Improved Local Booking System for Small and Medium Tour Operators
Tourism can make a considerable contribution to East Africa's regional economic development. It can channel vast amounts of income into the local economies across East Africa. However, increasing destination competition, pre-leakages and the lack of SME tour operators’ regional capacity limits the multiplier effects and reduces the sector’s positive economic impact and development potential. Currently the COVID-19 pandemic causes a significant disruption to the travel industry. Industry analysts and experts around the world believe that domestic demand will recover faster than international demand.
Tour operators in the different East African countries offer very similar itineraries and the lack of product differentiation has led to downward spiralling price competitions.
SME tour operators also struggle to build enough trust with customers in order to sell itineraries directly to them. This is aggravated by the tour operators’ limited capacity, resources and technical knowledge and forces tour operators to pay high commission fees to international online travel agents based abroad to find customers. Fixed net rooms rates also cause tour operators to miss out on room booking commissions.
As more and more travellers go online to book flights, hotel rooms and tours, a rising number of home-grown tour operators have been forced out of business. Smaller operators often try undercutting the competition through lower rates, but eventually collapse when their business model becomes unsustainable. The very survival of locally registered SME tour operator companies in East Africa is currently at stake.
The solution developed by Local Booking
Local Booking is developing an East African nature-oriented, bottom-up designed travel website. This web site will contain a centralised online room-booking website (business to business) and an e-marketplace (business to customer) for domestic and international travellers. The system is based on cooperative frameworks and networks at the destination level. Locally registered SME tour operators, accommodation owners and stakeholders across East Africa can connect, communicate and network seamlessly and effortlessly, in order to benefit from potential opportunities, create free flowing knowledge, and streamline and coordinate delivery.
We will enable accommodation owners to offer flexible net rates directly to tour operators across the region, as well as allowing tour operators to offer rooms to their customers at competitive rates inclusive of their mark up. The platform will highlight the uniqueness and quality of East Africa as a destination compared to alternative competing destinations; through the efficient and effective exchanges of knowledge and information between the different.
The web site wants to appeal to domestic and international responsible travellers who seek value rather than cheapest rates. Locally registered SME tour operators can promote their itineraries and tell their own story through videos, highlighting their favourite places. Potential customers will be given a preview of the different experiences waiting for them. The tour operators’ videos will not just communicate simple facts, but they will create a connection and build trust in the operator. The nature-focused videos will help the customer to relate to the tour operator. Empathy fuels connection and builds trust and loyalty.