Booking.com, the global online accommodation reservation engine run by the Priceline Group is growing steadily in Africa with over 23,700 unique stays despite travel advisories and the continent’s reliance on seasonal wildlife tourism.
According to Joost Vermeulen, Regional Manager Middle East & Africa, Booking.com, “We’re pleased with the growth that we’ve seen in Africa in recent years and are looking forward to continuing to develop our business across the continent.”
Vermeulen says since Booking.com opened its first African office in Cape Town in 2007, it has continued to follow the demand of its customers and now operates six offices in Africa with more than 100 employees, including two locations in South Africa (Cape Town and Johannesburg), two in Morocco (Casablanca and Marrakech), one in Ghana (Accra), and one in Nairobi, Kenya.
“While we started in Africa with only a few properties available on our site, we now offer more than 23,700 unique stays for our customers to enjoy all across the continent, including everything from conveniently-located city apartments and cosy rural houses to luxurious seaside resorts. As with everything we do at Booking.com, we listen and learn from our customers,” Vermeulen told TechMoran.
From his perspective, Booking.com’s investment has definitely been worth it—and there is still so much potential to be explored.
“We’re excited to help more travellers to discover the incredible natural beauty of Africa, as well as the amazing history, unique cultures and warm hospitality of the people, while at the same time contributing to the growth of local economies by empowering our accommodation partners from every corner of Africa to grow their businesses as they see fit,” he added.
Each day, over 1,200,000 room nights for both the leisure and business sectors are reserved on Booking.com sites and apps worldwide due to its best price guarantee on its properties, from small, family-run bed and breakfasts to executive apartments and five-star luxury suites. Founded in 1996, Booking.com is now available in more than 40 languages, and offers 1,125,104 active properties in 225 countries and territories. The firm is now focused on growing its presence in Kenya and across Africa for both its inbound and outbound bookings.
“Building strong local relationships with our accommodation partners has always been at the core of our business strategy at Booking.com. So when we first entered the African market in 2007, the vastness of the continent did and still does present some challenges for us,” Vermeulen told TechMoran and added that normally with all challenges, Booking.com sees them as opportunities to find new and creative solutions.
With every new challenge, Booking.com says it’s constantly exploring new ways to increase its presence across the continent and to improve access for its partners, ultimately enabling them to manage their businesses with ease and to reach new customers from all over the world.
In 2016, the most popular destinations in Africa for customers on Booking.com were Marrakech, Cape Town, and Cairo. Cities such as Nairobi and Pretoria appear near the top of the list as up-and-coming African destinations, especially in terms of their growth in popularity with Booking.com’s customers over the past year.
As more global travellers continue to explore Africa, especially beyond some of its most popular destinations in South Africa, Morocco and Egypt, whether it be for business or holiday, the firm says it’s looking to expand the breadth and depth of accommodation choices it offers to consumers.
Vermeulen told TechMoran that Booking.com is constantly looking for synergies with relevant companies to pursue local distribution partnerships and is already partner with lots of companies all over the world, including in Africa.
“Our goal is to connect as many travellers as possible with the stay that’s just right for them,” he said. “So anywhere people are looking to learn more, talk about or get inspired about travel—that’s where we want to be, sharing our diverse inventory of more than 1.1 million stays in over 100,000 destinations all over the world.”
Apart from stays, Booking.com is building an AI powered digital assistant dubbed Experiences to help customers find great activities to do depending on their budget and interests and weather.