Zimbabwe-based hotel-booking startup AfricaBookings is the second platform acquired by B2B company HotelOnline within a month, as the company looks to ramp up its B2B offering.

Founded in 2014, HotelOnline is a leading e-commerce and digital marketing platform for hotels that has helped more than 1,500 hotels across 18 markets in Africa and the Middle East increase their revenues.

Disrupt Africa reported earlier this week the company had acquired Kenyan leisure marketplace Cloud9xp in a share swap deal that will see the startup become a B2C channel of the Africa-focused hotel-booking platform.

That deal was completed in June, at the same time as HotelOnline was completing another share swap arrangement to acquire Africabookings, which lists thousands of lodges and hotels across various African countries, and raised seed funding back in 2015.

Endre Opdal, chief executive officer (CEO) of HotelOnline, told Disrupt Africa that though there was no doubt the travel sector had been hit “extremely hard” by the COVID-19 pandemic, “fortunes are made in times of crisis” and HotelOnline had seen opportunities to expand its reach. He explained the rationale behind the Africabookings acquisition, saying the online travel operator had been able to contract over 5,000 properties across Africa.

“The pandemic hurt their business and there was an opportunity to consolidate the business into HotelOnline. We are currently rolling out our technology to these properties, and will later offer them more advanced hotel management and revenue solutions,” Opdal said.

HotelOnline will also utilise Africabookings’ technology in Cloud9xp’s SuperApp for travel, and Opdal praised the latter’s team in the wake of the acquisition.

“Tesh and Mesongo have experienced great success with their other startup, MarketForce 360. It made sense for both parties to welcome Cloud9 into the HotelOnline family,” he said.

“Cloud9 has lately developed an app that covers many travel services. We are aiming to take the app further and enhance the experience for travellers in Africa. It will be closely linked to our hotels and also contain several of our new tech features like contactless, advance check-in and control of your hotel stay from your mobile. We are also excited to welcome their co-founder Winnie Kimathi onboard to HotelOnline.”

Opdal said COVID-19 had speeded up HotelOnline’s development of features that enable contactless check-in, room service and restaurant orders from mobile phones.

“Several features will be launched in the next months. In 2021 we are taking this even further with IoT-based solutions to make your hotel experience better and lower operational costs for hotels,” he said.

“We are also rolling out a payment solution to our hotel partners that is more cost effective, faster, and has more features then current players in the market. We are confident about the future for African travel, and we want to ensure that African hotels are equipped to compete through technology.”

Originally published on DisruptAfrica by Tom Jackson

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