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Jovago.com is Africa’s leading online hotel booking website with offices in Nigeria, Kenya, Senegal, and Algeria. Recently, it joined the Ethiopian hotel booking market. The website facilitates the booking process for users providing them with the best hotel booking experience combined with fast, transparent and easy-to-use services. The website has over 25,000 local hotels listed across Africa and over 200,000 hotels around the world. The founder – Africa Internet Group – introduces and accelerates the online shift in Africa for its people and its culture.
It is committed to running successful and vibrant internet companies which boost the evolution of African online culture. AIG is the parent group of nine successful and fast-growing companies in more than 26 African countries, accounting for over 3,500 staff. AIG is working to promote entrepreneurship and all the key elements required to build great companies: team, concept, technology and capital. Its network of companies includes JUMIA, Kaymu, Hellofood, Lamudi, Carmudi, Zando, Jovago, Lendico and Easy Taxi. Estelle Verdier-Watine, co-founder and Managing Director of Jovago for Easter and Southern Africa sat down with Capital to explain the company’s plans for Ethiopia.
Capital: Why did Jovago decide to open a branch in Ethiopia?
Estelle Verdier-Watine: Our partnership with around 400 hotels in Ethiopia and the growing number of bookings convinced us of the need to have a branch office there to best serve customers coming to Ethiopia and locals who travel inland. The growing potential of the tourism industry and the consecutive double-digit economic growth the country achieved also attracted us to come to Ethiopia to introduce a new way of booking a hotel.
Capital: What is the company’s target in Ethiopia and what is Ethiopia’s take from this?
Estelle: Our target is to secure more than 2,000 hotel listings in Ethiopia in order to offer more options to customers and keep our leading track record of best hotel booking website for African countries such as Nigeria. We are aiming to create more online visibility to hotels through our website closing the gap between customers and hotels. We will also intensively work on promoting Ethiopia to the rest of the world by showcasing Ethiopian popular and historical destinations to the rest of the world.
Capital: How does the Jovago online booking system work?
Estelle: The system is very simple and easy to operate, a customer who wants to find hotels at Jovago just goes on www.jovago.com to choose a destination and travel dates. The system will pop up several hotels, their facilities and price lists allowing the customer to pick a booking. Customer services are available to help 24 hours and 7 days.
Capital: Ethiopia’s internet connection may not be as fast as you might get in France or Nigeria. Do you think that will affect your operation?
Estelle: We are certain that the internet connection is constantly improving not only in Ethiopia but also for the rest of Africa. We believe that it is just a matter of time before Ethiopia becomes one of the best internet connection suppliers in Africa.
Capital: How much do you believe Jovago contributes to the Ethiopian Tourism industry growth?
Estelle: The contribution will be enormous as we are promoting Ethiopia on a global platform. If you see the reality, the industry has a lot to offer since Ethiopia is rich in terms of world registered heritages and natural resources. Jovago will be supporting the industry and creating fame for Ethiopia which is aims towards increasing the country’s popularity in the world and helping Ethiopians to travel in their own country.
Capital: Ethiopia is not accustomed to using online hotel booking, how are you planning to change that trend?
Estelle: In Europe, online hotel booking has become a trend; there is no hindrance to this being a reality in Africa. The growing number of internet users and the focus on technology and the internet will change the way business is done in Africa. Jovago.com will be working to make this a reality in Ethiopia.
Capital: In your opinion, what are the potentials for Ethiopian tourism?
Estelle: Evidently, the potential is massive due to the historical sights and year-round sunny weather conditions. We also see a huge potential in business sectors as more investors are coming to Ethiopia either to invest or to attend conferences. As more people come to see the country, it will be a great opportunity for the entire economy as some will stay behind to do business.
Capital: Ethiopia does not have online payment system. How is Jovago planning to facilitate the payment system for foreigners who book a hotel from outside Ethiopia?
Estelle: Our focus will be on the local travelers as customers will book hotel online and pay at the hotel upon their arrival until Ethiopia implements online payment system.
Capital: How closely linked is Jovago with its sister companies currently operating in Ethiopia? Will new companies from AIG join the Ethiopian market?
Estelle: Jovago.com and all other sister companies are part of the Africa Internet Group with the same investors Rocket Internet, MTN and Millicom. I think there is a potential for other sister companies to come to Ethiopia and to introduce new services as Ethiopia is developing in all aspects.
Capital: What is Jovago’s success rate in other existing country offices?
Estelle: We are growing by 30 percent every month in our other country offices. In these countries, we managed to increase hotel booking by 40 percent each month. With the largest hotel inventory in Africa with more than 25,000 hotels and best offered prices, Jovago.com is yet to explore the Ethiopian market to make another remarkable achievement.
Capital: What can Ethiopia expect from Jovago?
Estelle: Ethiopia can expect a growing number of visitors from Jovago both for business or leisure. We are introducing a new way of booking a hotel which makes us an asset to the Ethiopian tourism industry.