As the world moves through the COVID-19 pandemic, hoteliers are logically turning their attention to the business travel market to help reignite the hospitality industry and tourism in general, particularly in Africa, says MARK HAVERCROFT of Minor Hotels.
For hotels specifically, a sector that plays a highly significant role in our regional economies, business travel may well turn out to be the saving grace. It follows then that players in this market must embrace new and effective strategies that allow them to effectively capitalise on the potential that business travel presents.
In sub-Saharan Africa alone, one in 30 jobs is in the travel and tourism sector, according to a World Bank report. Yet long periods of lockdown, accompanied by new social distancing norms and constant bio-surveillance, has fundamentally changed the landscape. Going forward, it will top priority for hoteliers to ensure guest safety, combined with the usual highest quality service and the best guest experience possible, if they are to see business travellers, and the companies they represent, continue to choose them.
To this end, it’ll also be the job of hotels, especially those that rely on out-of-country guests for their livelihoods, to remarket themselves in respect of what they offer these business clients. This includes a renewed focus online and other touchless services for all types of interactions, as well as the physical transformation of their public spaces.
Local travellers, and most especially local business travellers, can no longer be viewed as “the back-up plan” either. It’s clear that it’ll be some time before even the international business travel market gets back to pre COVID-19 levels. So if they are to have a future, hotels must tailor offerings that speak to the local market in respect of their customs, tastes and the nature of the experiences that will definitely prove attractive.
Take for example the “workation”, that concept that is garnering plenty of attention from local business travellers keen to see their employers allow them to mix business with some pleasure. It’s no surprise that such an opportunity to break out of the by now over-familiar work-from- home environment and instead work from a hotel during the day, would be most appealing.
Along with workrooms featuring suitable socially-distanced workstations, often in rooms previously utilised for conferencing and meetings, another attractive option is equally acceptable socially-distant excursions with colleagues. These can be facilitated by hotel teams to forge closer engagement between workmates who may no longer see one another every day. Both these options serve as a reminder of the office environment pre-pandemic, while boosting critical reintegration with colleagues previously viewed by many as their daytime family.
In the longer term, there will of course be life beyond our immediate borders as entry restrictions are further eased. And Africa certainly has an advantage here, considering how well the continent has weathered the COVID-19 storm – a fact that is likely to see global economies turn their attention back to Africa, and prepare for more local business dealings.
Awareness of how to effectively harness this new market will be key going forward, and hoteliers will have to be up to speed about what countries are reopening for business where, especially their African neighbours. South Africa reopened its international borders on 1 October as the country moved to lockdown Level 1, followed by Zambia, Namibia, Lesotho, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Eswatini, Tanzania, Rwanda, Nigeria, Ghana, Ethiopia and Kenya – albeit with differing regulations around COVID-19 testing prior to arrival, and quarantine requirements.
Africa has indeed begun to reopen. Now it’s critical for the country to demonstrate that it’s ready and able to welcome back travellers, and get back to the business it performs so well.
Mark Havercroft is the Regional Director for Minor Hotels Africa an international hotel group.
Nokia Enables Ultra-fast 5G services for Vodacom South Africa
Nokia has enabled ultra-fast 5G services for Vodacom South Africa’s customers by deploying its 5G radio, core and fixed network solutions across Vodacom’s network. Vodacom is using Nokia’s 2G, 3G, 4G and fibre access networks, as well as 5G fixed wireless access (FWA) and mobile broadband services.
Nokia is supplying its AirScale, Fastmile and Subscriber Data Management (SDM) / Home Subscriber Server (HSS) products to Vodacom to enhance its service offering and deliver increased operational efficiencies.
Nokia’s AirScale radio network product portfolio will enable Vodacom to deploy 5G services across several spectrum bands, including the new 3500 MHz, 2600 MHz and 700/800 MHz bands which will be auctioned by the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA) before the end of March 2021. It will help to manage the increased demand for data services during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The 5G network rollout is in line with South Africa’s broadband policy of building infrastructure by 2030 for an inclusive knowledge economy which supports the 4th Industrial Revolution (4IR).
Vodacom will also use Nokia’s FastMile 5G gateway to offer FWA broadband services in areas not currently served by a fibre network. The solution is easy for subscribers to install, delivering fibre like speeds to homes while using Wi-Fi to connect devices within the home. Vodacom is also using Nokia’s mesh Wi-Fi solution, which improves user experience by creating a seamless Wi-Fi coverage area while reducing the time and complexity required to install and manage the WiFi network.
Nokia’s cloud-based SDM software and HSS will be rolled out to securely manage subscriber data and services in a centralized hub. Vodacom South Africa will also utilize Nokia’s NetAct network management system, which is cloud-agnostic and meets customer demands for software-only delivery. It can be deployed on the same data center platforms as existing IT and network systems for increased agility and lower operational costs.
Beverly Ngwenya, Technology Director at Vodacom South Africa, said: “We are committed to providing the most innovative products and highest quality service to our subscribers. 5G technology allows us to deliver ultra-fast mobile networks and support entirely new use cases as we move into the 4IR era. Nokia has been our network partner for more than two decades, and its latest technology solutions are now helping us to deliver superior 5G services.”
