German startup-factory Rocket Internet, which ventured out of Europe in the last few years into emerging markets, has launched Jovago – its first hotel booking site in Africa -according to a report in TeleCrunch.com.
The launch was done through Africa Internet Holding in a joint venture with telecommunications operator Millicom.
Headquartered in Nigeria and initially targeting customers there, Jovago has an inventory of 140,000 bookable hotels online, including 200 in Nigeria.
Jovago is competing in Nigeria with local player Hotels.ng, which lists more than 4,000 Nigerian hotels, the report says.
Each local hotel is vetted in person by Jovago’s Africa staff – reported to number 50 people – to ensure details are accurate and the quality of the hotel’s service is a sure thing. This also points to a specific market problem that Jovago is aiming to solve, the report said.
Nigeria’s hotel-booking market lacks a convenient way for travelers to book hotel accommodation online, the report said. The norm, according to Jovago, is to use time-consuming booking agencies, or to book a hotel face-to-face on arrival. Credit card penetration is lower in Africa, s, Jovago offers customers options of paying at the hotel or online. It doesn’t charge consumers a booking fee but does take commission on each transaction from the hotels signed up to its platform, which is the standard agency model.
“We visit personally every hotel listed on our website to ensure our customers about the quality of information about the hotels,” said Africa Internet Holding co-founder Jeremy Hodara. “Soon we’re going to have the widest range of hotels available for booking in Africa thanks to our local sales teams.”
Mark Essien, chief product officer at Hotels.ng, said there are almost 10,000 hotels in Nigeria alone. Hotels.ng has 40 staff across Nigeria visiting hotels and striking deals with them. “It’s long, grueling work, and in some cases quite dangerous,” Essien said. “It’s worth it though, because we have been able to outstrip all incumbents in terms of inventory and bookings.”
Locally, Essien claims Hotels.ng has outgrown international brands such as Expedia and Bookings.com, along with local competitors Wakanow and Nitestay. “Rocket Internet have deep pockets and are good in executing in emerging markets,” Essien conceded, but said Hotels.ng can hold its own.
Jovago’s hotel booking site is more evidence of Rocket Internet/Africa Internet Holding bedding down in Africa, the report said. Rocket has other properties in Africa including Jumia (online retailer), Hellofood (online food delivery), Kaymu (online marketplace), and Vamido (real estate market place). Africa Internet Holding employs more than 1,500 staff through its incubated startups.
Along with rapidly expanding the number of local hotels it lists, Jovago plans to introduce bus ticket and flight ticket booking and car rentals, according to TeleCrunch.com.
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