By Olabisi Olaleye
Chief Executive Officer, Jumia Travels Limited, Mr Paul Midy, says Nigeria has to unlock the full potentials of its hospitality industry in order to tap effectively into its dormant potentials to boost revenue earnings and grow the economy.
Midy, who spoke in an interview with Daily Sun in Lagos, recently said if the right investment climate is created for investors, Nigeria’s hospitality industry would contribute more to the country’s Gross Domestic Products (GDP) and also create jobs for thousands of citizens.
He said despite the economy downturn, Nigeria remains a preferred investment destination for many.
Recession has made the economy not to look too good in the last two months. Of course, it would affect the travel business because there are people with less money now and there are some who have lost their jobs. Basically, we run a travel business that involve a lot of African countries. There are some important things that Nigeria needs to do to grow.
However, despite the high inflation, price in naira on jumia travel has not changesd because of the maintaince of the good relationship we enjoy with hotels. More than this, we have increased our number of deal discounts. In naira, the cost on jumia travel is lower than what we had six months ago, relatively, it is cheaper to travel.
Another factor is that people are looking for deals, they go online because you don’t get deals at physical stores.
Impacts on GDP
I would say it is very difficult to give our direct contribution because we don’t release any figure but what I can tell you is that the contribution of hospitality and tourism industry to the economy is seven percent and growing approximately five percent every year. Though, the growth is slower this year than last year and if we look at sub Saharan African, it is about 20 million jobs.
The importance of this sector is critical to the economy because of job creation. There are over eight thousand hotels in Nigeria. We have jobs for various categories of people, from unskilled to highly skilled people. It is a very important sector for job creation and this alone will boost the GDP of Nigeria’s economy.
Relatively, we are contributing more and more to the economy. I understand that there was a time we sent newsletters out to our customers about hotels in Lagos being $4 per night and we had several customers asking us if it’s real thinking there was a mistake in the newsletter. The truth is that, there are hotels in Lagos that offers $4 per night. If we can unlock the potentials of this industry for business, the dividend is unimaginable.
We have a deep thought on what we want to achieve in terrms of better business deal that can contribute to greater Africa. We also tried to raise the bar in travels and there are three barriers we are trying to break; the first one is knowledge, by providing information on our website for free.
Second barrier that we are trying to break is price.Sometimes, it may be expensive to travel but most times people think that it is expensive to travel because of the hotels they know,.There are three, four star hotels for accomodation that gives very good service and convenience at a very cheaper rates. With the number of customers we push to these hotels, they offer great discounts. In 80 percent secenario, we offer the best price online because we know that price is key.
The last barrier is risk, when one travels and arrive in a city or suburb one is not familiar with or forgot reservation details on arrival at the hotel front desk. Jumia Travel addresses customers issue from end to end, customers can call our lines 24 hours and we will sort out the issue. These are the things we are trying to achieve and customers don’t need to pay online but can pay cash at the hotel when they check in.Other customers may choose to do transfer or use the online payment portal.
All our agents know every city and are always on hand to offer solace to any stranded customer via emails, SMS and voice calls.
We are very happy because Nigeria is our core market and the most performing country for us. We operate in other countries, but Nigeria is the best place to be because we are happy about our performance in the travel space. I will say even if the market is slowing down because of recession, Nigeria is still the place to be in business. Although, the economy still has potentials to grow bigger, thereby affording us the opportunity to do more business.
Our main focus is in Africa.We are a travelling website, offering our customers hotels in Africa because that is our core competence and not in European countries.
I would say that at the beginning, we experienced a lot of challenges that later fizzled out. Many times, we have been able to surprise our customers because of the way we track them until we are sure that they are settled. Most customers come back for our services.
50 percent of the hotels are now booked online. At the very beginning, we were not sure we were doing pretty well but passion and round the clock services helped us to achieve our dreams with customers given us referrals in terms of ratings and word of mouth advertisement. We also work harder to ensure our services become much better.
Regularly, we get feedbacks from our customers on what they do like and not like about us, so that we can serve them better.
I remember a man called to appreciate us that he actually booked for a hotel online with us and he later realised that he needed to spend an extra day at the same hotel but all the hotels have been booked and it was around 11pm and he said in 10 minutes, we found him another hotel at a very good price. With that, he said we saved his life.
Another experience is a man who explained that his wife was difficult to please in choice of hotels based on previous experiences. He said it was easier to use Jumia travel and spent 50 minutes with his wife checking out pictures of hotels and finally clicked and booked,admitting that the holiday was better than the previous ones.
Of course , a lot of challenges. At the very begining, it was very difficult to convince hoteliers to be on our platform because they didn’t know about online booking coupled with the doubts about us being a real company and all that. We had 150 hotels on our platform, which was quite small and it was a difficult task convincing the hotels that we would bring them more customers and more business in a convienient way.
I would say, another one is operations because we need to ensure that once a customer books a night at the hotel, he is alerted on the date of arrival and the price. At the very beginning, we had communication issues not from our end but from the environment we found ourselves. But now, we have built an application that send a push on notification.
Today, our challenge is to make our services well known. We have happier customers and the biggest number of hotels in Africa on our website. As you know, we changed the brand from Jovago to jumia Travel, we want to leverage on the poularity of the jumia brand. Another challenge is to keep working so that our customers who like our services will keep coming back.
We have built a very tight security around our websites with the IT team. Security is also one of the strengths of being in the jumia group. Since the beginning of our story, it has never happened because our team of IT professionals are not relenting on their oars. We have zero problems on the issue of security.
We want to make sure that we have hotels across Nigeria and not just limit ourselves to Lagos, Abuja and Port Harcourt. We have over 8,000 hotels in Nigeria spread across small and big cities. We have launched a programme tagged JForce, which is a pool of 60,000 commercial sales agents, who work for Jumia on commission basis. Now, they can do bookings on behalf of their customers on Jumia’s website. The JForce will also help us to address the issue of logistics.