How digitization can re-launch tourism in the Maghreb

Tourism, a sector at the heart of the economy of the Maghreb countries in particular, has been hit hard by the COVID-19 crisis. While a post-pandemic recovery appears certain, tourism has now been on the rise for several months, easing international travel restrictions and reopening borders along with the resumption of air traffic in much of this recovery. However, if the health crisis has hampered tourism activity, I have at the same time begun to think about the importance of reinventing the sector for itself in order to revive itself and, in doing so, adapt to the new current challenges. This revival could occur significantly with the development and diffusion of new technologies on the continent. Indeed, it will have a fundamental role in the coming years, in particular allowing the transition from traditional tourism to modern tourism and further digitization. Thus, digital transformation will be able to increase and strengthen the attractiveness of the Maghreb countries, making tourism one of the levers of their social and economic development.

Tourism, a strategic sector at the heart of North Africa’s growth

Tourism is one of the drivers of economic growth in Africa, accounting for more than 21 million jobs on the continent, or one job out of 14.[1] Before the Covid-19 crisis. In North Africa more specifically, tourism occupies a central place in the economy. In Morocco, for example, the sector generates an average of 11 points of GDP[2]. In Egypt, it represented 15% of the national GDP and more than 2 million jobs in 2021[3]. Given these large numbers, it is not surprising that these countries suffered huge losses in terms of sectoral growth, as the epidemic at the same time had a negative impact on the employment sector. In 2020, the number of workers in the tourism sector in Tunisia reached 260,000 people, or 7.7% of the country’s total employment compared to 11% in 2019. As for Morocco, this industry employed 929,300 people, or 8.7% of the total employment in 2020, compared to 12.3. % in 2019[4]. The social impact was greater as informal employment accounts for a large share of jobs in the tourism sector.

However, in recent months, positive indications of a recovery in the tourism sector have multiplied, both in the African continent and more specifically in the Maghreb. According to the latest benchmark of the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) implemented in January 2022[5]In Africa, tourism saw a 12% increase in 2021 compared to 2020 in Africa. This dynamic is the result of several factors, including an easing of travel restrictions, an increase in the vaccination rate and the opening of borders. However, this current recovery should not make us forget the need for the sector to reinvent itself, as digital technology can be the key to such a revival capable of creating new opportunities.

E-tourism: reinventing tourism through digital and innovation

There is no doubt that tourism is a development sector in North Africa, but its positive impact on the economy can be multiplied tenfold using new technologies. In fact, the health crisis has accelerated the transition from traditional tourism to digital and increasingly connected tourism, under the name e-tourism or e-travel. Thus, the convergence of new technologies and the traditions of the profession will eventually make it possible to rethink travel and culture, as access to digital infrastructures continues to accelerate on the continent. Thus, the Moroccan National Tourism Office (ONMT) has put the digitization of the tourism industry at the forefront of its priorities, calling for the use of a full range of innovative means, which makes it possible to market Morocco and thus be able to face global competition.

At the same time, for several years, many startups Made in Africa It thrives in North Africa in order to meet the challenges associated with the new challenges of tourism today. Travelers are already looking for new, immersive and personalized experiences that meet new standards in terms of speed and comfort. From this perspective, Visgo[6]It is an Egyptian startup working in the field of travel technology, Developed a mobile application that provides travelers with an immersive experience. With a single click, the visitor is directed to wander between the tourist sites while listening to the explanations of the guides. By doing so, this experience also allows the Egyptian government to preserve and transmit its cultural heritage. For professionals in the tourism sector, digital technology is also at the heart of new challenges mobilizing e-commerce practices, e-reputation, and predictive marketing.

Moreover, given the importance of sustainable development and the fight against global warming today, many startups have built on these new challenges and developed their business offering. We can cite the Tunisian company Idway, which has developed a digital platform aimed at promoting regional and environmentally responsible tourism.

Digital infrastructure, the cornerstone to rethink modern and digital tourism

In Africa, the democratization of tourism will be closely linked to the development of Internet access inasmuch as the tourism of tomorrow will depend largely on ever more innovative digital technologies. At Huawei, we are fully aware that the development of ICT is the central nerve of the transformation of the tourism sector, both in North Africa and the rest of the continent and in the world. For over twenty years, our company has set itself the task of supporting the continent in its digital transformation, by allowing as many people as possible access to connectivity. The digitization of tourism and the reinvention of new tourism models in North Africa cannot therefore occur entirely without the deployment of broadband networks, which require sustainable and affordable digital infrastructure.

For more than 20 years, Huawei has worked with many operators on the continent, in particular building 71 networks in 28 African countries. Our company has also built more than 100,000 km of optical fiber, enabling nearly 20 million households to access fixed and broadband network infrastructure. These developments in network infrastructure are essential to the promising future of e-tourism in North Africa.

In addition to accelerating the digital infrastructure in the Maghreb, the development of tourism, especially tourism that responds to the new challenges posed by digital technology, cannot be achieved without strong ICT training. Therefore, it is necessary to invest in human capital, young talents are carriers of new innovations. Huawei has made training in digital technologies one of its main ambitions. Thus the company has developed many programs, such as the Huawei ICT Competition and the Huawei ICT Academy. Since 2016, the Huawei ICT Academy Program has benefited more than 63,000 students from 28 African countries. Thus, future digital talent is an asset to develop 100% digital and environmentally responsible tourism that meets new current challenges in North Africa.

Written by Adnan Benhalima, Vice President, Public Relations, Huawei Northern Africa.

[1] “African tourists tend to become Africa’s tourism engine, says UNCTAD report”, UNCTAD, 2017

[2] Imad Barakad: Morocco is a tourism to reinvent! Le Point, January 2022

[3] Video “Digital Economy – Egypt”2021

[4] “Tourism: Morocco, Senegal, Egypt… Who was the best in Africa?” Jeune Afrique, October 2021

[5] World Tourism Barometer and Statistical Supplement of the World Tourism Organization, UNCTAD, January 2022

[6] Video “Digital Economy – Egypt”, 2021

Published 07/27/22 09:55

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