LAHORE: The hospitality industry in Pakistan has just entered a new phase of growth where tech-savvy people are leading the momentum via e-commerce platforms offered by hospitality portals.
Jovago.net is one such platform that has been managing connections between the hospitality industry and travellers for the past six months.
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Expanding operations under its parent company, Rocket Internet Gmbh, a German incubator, Jovago has recorded 30% month-on-month growth in Pakistan’s market and managed to add more than 2,000 properties in 160 cities since its inception.
Its management is hopeful about further growth in coming years as the country experiences huge inflows of investment in the information technology sector. “Pakistan is the second country in the region after Malaysia where the IT sector is attracting huge investments, portraying the country’s potential in online markets,” said Tina Wang, Managing Director of Jovago, in an interview with The Express Tribune.
“Our company is also supported by the tech-savvy group which is between 21 and 35 years of age,” she added.
For Wang, Pakistan’s hospitality market is largely dominated by domestic travellers, who comprise around 95% of the total market and the rest are international travellers, many of whom avoid visiting Pakistan due to its negative perception.
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“Even though the ratio of international travellers is not that high, the domestic interest is still there and people love to travel to hilly areas to spend their holidays,” she said.
However, these domestic travellers are too sensitive and look for one-step solutions in booking a hotel, resort or guest house for vacation.
Jovago is continuously working to improve services and is adding more value by educating the property owners.
“Initially, the property owners were confused and were wondering if listing with Jovago would work for them,” she said, adding “we focus on educating them as they don’t know how to use this platform and what value they can add to their properties to widen the customer base.”
However, educating them is not less than a challenge. To cope with it, the company is continuously conducting workshops in different cities, imparting skills like how to improve listings, do away with the practices that irritate the travellers and how to add value to the properties. “Property owners are now much more comfortable after realising how they can add value to their portfolios. Customer feedback is the biggest tool for the hotel owners and us to improve things,” she said.
At present, Jovago’s biggest chunk of bookings comes from Karachi, which accounts for 35% of the total business, followed by Lahore and other metropolitan cities. The company boasts it does not charge a single penny from customers. Instead, it offers them discounts in the booking price. “Once booking volumes increase, the company will manage to take out its due share,” Wang said.
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“It all depends on the relationship with the property owners, no matter whether they are corporate hotels or guest houses. If our objective is to grow, then we have to put in efforts and make investment; once we hit more booking volumes, we can make a difference.”
Talking about the challenges the online hospitality industry was currently facing, Wang said every company would face challenges when it pursued a growth trajectory.
“When you are growing, you definitely encounter growth issues. However, in Pakistan, other challenges also come in the way such as education, technological improvement, taxation and digital payment solutions,” she said, pointing out that Jovago was looking to work closely with the government and had initiated the process at its end.
The writer is a staff correspondent
Published in The Express Tribune, December 26th, 2016.
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