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Prototyping, a case for Mobile Applications for the Tourism Industry


Tourism is enjoying a period of growth in the Western Cape. Large-scale investments are being made in the hotel sector and in conferencing properties, indicating both business and leisure growth. There is a need for technology and the marketing power it offers, which can be channelled into innovative strategies that derive benefits for travellers. The purpose of this industry analysis is to understand the value that can be derived by promoting mobile application usage for businesses in the tourism industry. The tourism sector will be unpacked, as well as the general benefits of mobile applications for end users and business organisations. By highlighting the value that mobile applications can bring, it is hoped that many will capitalise on the digital opportunities at hand.

Tourism in South Africa

Tourism is regarded as a driver of growth and is one of the largest industries around the world. In 2012, G20 heads of state recognised tourism as a driver of growth and development, as well as a sector that has the potential to spur global economic recovery.
South Africa has marked tourism as a key sector with a high potential for growth. The government aims to increase tourism’s contribution, both direct and indirectly, to the economy from the 2009 baseline of R189.4 billion (7.9% of GDP) to R499 billion by 2020 (National Department of Tourism, 2012). Tourism plays a significant role in job creation in South Africa.
Tourism in South Africa has received significant growth, which can be attributed to the 2010 world cup, which brought in 8.1 million foreign visitors. Thereafter, the following year, the tourism industry received an influx of 8.3 million international visitors. 2011 saw a total revenue of R50 billion from their regional African tourist market. This is in line with the National Department of Tourism’s predictions of the South African tourism industry reaching revenues of R499 billion by 2020. Therefore, the growth is significant and should be capitalised on from other interacting industries, such as the information technology (IT) industry.
South Africa is also a well-known country for business tourism. Business travellers spend on average three times more than leisure travellers, although, business travellers do embark on leisure activities after business. South Africa provides a wide host of locations for international congresses and conventions. The country has over one thousand world-class conference venues, which range from secluded bush hide-a-ways to hi-tech convention centres. Amongst these locations, there are plenty of leisure activities provided, such as wildlife conservation tours to up-market shopping centres.
The country is also rich in culture, biodiversity and world heritage. The country has a rich history in its native people, such as the Khoisan and Zulus, as well as a heritage of European settlers. World icons have emerged with people like Nelson Mandela, who played pivotal roles in changing the nation, as well as influencing the world. The natural monuments, such as Table Mountain, which became one of the Seven Wonders of the World, serve as another massive tourist attraction. All of these factors come together to make the tourism industry highly lucrative in terms of gross domestic product (GDP).

Mobile Applications in Tourism

The impact of digitisation on the tourism industry has disrupted the traditional way in which tourism activities are executed. Travel agencies and physical bookings are considered to be outdated modes of scheduling travel.
There are a number of mobile applications designed for the tourism market, which cover a host of activities. The following list is non-exhaustive of the capabilities of mobile applications in the tourism industry. Mobile applications are used for:
  • Planning travel
  • Booking accommodation
  • Booking tickets
  • Booking taxi/ car rental services
  • Route mapping
  • Navigation — GPS systems
  • Social networking (pictures, travel updates, reviews, etc.)
  • Mobile marketing (discounts)
  • Emergency (medical calling, police services)
  • E-Commerce (overseas banking, reservations, shopping, etc.)
Apart from existing technologies, newer trends have been emerging illustrating the power behind mobile applications. These potential capabilities are in the process of being established and will derive plenty of value to the tourism industry:
  • Cashless travel
  • Real-time tracking
Where people can track the motion of their cars. Usually utilised in private modes of transport, such as Uber.
  • Social travel planning
Technologies that provide user recommendations based off the favourites of family and friends, expert tips and consumer reviews. All of which are combined to assist the user in making informed travel choices.
  • Localised suggestions
Geo-targeted recommendations are made based on the preferences and current location of the traveller. Recommendations include accommodation bookings and eating place suggestions.
  • Trip planners
Utilises big data and machine learning to customise your travel routes, time, budget and means of transport. Using your travel history and preferences, these apps will be able to provide recommendations and plan a better travel tour for users.

Prototyping Techniques

System or software prototyping is the rapid development of a system. It is used to help project stakeholders, such as end users and sponsors, and developers understand the requirements for the system. Requirements elicitation and validation (feasibility of using the software) are made possible through prototyping.
Software prototyping holds a number of benefits for all entities involved. These benefits include:
  • Exposing misunderstandings/miscommunications between end users and developers
  • Detection of missing services
  • Having a working system available early in the development process
  • Deriving system specification
  • Provides a space for user training and system testing
  • Shortens the time from idea to product
  • Engages the client instead of informing them
  • Provides a conducive space for engagement between users and developers
  • The final software product is based on experiments and experience
  • Can be a replacement for the documentation
There are two main types of prototyping techniques: evolutionary and throw-away prototyping. Evolutionary prototyping is when an initial prototype is produced and refined through a number of development iterations before the final system is achieved. Throw-away prototyping is produced to discover system requirements and problems and then the prototype is discarded. Using the elicited requirements, a new system is developed using another development process.

