In the past two weeks, I've flown to two different continents and entered three different countries. Next month, I will fly between two continents once again and through 4 countries. While at one time, international travel may have been restricted to class and resources, today, with the invention of budget airlines, shorter flights, larger aircrafts and almost unlimited access to various accommodation, international travel is a lot more accessible.
In fact, if you're a business owner, the proliferation of affordable accommodation, mass transit, and travel are a blessing for you as much as it is for travelers.
When you think about the last time you planned a trip, what strikes you as the most efficient feature of that experience? Maybe it's the ease of going to one website, like Priceline or Expedia and searching for hotels, flights, car rentals and/or vacation packages all in one place, via various companies, airlines, and hotels or maybe it's able to choose an "adventure" experience you want from websites like Airbnb, locate places to stay in the proximity and establish an itinerary immediately.
While services like these online travel platforms make it more likely that hotels and BnB's (even the little guys) will find business, they also make it more likely that customers are getting the best deal. However, the service isn't always as available to everyone.
Think about local retailers who normally rely on word of mouth for business or are unable to put their listings online. These retailers, especially if they are located outside of countries in which online review and recommendation platforms are typically used, are less likely to receive business if their airline, hotel or vacation package information isn't listed online.
If reviews of their business are not online, then it means that word of mouth business is contingent upon someone you know personally (or someone close to your friends and family) having an experience with their companies. When people can't search for their information and book remotely, they are likely to book elsewhere.
As a woman of Nigerian descent, this becomes all too obvious when planning trips "back home," suddenly your best guides to cheap flights and scenic hotels are less likely typical travel websites and more related to tracking down a friend of a friend who stayed in Abuja to visit his family or asking your uncle to figure out which airline his American friend used last year to fly for cheap.
So what can be done? Can traditional platforms be reimagined to work better for countries like Nigeria where less hotel and flight information can be found on regular sites? Well, it turns out, a lot can be done! Nigerian startup Hotels.ng, founded in Ikot Ekpene (Akwa Ibom State) has created an online travel platform, which helps customers manage their bookings all across the country.
Also, users can find other users' reviews to ensure that their experiences will meet expectations. This startup, which added flights to its platform early last year allows users to locate the nearest hotels and best flights from popular cities like Lagos, Abuja, Owerri, and Maryland.
Since the Nigerian flight industry is uncoordinated, making flight information difficult to find in a single, searchable database (where it exists, it is often limited) and local hotels can be virtually impossible to book online, Hotels.ng can make a valuable addition to the industry. On their website, they allow users to book hotels, make flight reservations and search tourist attractions across Nigeria.
Users even have a phone number to reach their assistance line if they are stranded and need travel advice. This allows them to reach travel experts by chat or phone, even when they are not on the site or connected to the internet.
The travel agents can recommend cheap flights, hotels, and excursions for their trip. So far Hotels.ng, which has been in business since 2012 has a team of 54 and has offered over 7,138 hotels in 320 cities across Nigeria.
They've helped millions of customers inside and outside of the country book their hotels and other vacation details through their site as well. Headquartered out of Lagos, they are available by phone, email and social media and even publish their blog about the travel industry and Nigerian tech.
So the next time you're looking forward to booking your vacation abroad (or at home, if you're reading this from the Giant of Africa), consider booking with Hotels.ng.