Last week, we broke the news that Wakanow, Nigerian version of Expedia, the world’s largest travel agency, would launch Africa’s first mobile travel app.
The event which held at the newly opened luxurious Radisson Blu Hotel on Victoria Island, Lagos was a closed private beta review of the app which welcomed guests from high-income and middle-income classes who fly frequently within Nigeria and Internationally.
After some refreshments and networking by the pool side of the hotel, the event started with an introduction by the Founder/CEO of Wakanow, Mr. Obinna Ekezie of the Blackberry app to participants. He explained some of the exciting features of the app which primarily allows users book for flights and hotels.
View images of the Wakanow Blackberry app showing how to search for available hotels and make a hotel booking using the app.
[Click on the image to enlarge]
- Instant Notifications – The Wakanow Blackberry app features instant notifications of both local and international flights and hotel promos. The app also allows you post these promos on Facebook and Twitter to your friends and family, or send via email.
- Flight and Hotel Comparisons - The app let’s you do hotel comparisons from over 4000 hotels around the world, including Nigeria for the best prices before making a booking. With most of the international airlines on board, the app also provides flight comparisons for best fares.
- Detailed Info – The app doesn’t just list the hotels, and leave you to imagine what to expect when you get there. It provides you with detailed information about the hotel’s facilities and offers and displays reviews and ratings for a particular hotel.
- Wakanow Credits - Wakanow credits allows you pay for flights and hotels from the mobile app. You simply load money either from your bank directly or using an ATM card and use it anytime you wish to travel. For example, you can load, say, N200,000 in advance on your Wakanow Credits and use it anytime to pay for flights or hotels. [Note: The Wakanow Blackberry Travel app doesn't allow you pay using a credit card at the moment].
- Naira Transactions – The app allows users to make payments in Nigerian Naira, even when the user is in a foreign destination. That way, the user is saved from the hassles of computing conversions of foreign currencies.
View images of the Wakanow Blackberry app showing how to search for available flights and make a flight booking using the app.
[Click on the image to enlarge]
I love the Wakanow’s Blackberry app user interface and design. The app is also very user-friendly, functional and provides relevant information based on your search for flights and hotels. Also, the fact that you can compare flight fares from different airlines as well as make hotel comparisons before making a booking makes the Wakanow Blackberry app smashing.
But there were other features that I feel should be integrated into the app. For example, the app should provide a user with recommendations (based on the user’s preferences of hotels and airlines used in the past) and suggestions so that he/she doesn’t need to always search for hotels and flights every other time. So when a user logs into his/her profile and searches for a hotel and/or flight for a particular location that they’ve been to before, the app automatically displays recommended hotels and flights for that particular location he/she has been to before.
Another cool feature could be a travel planner on the app that allows the user plan his/her trip and possibly let’s him/her post the travel plan on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter/Foursquare. Interestingly, Wakanow announced that they were working on this feature for a future release, likely to be called, Plan My Waka.
During the presentation, a participant asked why the app doesn’t allow for the use of your ATM debit card to make payments. Apparently, Interswitch, the payment processing company is yet to enable this process via mobile platforms. In my opinion, the fact that the app doesn’t allow you pay using your Credit or Debit (ATM) card or via a mobile payment service such as MyPaga really sucks.
Granted, Interswitch is yet to enable the infrastructure for making payments via a Debit (ATM) card on your mobile phone, but perhaps, Wakanow should consider more payment options such as credit cards and/or mobile payments in the future. In response, Ekezie said they would be looking to integrate with any mobile payment service in the future as long as they have a good customer base. He further said that, for now you can use your ATM card via the web platform at the moment.
Another downside with the Wakanow Blackberry App is that it only uses GPRS to process and send data. So in case of network issues, using the app might be a problem. However, if there was an SMS integration with the mobile app, it would provide an alternative for sending and receiving data, although operator service charges may apply.
The Wakanow Blackberry Travel App is no doubt revolutionary and innovative. The app happens to be the first of its kind launched by an indigenous company in Africa. RIM launched their own Blackberry Travel App in March 2011.
While this is the first version of the Wakanow Blackberry app and thus may not be all we want it to be, we can only hope that the next version of the app would put into consideration some of its previous version’s failures and that Wakanow would improve on the features and functionality.
At the moment, it is too early to predict the adoption rate of this app when it finally gets out into the Blackberry App World, but we can assume that with over 20 million Nigerian travelers every year within Nigeria and across the world, the app could get significant traction.
Yet, that depends on the number of Blackberry users (an estimated 200,000 users in Nigeria) we have out of the 20 million travelers. Ekezie announced that there are about 6 million Blackberry users in Nigeria currently, (we are yet to verify this bogus claim) and that Wakanow is looking to capture at least 3 million users.
Whatever the case, the Wakanow Blackberry app may as well become one of the most downloaded apps on the Blackberry App World, since foreign travellers to and fro Nigeria and Africa would take advantage of this app. But again, this would depend on user’s preference between the Wakanow Blackberry Travel App and RIM’s Blackberry Travel App.
However, since Wakanow is a travel services company and the Wakanow Travel App would be available on the Android, iPhone and iPad devices in the future, we can expect that the company would do better than RIM or any other competition that targets the African travel market.
This is a sponsored review.