IFC Supports Innovative Solution for Africa’s Small Tourism Operators
IFC, a member of the World Bank Group, is supporting an initiative to help Africa’s small and midsize tourism operators market their products and services to the global travel market.
IFC has provided a grant to Worldhotel-Link.com, a global sustainable tourism and travel portal, enabling it to create a network of Web sites covering 16 destinations in 11 countries – Cape Verde, the Gambia, Kenya, Lesotho, Madagascar, Mauritius, Senegal, South Africa, Swaziland, Tanzania, and Zambia. Some of the sites are up and linked to www.whl.travel, a global network of destination Web sites that facilitates online bookings for small businesses in the tourism sector in developing countries. Using the WHL platform, local travel operators can create customized Web pages to market their products and make online reservations for customers. They also receive training and on-the-ground support.
Darron Raw, Director of Swazi Trails, a tour operator that runs the Swaziland WHL destination site (www.swazitravel-link.co.sz/), said, “The initial success of the WHL booking portal in Swaziland has been overwhelming. In our first three months of operation, we have responded to more than 100 enquiries, 40 percent of which have converted to sales.”
Len Cordiner, WHL Chief Executive Officer, said, “By mid-2008 we hope to have Web sites in over 20 destinations in Africa, supporting more than 700 small and midsize accommodation providers and tour operators. Our vision over the next two to three years is to make the network truly pan-African and the first point of reference for any travelers contemplating a trip to the region.”
Adrienne Harris, IFC Program Manager, said that the WHL booking system is suited to developing countries because it has a physical presence in each destination, which not only ensures information integrity, but also that local assistance is always on hand.
“WHL targets smaller operators in developing countries, enlisting them as franchise holders, and providing the necessary on-the-ground support to start them off,” said Harris. “With large, purely automated systems, the owner of a bed and breakfast will struggle to get online. When her Internet connection is down, no one is going to take the time to call her on her mobile to check availability. We are really excited about the potential for growth in the African tourism market through this particular marketing and development approach.”
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