Tommi Uitto, President of Mobile Networks at Nokia, said: “Our AirScale 5G and Fastmile fixed wireless access portfolio helps service providers across the globe to build robust and reliable networks to address the growing demand for high-speed broadband services. From our 26-year relationship with Vodacom we understand that South Africa is a highly competitive market, with end-users expecting continent-leading services and applications. We are proud to have successfully executed this important network deployment, enabling Vodacom to deliver those sought-after broadband capabilities.”
Standard Bank Buys 35% Equity in SA Fintech Firm
Standard Bank has acquired a 35 per cent equity stake in digital escrow company TradeSafe Escrow for an undisclosed amount.
Established in 2013, TradeSafe describes itself as an online escrow platform that safeguards the buyer’s funds in trust until the seller delivers to the buyer what was promised. The funds are only released to the seller, and other approved beneficiaries, once the buyer receives the goods or services in the agreed condition.
TradeSafe CEO Jethro O’Brien says: “Both TradeSafe and Standard Bank realised the necessity for a fast, secure and affordable escrow solution in the wake of the increasing volume of scams, fraud and unpaid invoice payments in South African commerce. Our fees come in at a fifth of what a reputable law firm or bank would charge in a transaction.”
According to a statement, as part of the investment, Standard Bank has appointed two non-executive directors to the TradeSafe board. Furthermore, the bank also has management oversight of TradeSafe’s escrow account and is fully involved in the process for payment instructions that TradeSafe initiates.
O’Brien adds: “The bank will provide a second release payment function. This means that with our increased governance, security and credibility, TradeSafe will now be able to target commodity and M&A transactions greater than R25 million.”
The statement notes that TradeSafe has recently overhauled its platform, adding its API [application programming interface] offering also incorporates new payment gateways such as SnapScan and Ozow. “We also employed Standard Bank’s proprietary host-to-host technology, which allows for automated payments,” says O’Brien.
Kuben Chetty, head of client solutions at Standard Bank, expressed the strong need for a digital escrow solution within SA, given the rise of digital transactions and especially as buyers and sellers seek ways to mitigate transaction fraud.
“Standard Bank is very excited with its investment in TradeSafe Escrow and this provides both parties the opportunity to explore ways to leverage each other’s capabilities to help their clients transact securely.”
Cassava Fintech Int’l, LTG to Accelerate Digital Finance in Africa
- launch of Sasai Wi-Fi Finder
Cassava Fintech International (CFI) and the Liquid Telecom Group (LTG) have announced the launch of Sasai Wi-Fi Finder, a potential game-changer in driving digital and financial inclusion in Africa.
The service, which will be offered across the continent, was announced today, and is set to be rolled at thousands of hotspots across Africa.
A 2019 report by the GSMA (the Global System for Mobile Communications) shows that affordability remains a significant barrier to Internet adoption in Africa, resulting in social, digital and financial exclusion. This partnership seeks to offer a low-cost solution for connectivity and to expand these services throughout the continent.
“We see this launch as a critical piece in the social digital inclusion agenda we are driving on the continent,” said Darlington Mandivenga, the Chief Executive Officer of the CFI Group. “Through Sasai Wi-Fi Finder, we plan to establish an expansive network of data access points across Africa and build ‘Africa’s Missing Network’ through partnering with broadband providers, Internet Service Providers and local community hubs,” Mandivenga said.
“We’re proud that our best-in-class broadband infrastructure network is the backbone of this service and is enabling more Africans to access the digital and financial benefits of the internet,” said Ahmad Mokhles, Group Chief Operating Officer of LTG.
“This partnership is providing consumers with affordable Wi-Fi access while local franchisees and partners are able to grow their businesses and the economies of their countries. This is a true example of the transformative power technology can have across the value chain,” said Mokhles.
The intuitive and easy to use Sasai Wi-Fi Finder will be an in-App feature on the Sasai super App that will allow users to identify hotspots at which they can access affordable data.
“We designed this service to be as easy-to-use as possible. A smartphone user will get free connectivity on-the-go through accessing the #SasaiWi-Fi Finder network to download the Sasai App and gain access to a wide range of in-app services,” said Tapera Mushoriwa, Chief Operating Officer of Sasai.
“When a new smartphone user has registered on the Sasai App, or when an existing Sasai App user opens the App, they receive automatic notification “pop-up” alerts showing available #SasaiWi-Fi Finder hotspots nearby. They also receive additional services, such as distinct indoor and outdoor Wi-Fi hotspot markers, directions to Wi-Fi hotspots, session usage, range and signal strength details – making it easier than ever before for African users to access the Internet,” Mushoriwa said.
The Sasai Wi-Fi Finder will allow greater connectivity in a variety of locations, including retail, health care, education, government and small business trade facilities. The App will also give millions of Africans access to social, entertainment and on-demand services offered on the Sasai super App, including Sasai Moments.
The partnership between CFI and LTG will see the roll-out of the Sasai Wi-Fi Finder in Zimbabwe, Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Rwanda, Democratic Republic of Congo and South Africa in phases over the coming months. The Sasai Wi-Fi Finder is accessible and available by downloading the Sasai super App from the Google Play store or the Apple Appstore.
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