How Online Marketing Transformed Hotel Business in Africa – Estelle Verdier- MD Jumia Travel

Jumia Travel is the leading hotel booking website in Africa partnering with over 25,000 hotels in more than 40 African countries. It covers all types of destinations from urban to rural areas; and a broad range of accommodation options from one to five star hotels, camping sites to bed and breakfasts, serviced apartments and lodges.

It is part of the Jumia Group, the leading e-commerce incubator on the continent. Jumia Travel offers an end-to-end booking service and recently introduced a flight booking service which enables its customers to find, compare and book flights as well as buy tickets online with ease. Footprint to Africa engaged Jumia Travel’s Managing Director Estelle Verdier again on the strides the company has made since their first chat almost two years ago.

When you first spoke to Footprint to Africa in November 2015, the number of your partner hotels was over 4, 000 in East Africa, a region with an estimated 7, 000 hotels. Has that number increased since?

Currently we are working with about 6,000 hotels across East Africa and we have more and more hotels contacting us to join our network. We have made a mark, and the goalposts have shifted in that we now have hotels contacting us to join our platform as opposed to the early days when we had to pitch on the importance of hotels to embrace online marketing.

In June 2016, the Africa Internet Group harmonized all its brands into the Jumia ecosystem including the rebranding of Jovago to Jumia Travel. How has this change in brand name impacted your business?

In its early days the rebranding of our company may have created some confusion for our customers as they had started to get used to the Jovago brand. However on the medium and long term it has actually strengthened our company. Nowadays we have up to 20 per cent of our bookings originating from customers who first shopped on Jumia and in the process discovered the opportunity to book their travels online.

The rebranding has also made it possible to invest more in creating brand awareness. I believe today a large part of the Kenyan population is familiar with the Jumia brand and our ambition is to achieve this at the scale of the continent. We want to be among the most trusted and loved brand in the region.

How has Jumia Travel leveraged innovative service offerings and industry partnerships to keep ahead of competitors?

We are always embracing technology to make our services easier to use for both customers and hotels. We have for instance made it possible for our website to recognize returning customers in order to give them access to better deals than first time users. Thus we are rewarding our loyal customers.

On the hotel side we have adopted a virtual card payment method to ensure hotels are able to collect payments of bookings easily from our bank account.

One of our latest innovations is the development of a WAP interface which makes it possible for our customers to enjoy our mobile app experience when connecting to our website from a mobile device. The customer does not have to download our app for this, thus saving memory space on their device. We have been leading the way in the industry with this technology and were featured in this year’s Google Developers talk Google I/O 2017.

What new challenges have come with your evolution and how are you as the head of Jumia Travel navigating them?

We had a tremendous growth over the last years and in such context the main challenge is always to maintain quality of service. Here I think we managed that very well. We have put in place quality control mechanisms with upfront the recording of all our calls to customers and hotels and rating of the experience provided by our travel advisors. We are also proactively asking both hotels and customers to rate their experience with our service and we do weekly review of issues to ensure every day we get better. With a Net Promoter Score (NPS) of 60+ most of the time we are among top performers in our industry.

What would you say is the contribution of Jumia Travel and similar portals on the continent’s travel and tourism industry?

Thanks to our portal we have made it easier and more affordable for many people to travel. Today customers can easily find and book hotels fromKshs600 in Kenya and less than a dollar across Africa.

On the hotel side we created digital pathway, as about 60 per cent of our present hotel partners did not have online presence and subsequent global visibility before we came in. For some hotels we have become their main source of business.

Destination awareness campaigns is also another key area that we have focused on; shedding light on all the wonderful destinations and exciting activities tourists can experience apart from the traditional bush and beach adventures.

How would you rate your growth vis a vis that of your partner hotels?

Our growth goes hand in hand with our partner hotels ‘growth. The more we promote our service the more we bring customers to the hotels. Equally the more hotels from our network give great experiences to our customers the more returning customers we get and the more customers we convince to use our services. Here we are really in a win-win relationship.

What is your insight on the effects of politics on your industry and related investments, as electioneering campaigns will kick-off by May ending for Kenya’s presidential election in August 2017?

The presidential elections are always an interesting period for us and patterns of travel habits around election time are often the same across the region. Prior to the elections, we often see an increase of bookings, people going back home to vote or moving to the countryside/counties for the same. During the elections all businesses usually experience a slowdown and so do we.  After the election things usually go back to normal but it really depends on how proactive the government and other stakeholders are in communicating about the peaceful roll out of the elections.

Source: Footprint to Africa

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