near the top of our table is because the country has a young population who grew up as digital natives and are open to innovation.
Seeing that Nigeria is increasingly becoming a tech savvy nation, what do you think the future holds for the deployment of technology in Nigeria’s travel / tourism sector?
We’ll see more and more companies, like travel agents and airlines, investing in digital solutions that can support travelers in Nigeria throughout their journeys. The demand is already there today, and I believe it’s only going to escalate in the years to come.
What trends in travel industry should the Nigerian market watch out for in 2019?
We will see the notion of what travelers in Nigeria want, and value, continue to change. For example, while cost, choice and convenience will still be significant drivers of booking decisions, the experience offered will play an increasingly significant role. This will lead to increasing demand among business travelers in Nigeria for ‘bleisure’, trips that combine business and leisure activities. We will also see leisure travelers increasing seek new and more adventurous experiences, often in lesser known destinations.
With a lot of fake news and misinformation on the internet, how reliable and valid is information gotten from social media videos and photos posted by friends and family on their travels?
Sharing pictures of holidays among trusted friends and family has been common for a long time. Social media has just ensured that pictures, or indeed videos, now reach more people on a more frequent basis. As was the case before social media, people just need to consider that when people share pictures and videos of their trips, they naturally show those that shine a light on the very best parts of their experiences.
What has been your experience as Travelport’s Managing Director for Africa?
Africa is a beautiful and diverse continent, with huge potential, that is undergoing rapid change. This makes it an immensely enjoyable and exciting place to work. I feel honored to lead the region for Travelport.
In your opinion, what is the future of travel commerce in Nigeria?
The future of travel commerce in Nigeria is bright. Over the next few years, we will continue to see the industry evolve and grow, and become increasingly sophisticated in how it uses technology to improve the experience of travel.