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How technology is shaping travel bookings in South Africa

File photo: With travel resuming and some countries welcoming South Africans to their destinations, there has been a surge in online travel bookings. Picture: AP

File photo: With travel resuming and some countries welcoming South Africans to their destinations, there has been a surge in online travel bookings. Picture: AP

Published Oct 21, 2021

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The pandemic has made people reliant on their smart devices to shop and book appointments.

With travel resuming and some countries welcoming South Africans to their destinations, there has been a surge in online travel bookings.

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Benjamin Boesch, the chief digital officer at VFS Global, believes level 1 lockdown and the UK removing South Africa from the red list, were among the reasons for travellers’ eagerness to get back to travel and for the online booking rise.

“While this journey towards digital customer experiences began a long time ago, physical distancing and lockdown constraints during the pandemic have further accelerated this trend – so much so that planning travel experiences from our devices is now a part of everyday life.

“People from different age groups, geographies and backgrounds are comfortable with digital tools. Birthday celebrations and family reunions on video calling apps, or same-day delivery providers, emerged as a lifeline and routine for a world living in lockdown.

“With digital customer experiences progressing rapidly, the travel industry is witnessing sweeping changes in consumer preferences, with new touchless solutions providing the assurance and comfort needed to reignite international travel,” he said.

Boesch said safety remained a focus for travellers, with many booking travel trips and applying for visas online. The South African government also introduced the digital vaccine certificate to ensure convenience.

“Holders of the South African passport are familiar with the process of applying for visas. For this service, which used to be strictly regarded as an in-person activity, the availability of contactless options is attracting new takers.

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“From document pre-checks or digital payments, remote submission of applications, doorstep visa services, or passport pick-up and drop services, the pandemic has heightened the need to add more convenience,” he said.

Boesch said emerging technology is essential to ensure integrated partnerships between the private sector and border control to promote leisure travel and global events.

“Over the past 18 months, we have witnessed innovations such as the International Air Transport Association’s Travel Pass, a digital passport for verifiable test and vaccination details, the UK government’s NHS App, which proves your vaccine status, and France’s TousAntiCovid app, which houses its health pass.

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“Given the potential of the travel sector, as an economic driver and catalyst for social development goals, seamless adoption of digital technologies by the entire ecosystem is pivotal.

“These technologies enable frictionless solutions for the health and safety needs of travellers and provide the much-needed fillip to local businesses and economies. A sharp focus on innovation, therefore, is the only way to regain pre-Covid momentum in global mobility,” he said.

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