Objective / Purpose

Evolutionary Prototyping

Throw-Away Prototyping

To deliver a working system to the end users
To validate or elicit system requirements
Development begins with the best understood/known requirements.
The prototyping process begins with requirements which are not well understood
Must be used for systems where the specification cannot be developed in advance
Used to reduce requirement risk
Based on techniques which allow rapid system iterations
The prototype is developed from an initial specification, experimented on and then discarded
Verification is impossible, as there are no specifications
Should never be considered the final system
Validations mean demonstrating the adequacy of the system
Specification, design and implementation are intertwined.
The system is developed as a series of increments that are delivered to the customer
A prototype can be used to give end users a concrete impression of the system’s capabilities. It is becoming increasingly used where rapid development is essential. Throw-away prototyping is used to understand the system requirements. Evolutionary prototyping is used to develop a system from its initial state to its final state. Prototyping is essential for parts of the system, such as the user interface, which cannot be effectively pre-specified. It is important that users are involved in the prototype evaluation.

Approach to prototyping

Evolutionary prototyping process

Throw-away prototyping process

The Value of Mobile Applications for All

To understand the value of mobile applications, one must first understand the target audience. The users of mobile applications in tourism are tourists, business and leisure, as well as business units/organisations. From the business organisations, there are the creators of the applications, such as the software developers, designers and project managers, among others.
The most important users are the customers: travellers. It is best to understand their itinerary and travel needs. Thereafter, pinpoint key areas along their itinerary whereby businesses facilitate their experience. The next step would be to digitise these business processes that support the user’s experience in order to provide the optimal travel experience. Lastly, the development process for creating the digital experience must be understood and refined in order to provide the best product to travellers. The following case will describe the average traveller’s experience.

The Case

Paul is a neurologist who attends conferences around the world to understand the ins and outs of chronic neurologic diseases. He lives in Australia and works at the Royal Melbourne hospital. Biannually there are international medical conventions held in different countries, which Paul is required to attend in order to remain relevant in his field as a doctor. A weekend conference is being held in South Africa with one of the leading children’s hospitals hosting the convention at the CTICC in Cape Town. Paul goes online using his smartphone to book his airline ticket to South Africa, as well as to apply for his visa. Once he receives both a valid visa and books a return flight, he finds accommodation using for his residence. All payments are done electronically. Before his flight, Paul contacts a local car rental service in South Africa for his transportation needs and collects his vehicle on arrival at the Cape Town International Airport. Paul proceeds to use his smartphone app, Google Maps, to direct him to his hotel. Upon arrival, Paul contacts his work colleagues, using IMO, who has also flown to Cape Town to attend the international health convention. There they meet up and receive all their working requirements and identification cards to attend the CTICC convention. Paul uses his smartphone again to FaceTime his family back in Australia and proceeds to send pictures of the places he has seen so far. In the evening, Paul and his colleagues use another mobile application to find the nearest restaurants that serve local cuisine.
The next day at the CTICC convention, Paul networks with many other neurologists and adds their contacts to his mobile phone and LinkedIn account, where they agree to keep in contact and share any vital information and research pertaining to his line of work. Paul proceeds to video record some talks given at the convention for later use, as well as takes photos of the displays. He checks in on social media to say he’s in Cape Town and once the convention is done, Paul has the next morning to himself to tour Cape Town before heading back home.
On the last day of Pauls’s trip, he and his work colleagues get together and decide to visit some local landmarks. Using their GPS, they take a drive around the peninsula and visit beaches along the coastline. There they take pictures together and upload them to social media. Finally, Paul heads back to the airport and checks in his flight using his smartphone. He notifies his family that he is about to fly back home using his instant messaging application. Paul hands his rental car back in and boards his flight. He made use of both business and leisure activities during his brief visit to South Africa.

Deriving Value

For the tourism industry, there is great value in using technology and mobile applications to enhance business processes and the customer’s experience. The value lies in providing the tourist with options and convenience. One form of convenience that should be highlighted is that of valuable information to the customer. Being informed and having knowledge about the options available in the tourism industry can influence the choices that consumers make. We propose providing a mobile application that provides consumers with valuable information to sway their choices in how they go about their travelling experiences. This can be done through a comparison check application which compares prices for all businesses involved in the tourism value chain. Having price comparisons from airline tickets to international accommodation will assist tourists in cost-cutting and having an enjoyable experience. Mobile apps can bring this information into the personal space of the consumer and connect them to the businesses involved in the trade. Using prototyping methods, these values and benefits of mobile apps can be better experienced and the time to market can be shortened.

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Would you like to explore prototyping and discovering a mobile application in tourism? Give Skywalk a chance. Book a no-obligation session with our team and explore more ideas around technology to grow your business.

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