Mobile booking gaining popularity in Tanzania

September 27, 2014

As one-sixth of Tanzanians above the age of 18 have access to Internet, online bookings for airline tickets and hotel rooms continue to grow in popularity. According to a Tourism and Creative Economy report that I’ve seen, about half of the nation’s travellers make their reservation through websites, mobile money bookings. “Last year, the number of Tanzanian travellers to upcountry reached 5 million people taking 8 million trips. About 30 percent of them made their transportation and accommodation bookings on the mobile based payments,” the study noted. Researchers attributed the trend to Tanzania’s growing middle-class, a major segment of tourists who intensively use information from Internet as their key reference. “Tanzania has one of the largest middle-class in East and Central Africa, with only Kenya ahead.Tanzanian need instant information. About 70 percent of those aged below 30 get their news from online media, compared to only 17 percent who prefer newspapers,” study explained. This trend has prompted travel agents, airlines and hotel companies to intensify their online marketing, in an effort to draw domestic tourists, who spent estimated US$ 349 million travelling in the upcountry and the East African countries of Burundi, Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda in 2013.

According to a friend who works at Orion Tabora management, in town of Tabora, the hotel accommodates consumers by featuring booking through external websites and even their local sales agents can advance payments via mobile money payments.“We realised that Tanzanians have become more gadget dependent. Therefore, online and mobile phone booking plays a bigger role in our business, given that close to 80 percent of our customers are local tourists,” a staff told me when I wanted to verify the statistics contained in the study. Mobile bookings contribute between 20 to 30 percent of room reservations at Orion Tabora’s hotel. “It is a significant jump. Just in early 2011, online booking was still below 10 percent,” he said over the phone. “Soon, we will launch a new way for our customers to book hotel rooms,” he said without disclosing further details to your blogger. In the airline industry, FastJet, one of Tanzania’s low cost airline that is said to have sold half of their tickets via mobile and online reservations.FastJet is also trying to boost revenues generated from online and mobile bookings from less than 5 percent of total sales last year to 20 percent next year.

With ongoing capacity and reliability improvements in FastJet’s business, low cost airline aim to increase online and mobile booking sales to 10 percent this year and 40 percent in the next two years,” an insider whom I cannot named told me. In my several visits to Tanzania, I have found booking online a hassle-free way to get the best deal for my trips. Many hotels in Arusha, Dar Es Salaam and Bagamoyo provide reservations through website or email correspondence. I have always been able to easily compare the prices over the Internet. But if you order through a travel agent, it will cost you more. For local customers, mobile bookings provide efficient solutions for traveling. On the other hand, it also creates fierce price wars between hotel and bus companies that remain the most commonly used mode of transport for domestic tourists. Despite increased competition from low cost airlines and revival of rail transport, bus companies in Tanzania remain upbeat that they could thrive by implementing a “dynamic pricing” system based on seasons like Easter, Christmas and occupancy rates. According to a bus operator in Ubungo Bus Terminal whom I’ve known for several years now, told me on phone that “People choose bus, mainly, not because of its price. We treat mobile phone booking more as an option.”No doubt Tanzanian travellers are going mobile.

Contador Harrison