Q&A: Marek Zmyslowski, managing director, Jovago Nigeria

Jovago.com is one of Africa’s leading hotel booking sites, which facilitates the booking process for its users to provide them the with fast, transparent and easy-to-use services. The Africa Internet Holding (AIH)-founded company said it has more than 5,000 hotels signed up, and in this interview managing director Marek Zmyslowski speaks on the platform’s uniqueness and how it is positioned to be the biggest OTA in Africa.

HumanIPO: What does Jovago literally mean?

Zmyslowski: Jovago is actually a totally new word. The plan is for it to come to mean “The best place to book hotels in the whole of Africa and worldwide”.

How has the company grown since its debut in Nigeria?

We have experienced amazing growth in Nigeria. In order to fulfill the needs of our Nigerian customers travelling abroad and still wanting to use Jovago.com, we have opened offices in Kenya and Senegal, and also in Pakistan. Our customers have inspired us to expand so quickly.

What is the contribution of the Nigerian market to Jovago’s operations?

Nigeria remains our key market, and the biggest. It is also the most challenging. Every new idea is tested here, once we are happy with the results, we implement them in other markets, adjusting them to the local specifics.

What category of customers uses Jovago mostly in Nigeria?

The age range is between 25-45 years old, travelling mostly for business. Right now our activities focus also on bringing in corporate travellers, clients travelling for leisure and international travellers.

What proportion of Nigerian hotels are on your platform?

Out of more than 200,000 worldwide hotels you can book on www.jovago.com, we have approximately 3,000 from Nigeria.

What is the process involved in getting hotels listed on your platform?

Each African hotel is approached personally by our staff member. After the negotiation process and signing the contract, we verify the standard of the hotel, write the necessary description and take pictures that you can find on our website. This way we guarantee the quality of the information presented on Jovago.com.

How effective is your affiliate programme? What proportion of your bookings come from it?

Our affiliate programme has proven extremely successful since we kicked off in March 2014 and we are very happy with the results so far.

Your platform has the ‘number of rooms left’ feature. How accurate is that feature, since most of the hotels on Jovago are also listed elsewhere – and the hotels could also take offline bookings?

We update the rooms’ availability on a regular basis; each hotel has an assigned account manager responsible for keeping all the information up to date.

Jovago is not the only booking platform in Nigeria, but what is your unique selling point?

There are many advantages we have. But there are three I’m most proud of. Firstly, the personal verification of every signed African hotel ensures that our customers are not surprised when they arrive at the hotel.

Secondly, it’s the perfect communication we maintain with our partner hotels. This ensures the rooms’ availability, swift service and hassle-free cooperation.

Last but not least is the level of professionalism of our customer service staff. It has cost me a lot of time and energy to find the best people in the market, and customers love the way they are treated.

Every time someone comes up to me to say he or she used Jovago they give positive feedback about our call centre – I feel like a proud parent.

What is the growth potential of online hotel booking in Nigeria?

Sub-Saharan Africa is the fastest growing market in hospitality in the world and the Nigerian hospitality sector is the fastest growing in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Conclusions are obvious; the number of inbound and domestic travellers is growing year on year by a two digit percentage. We are at the right time, at the right place. Now, the biggest case is to change the habits of Nigerian travellers and educate them about the advantages of booking online instead of other ways to do it.

What is your view on the market potential of Jovago in Nigeria?

We are going to be the biggest OTA in Africa, providing the best service. Satisfying Nigerian customers helps us achieve our long term goals. Most probably we are already the biggest in Nigeria, but that’s not the prize for us. Being the leader in Nigeria in online booking is the first step.

The challenge is to grow the whole online booking market, and Jovago is committed to doing just that.

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