6? With Mark Essien, CEO of Hotels.ng
Today, we have many online travel agencies (OTAs) and booking firms, what’sthe unique selling proposition (USP) of Hotel.ng?
Our USP has always been the same from the beginning – provide travellers with the largest collection of Nigerian hotels with hotel reviews, images and the best prices. This commitment to provide customers with all available options and great customer service support has enhanced our platform as the go to destination for hotel reservations in Nigeria and it gives our staff the tenacity to ensure quality and deliver high customer satisfaction.
Scepticisms still trail online transactions in Nigeria. How do you manage this?
This is an age old problem, but without deliberate efforts people are naturally becoming familiar with online payments. Online hotel booking is peculiar in this particular scenario because of two things, Unlike e-commerce companies accepting “Payment on Arrival”, they have their operations spread across many disjointed activities, OTAs have a more central operation that ensure that a booking that was cancelled has a lesser impact on operational margins.
Frequent hotel users know that making hotel reservations is a bit dicey, because different hotels have different reservation policies which we clearly state to bookers. An online payment ensures that they get exactly what they need
How do you gauge your acceptability and how you are doing in the market?
We conduct a lot of in-house analytics to gauge how well our marketing efforts and products are performing and how our target audience reacts. The ultimate metric we look at is our conversion and retention rates and we frequently review our efforts to optimize these numbers, and we are quite impressed by our efforts so far.
You have about 8,330 hotels in 320 cities in Nigeria listed. What are the criteria for this selection?
Basically, we want to list every active Nigerian hotel online regardless of rating or location. If the hotel is decent and can accept guests, we want to make it available to million of travellers.
What is your advice for a young Nigerian startup?
Firstly, you have to develop relevant technical and business skills. Find mentors and network with other like minded persons. And when it comes to building your product, do not outsource it because your ideas can easily be misconstrued, and in the early stages you will always be an iterative mode.
Will online travel agents, OTAs overtake the conventional ones in future?
Yes! I am positive about that. There are travel reports that indicate 40% of travel preparation in the U.S is being done online and this is a trend that’s gaining traction in every market. And as a testament to this trend a lot of big companies, like Google, are becoming more heavily interested in the OTA sector.
Will OTAs overtake brick and mortar agents?
The travel and hotel booking industry is in transition and old things will soom become past like brick and mortar travel agencies. More than 40% of travel preparations are now done online in the US plus the rest of the western world. In markets, deemed still underdeveloped such as in Africa and large sections of Asia, its gloomy news for old ways of booking. Trend indicates a significant rise in the number of bookings done online. The figures will grow and grow and grow until one day, soon, every booking will be done online. Will OTAs overtake brick and mortar agents? Yes they will. The future is internet and with IoT gaining grounds rapidly, there will be no future for services and products outside of the internet.
Six Question was conduted by IT Edge News, Anthony Nwosu.