Hotels.ng, which claims to be the largest hotel booking site in Nigeria, has raised $1.2 million to expand across Africa. Investors include EchoVC Pan-Africa Fund and Omidyar Network, a venture capital firm launched by eBay founder Pierre Omidyar.
The site will launch new operations in Ghana first, says founder Mark Essien, and then move on to all of West Africa before tackling the rest of the continent. It also plans to focus on its mobile platform, since many consumers in Africa access the Internet exclusively through their smartphones.
Users performed more than a million hotel searches on the site last year, while 70,000 new customers signed up. Hotels.ng’s growth in its home market hinges on two factors: Nigeria’s Internet penetration rate, which is the highest in Africa and still increasing rapidly, and the government’s investment in its tourism industry, which is expected to contribute 5.8 percent of its gross domestic product by 2024.
This means that other hotel booking companies have set their sights on the country, including Jovago, which was launched by Rocket Internet in 2013, as well as international platforms Agoda and Bookings.com.
Essien says that by focusing exclusively on Africa, Hotels.ng is able to offer more inventory than its competitors. The site is also able to adapt to the needs of consumers in regions where there are few stable Internet or phone connections, with phone-based and messaging-based reservations accounting for more than 30 percent of Hotels.ng’s entire bookings.
“The hotel booking space in particular—even though it was a big market abroad—did not exist in the entire Sub-Saharan African market. After looking into the market, I understood the operational challenges that prevented it from existing, and then set about to solve them,” says Essien.
“We were able to solve them, and the day the site went live, we were dealing with a 100 calls a day. Since then, the business has kept growing—down to us raising one of the biggest Nigerian tech rounds in recent times.”