Stories by JONAH NWOKPOKU
Nigerians traveling within Nigeria spend at least $2 billion, about N320 billion every year on hotel accommodation.
Founder/ Chief Executive Officer of Nigeria’s Online Hotels Booking Limited, Hotels.ng, Mr. Mark Essien disclosed this when speaking to Vanguard on the operations of the hotel booking portal and the potential of online hotel booking business in Nigeria.
Hotel.ng, an online hotel booker officially launched in January 2013 and has over 4, 000 hotels listed on its website and currently process over 400 bookings daily.
“Hotel booking or travel in general is always a massive part of every economy. Hotel booking in Nigeria alone is $2 billion worth annually. This means that every year, Nigerians traveling within Nigeria spend at least $2 billion, about N300 billion in hotel accommodation. This is a result of an independent verifiable survey conducted by Euro Monitor. So all we are doing is making this transaction easier online, so that some part of that $2 billion will be ours. I think we are sitting on a very high potential business,” he said.
Mark however noted that despite the increase in internet access, a lot of educating still needs to be done to drive further patronage of online businesses.
“Right now, there are about ten to twelve billion Facebook users, out of the over 60 million internet users in the country, and the way I see it is that, if you look at the number of Facebook users and divide it by two, those are the people that are sophisticated internet users, people that will use a service such as ours. All those other 25 million may have 3G access on their phones but it doesn’t really mean that they have understood how to use the internet.
“So apart from having access which has been done very well in Nigeria, the next step is for people to realize what benefit of using the internet is. This is because a man may want a hotel; he would just phone a friend asking for a hotel not knowing that he could open a browser and see all the results right there. So there is an educational process that needs to happen and when that happens, we will see a huge explosion in the number of people resorting to the internet for business services.”
He also decried the payment challenge confronting them as greater percentage of attempts to utilize card payment has been failing.
“There are lots of payment related challenges in Nigeria. Only thirty percent of attempts to pay with cards work on our website. 70 percent of card payments are currently failing,” he said.
However, with eight different payment methods, the firm has started working with other online payment processors to facilitate payments through every other means.
He further noted that the vision of the company remains building a strong and profitable Nigeria business that will extend to serve the whole of Africa.
“What we are staring now is a proof of concept. We are doing well, we have built a good Nigerian business but I want us to extend to Africa. We are going to build a Nigerian company that will be the biggest hotel booking agency in Africa,” he said.