Access to information has changed the way tourists globally make decisions to go to a particular destination, industry experts at the fifth edition of the quarterly Vodafone PowerTalks forum held at the Kampala Serena Hotel revealed.
Speakers at the forum organised by telecom services provider acknowledged the role technology is playing in promoting tourism not only in Uganda but across the world, making it more competitive and requiring rigorous marketing and promotions especially on social media platforms using the internet.
The theme of the forum was "Leveraging Technology in Tourism: Lessons for Uganda". The forum attracted about 250 SMEs in the tourism sector and related industries to share knowledge, experiences and best practices on how ICTs can be leveraged to grow their businesses.
Rosette Chantal Rugamba, the Founder and Managing Director of Rwanda based Songa Africa Safaris revealed that technology has created a new consumer behavior in the tourism industry. She said travelers can now easily access information about their intended destination which influences their decision making. Rugamba said that technology and social media have become a tool for promoting tourism.
Rugamba advised that people when interacting on social media should positively talk about their countries because negativity about their country is a disadvantage. She added that technology has also created a leveled ground to promote tourism.
“I know what tourism has done for Rwanda and what it can do for you. Tourism is a business and technology is an enabler. People are searching for information before travelling.” She said, adding, “The best thing technology has done for tourism is perception – we can use it to change the perception of our countries.” She said.
Rugamba, whose’ Songa Africa Safaris has been a beneficiary of technology through social media said that 90 percent of travelers take into account experiences of other travelers which are readily available online before making deciding which destination they go to. She encouraged that governments should consider tourism as an export.
Amos Wekesa, a renowned tourism entrepreneur with Great Lakes Safaris, emphasized that it is a responsibility of all Ugandans to market Uganda because the platforms are available. Despite the availability of platforms that technology provides, Ugandans, according to Philip Kalibwami, the business development manager at The Pearl Guide, said Ugandans are not making good use it.
Derrick Sebbaale, the Chief Technical Officer of Vodafone Uganda, said Uganda is fast becoming a leading tourism attraction globally and therefore SMEs in this sector will have to be more innovative and in tune with the current trends in order to benefit from the industry and better manage the challenges that come with such growth.
Sebbaale challenged the stakeholders to consider investing more in technology and platforms that can serve as effective channels for pre-tour narratives about destinations, sites and the peoples & culture of Uganda.
Jackie Namara Rukare, the Head of Marketing, Vodafone Uganda, urged that people in the tourism sector must harness technology and get the best of it but noted that two cannot work in isolation but in tandem with other amenities like the right infrastructures in place.