Q & A: Nigeria’s travel technology

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Q: How would you describe the recent development in the Nigerian travel market vis-à-vis the Billings Settlement Plan (BSP) and the impact of technology?

A: Introduction of BSP Nigeria luckily coincided with electronic ticketing, which largely celebrated the impact of technology. For the agents, the pain of ticket storage in strong rooms, like banks against burglary, is gone; bank guarantees, with the attending costs, etc., are also gone. For the passengers, travel is simplified: no loss or misplacement of tickets, and for the airlines, credit confidence is established and the sector is witnessing growth.

Q: In your operations inNigeria, what are the challenges facing the country’s travel industry?

A: The challenges are enormous. Among others are:

  • Ownership/Organisational, where owner/ manager is the director of every department. They don’t walk the talk about corporate governance and management by objective. One man calls all the shots, resulting in enormous short and long-term errors in decision-making.
  • Averseness to investment in proven modern technology due to cost and decisions being taken using a rule of thumb approach.
  • Lack of power, efficient and cheap Internet upon which technology thrives.
  • Market liberalisation, especially with the airlines, evolved rather too late. Liberalisation promotes stiff competition resulting in elimination of the unfit. Nigeria is entering  a stage where the rest of the world was during  the early 70s as opposed to the current world  which has now gone global where cooperation and /or mergers now dominate the economic landscape.
  • Professional manpower with issues of complacency are going into extinction without replacement. Foreign airlines no longer train as they used to and Nigeria Airways, who was producing the pool, has been liquidated. 

Q: How have the various GDS’s software products helped reposition the Nigerian travel agencies and the travel market in Nigeria at large?

A: The growth in the sector could not have been possible without GDS like Sabre Travel Network, and other software products, as it avails the approximately 1000 IATA agents in Nigeria inventories of 400 airlines worldwide, 64 000 hotels, 32 car rental companies,9 cruise lines 35 railroads and 220 tour operators. That’s not all; we are daily rolling out fresh and new innovations on these products to replace ageing equipment. The Airline solution, for example, is helping airline bottom line through revenue, crew, fare, billing management, etc.

Q: How possible is it in this digital age for travel agents not to make use of technology in their operations?

A: The agent or the airline that is averse to technology will simply be a fly-by-night operator which will go into extinction very soon.

Q: Please provide a clear analysis of how Sabre software(s) has helped the various sectors of the Nigerian travel industry?

A: Since Sabre made its first entry into the African continent in Lagos three years ago, approximately 600 out of about 1000 IATA agents have subscribed to the distribution solution. The solution avails them of all the benefits highlighted in question two above. Travelocity affords the corporate clients ease of total business travel.

More and more Airlines are subscribing to the Sabre Reservation system, E-ticketing Platform, Revenue Management Tool, Operations, Billing Tools, etc. Virgin Nigeria, AA/KL, ET, vs. BA are all on board, to mention some. More Nigerian Airlines are encouraged to follow suit so as to improve their bottom line and remain internationally competitive.

Q: What does the future hold in the travel industry inNigeriaas regards technology?

A: The travel industry, especially aviation, is hinged on technology. Knowledge concerning technological advancement, investment in this technology, and its application remain the solution. This is the only necessary and valid condition for continued survival.