Rocket Internet is indeed launching an online hotel booking service called Jovago next month with plans to expand to new African markets later this year, Techloy can authoritatively confirm.
When the story first broke earlier this month, we speculated that it might be ex-Rocket Internet executives who are launching this new hotel booking service, but with some digging, we found that the company’s co-Managing Directors in the African region, Jeremy Hodara and Sacha Poignonnec would be leading the team of about 50 staff working from offices in Berlin, Paris, Porto and Lagos. Also, the company has appointed Felix Hartz as Managing Director and Marc Bentz as its Operations Manager in Nigeria.
On its operating model, we gathered that hotels on its site — even the best hotels around the world as well as in Africa — would be listed for free, although the company would get commissions based on transacted bookings on its site. For customers booking their hotels through the service, they have the option to pay online or upon arrival at the hotel with no booking fees charged.
While local hotel booking services such as Hotels.ng have yet to introduce online payments for bookings done on its site, largely due to the payment issues in Nigeria, the launch of Jovago means that the competition is about to get brutal for under-funded startups in that niche.
But Mark Essien, co-founder of Hotels.ng doesn’t appear fazed by Jovago’s expected launch in Nigeria and believes that if his company can make a better product and offer a better user experience, it will have more customers than its competition.
“Hotelsng has the largest hotel inventory in Nigeria and we do the most hotel bookings in Nigeria”, he claimed in a Twitter update a fortnight ago. According to the site, it claims to have over 4,000 hotels in over 300 cities in Nigeria.
Although we don’t know for sure how many hotels Jovago would have upon launch, even in Nigeria, we figure that it could boast over 100,000 hotels worldwide. And if this is so, it could be the largest online hotels booking service in Africa by far, surpassing Wakanow (about 50,000 local and international hotels), SafariNow (about 20,000 local and international listings) and Hotels.ng (about 4,000 local hotels) put together.
It is expected that with the recent injection of a fresh €35 million funding into Rocket Internet’s companies in Africa, which would likely include Jovago, the hotels booking market is a hot space to be in right now.
It won’t be surprising if Naspers launches or invests into this space or acquires a local startup to compete with Rocket Internet in the future.