By Agnes E. Nantaba
Louis Badea is the country manager for Jovago.com, an online hotel booking platform that opened an office in Uganda recently. He spoke to Agnes E. Nantaba about their operations and other pertinent issues in the online commerce industry.
What are the key elements in your management philosophy as a manager?
I am a people-centered person who relies on working as a team. I had a six months training Nairobi, Kenya at a sister company to Jovago.com, and one thing I learnt is that for any business to thrive, customers are always at the forefront. As a manager, I always know and value the unique abilities and even the eccentricities of every employee, and ensure that I integrate them into a coordinated work plan to suit the interest of clients. You can only succeed as a manger after identifying and deploying the differences among people, challenging each employee to excel in his or her own way. It’s about constantly tweaking your environment so that the unique contribution, the unique needs, and the unique style of each employee can be explored and utilized.
What expertise do you bring on board in terms of managing online business bookings?
My stay and experience in France and Nairobi will help an online company like Jovago expand its clientele.
What is your assessment of the rating and status of the hospitality and hotel industry in Uganda?
Uganda’s hotel and hospitality industry growth is mainly tailored to the tourist industry. The industry is very aggressive and growing as compared to other countries in the region. More travelers are turning to Uganda for accommodation, tourism and business and with the stability at hand; Uganda is destined for more bookings evidenced by the traffic on Jovago.com that keeps increasing towards Uganda.
You recently expanded business operations to Uganda, what is the strategy behind your spread across the African continent?
We focus on the African continent – an emerging market. The online booking model or platform is a recent phenomenon in the African markets. We therefore come in to offer options to Africans through paying by mobile money after booking on the website. We also offer an opportunity where clients book with us but make payments at the hotels.
Part of your mission as a manager is to promote Uganda as the ideal business and leisure travel destination. How do you intend to achieve this?
We have already listed hundreds of Ugandan hotels on our platform. On top of listing them, we continuously engage hotels in helping them work as per the international standards. We also write features about the richness of Uganda’s hotels and hospitality sector that we post on our website. This bridges the gap between what potential clients should expect in Ugandan hotels.
What opportunities do hoteliers and travelers get for using Jovago as an online hotel-booking website?
With an online booking platform like Jovago.com, travelers can finalize their travel plans within minutes. Being able to make all your travel plans on the Internet means you can do it any time of the day or night at home, or while you’re on your lunch break at the office. It’s simple for travelers to change or cancel online reservations. Instead of calling the hotel or airline and waiting for a customer service representative to help you through the process, booking online means you can do it wherever you have Internet access. As for the hotels, it means more business through more bookings.
What is Jovago’s role in marketing the hotel and hospitality industry in Uganda?
There is a market for all hotels in Uganda irrespective of size and facilities. There are star ratings for the different hotels on our website. We have all stars of hotels depending on the facilities and human resource. Continued economic growth in Uganda will see an organic increase in business travel in and to the country, and as long as we continue marketing the industry on the international scene. This will no doubvt grow the tourist numbers as well.
What are some of the challenges associated with running an online business platform like Jovago?
Internet network posts as the biggest challenge for running an online business in Uganda and the neighbours. For instance, it’s currently a challenge to contact hotels in Burundi and Southern Sudan given the unrest in the two countries. But also location, address and access of Ugandan hotels remain big challenges. Some hotels lack physical and other forms of address, which hinders them from getting more bookings. We therefore have to go an extra mile to locate other visible features around such hotels but with the GPS.
How are you equipped in terms of strategy and resources to overcome such challenges?
We are well equipped in terms of experience and human resource. We have more than 100 travel guides in ten African countries fluent in several local and international languages. When we sign on a hotel, we go an extra mile to visit the hotel; and confirm whether the facilities and services they offer match with the specifications and ratings posted on our platform.
Where do you see online business transactions and the hospitality industry in Uganda in the next few years?
The potential for Uganda’s hospitality industry is undoubted. While many people still believe that it is very expensive to travel, Jovago.com is here to prove that you can actually make it to Uganda and access world class facilities at an average cost. Most travelers and tourists still believe that facilities that match their standards are concentrated in and around Kampala. It may be true because Kampala as the capital city receives the highest number of bookings but in the future, we expect other towns like Entebbe and upcountry to get more bookings as people can access the same standard facilities online at their convenience in their respective countries.