Nitestay’s attempt to stand out in Nigeria’s highly competitive hotel booking space

Even though ecommerce giants Jumia and Konga are still Nigeria’s foremost startup companies, attention is gradually being extended to other sectors as 2015 saw the launch of quite a number of well-equipped startups emerge in non-retail sectors. A sector that saw surge in the number of new companies is the online hotel booking space which used to be dominated by the likes of Mark Essien’s and Rocket Internet-backed Jovago. But that’s not all.

There is also Hotelnownow, SlimTrader also secured US$1-million to grow its online booking platform and several similar services are expected to be rolled out in the first quarter of 2016. But Nitestay is one platform that falls in the category of the early companies in the space and even though most of the other players have been able to secure several local and foreign investments, the co-founders are still bootstrapping the company on their own but they expect this to change next year.

“We are a wholly owned Nigerian company. Certainly we can do more with investors. If we find the right one who shares similar goals as we do and if the opportunity is in the company’s best interest, we will take it. This will enable us to expand our operations rapidly and extend into other areas in West Africa and eventually Africa as a whole,” said Femi Okanla, co-founder and CEO of

Speaking to Ventureburn, Okanla confessed that they haven’t sought out any investors.

“We were the first in this business in Nigeria before competitors with investors having big money came. We have been approached in the past a couple of times but with the new intense competition, we now see the need for investors who can help us stand out and reach our goals faster,” he said.

This month, the company was re-launched with a rewards program, things to do around hotels, travel answers forum as well as other additions to improve customer experience. They improved their website, implemented new ideas and unlike other platforms, they are now rewarding users with free nights when they’ve booked for a number of times on the platform. But in multimillion dollar market where there are the likes of, Hotelnownow, TravelBeta, Jovago and several others, the chance of survival of a bootstrapped company such as Nitestay is bleak if doesn’t bring more to the table. The founders are aware of this and they are confident that they have something which others lack.

Read more: Hotel booking startup Jovago expands to Senegal, Kenya

“Yes we believe we can survive the highly competitive market, reasons being that we are offering our customers something that’s never been done before in Nigeria,” Okanla said. “We are going to be offering our customers a free night after 10 nights as well as a reward program where they can actually purchase items in our Nitestay Marketplace. We believe that by paying the customer back for their loyalty we can gain a huge market share and actually have a huge presence in the hotel booking industry within Nigeria.”

Another of the company’s key goals, he said, is to focus on customer service to differentiate and stand out amongst competitors by offering customers higher level of customer service so they can return next time.
But of what use is superior customer service without the company gaining popularity and acquiring more users? Responding, Okanla said they plan to market their service to the customer. They will be marketing their brand, and how they stand out.

“Why would a customer pay someone else money and not get any benefits back when you can come to Nitestay, pay the same price you pay to the competitor but still get rewards for it? No one else has done it in the whole of Nigeria, we are the first company to actually pioneer the rewards system in this industry within Nigeria, so I think the benefits speaks for themselves. Once the word gets out I believe the services we render and the rewards program will sell itself,” he said.

“As far as getting popular is concerned, we plan to market what we have to offer to the customer through every avenue possible and engage ourselves in every opportunity that presents itself for more exposure so that our customers can see us as the wise choice.”

Marketing is the greatest obstacle

He admitted they have problem with marketing their product and he specifically considered it their major obstacle.

“I think our greatest obstacle is being able to market our service out to our customers and make them aware of what we have to offer. That is going to take some time. Word of mouth [and] marketing cost money and it takes time before the customer actually gets to realize that what you have to offer actually stands out and is a lot better than what the competitors have,” he said.

Read more: Nigerian accommodation booking site just raised $1.2m

“We offer customers points, 100 points for each booking, which can then be used for purchases in our Nitestay marketplace. This is a new initiative that no one else has pioneered in the industry. We also have discount for our loyal customers. We have launched our status levels which include bronze, silver, gold, platinum and diamond. With each status level, our customers have the ability to acquire bonus points as well as discounts on each booking that they make. This is a new initiative that no one else has ever done and this what is going to be our differentiating factor.”

For 2016, he said Nitestay founders will be focusing on aggressively marketing the company; they want to market the rewards program and let the customer realize that they are the number one choice because they not only offer the best rate but also give them rewards for doing so.

“We are also going to try and grow our hotel partner base with focus on our minimum hotel standard requirements. We will also focus on growing the Nitestay brand by ensuring our registered customers have our Nitestay rewards cards which is accepted at most of our hotel partners within Nigeria. These three goals we believe we can actually pursue and attain,” he told Ventureburn.

Paul Adepoju


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