In Kenya, South Africa and Nigeria, national players provide an online overview of hotels located in their respective countries. International travel agencies, conversely, offer a broad but shallow supply of hotels across Africa. No hospitality player had yet compiled a comprehensive inventory of hotels, whether low-budget or all-inclusive, from all over Africa. Marek Zmyslowski explains how Jovago.com fills the gap.
“When we launched on the 5th of August 2013, what we do had yet to be done in Africa”, says Marek Zmyslowski, managing director at Jovago.com in Lagos, Nigeria, who himself is a Polish native. Marek moved to Lagos some six months before Jovago.com first entered the African market. “In quite a few African countries, successful online hotel booking portals cover their national markets. Internationally renowned, big online travel agencies have a presence in virtually every country, but for that matter lack the capacity needed to offer an exhaustive supply of hotels in any of the markets they operate in. Jovago.com exploits the space right in between these two types of players. With already several thousand hotels listed across Africa, Jovago.com is the number-one booking portal on the continent.”
Highly qualified team
Within three quarters of a year, Marek’s team grew from a dozen staff members to over one hundred employees. Marek: “At the beginning of 2013, one of my then biggest investors asked me if I were willing to build an online booking platform in Africa. I decided to sell off my companies, and with my previously gained experience in hospitality and marketing embraced a new adventure. Jovago.com thrives on the expertise and knowledge of its investor, Africa Internet Holding, Africa’s leading internet incubator. With our investor’s support, we managed to attract a highly qualified team and employ representatives in every part of Africa. We have offices in Lagos and Nairobi; a third hub in Dakar, Senegal is soon to follow. Our inventory of several thousand hotels, all verified and rated by our own staff, increases by 30 to 40 hotels every day."
The wake of economic growth
Mark continues: “We do it because we believe in it. We believe that in 2014, Africa’s hospitality market will only further expand. In Nigeria alone, hospitality grew by 100 per cent over the last three to four years. Which is a development driven by two major forces. Firstly, Africa’s economies are growing, rather fast, recently showing impressive economic performance, and increasingly attract investors. Following suit, secondly, are business and leisure travellers. Africa attracts business, thus business people in need of accommodation, who tell and reinforce Africa’s story, and in turn boost the number of people interested in visiting the continent’s natural beauties. No matter where it is, hospitality markets inevitably grow in the wake of economic growth.”
“What is unique about Jovago.com”, Marek finally details, “is that it creates an online presence for a large host of African hotels that do not have a website of their own. My experience in Nigeria, where I personally visited 400 hotels since last August, is that hardly any hotel outside Lagos maintains a website. We are transforming Africa’s offline hospitality business into an easy-to-browse, online database that will make anyone looking for a hotel in Africa think ‘Jovago.com’!”