Wakanow’s Role at Forefront of Africa’s Travel Tech Revolution

Wakanow, a Nigerian online travel agency, is set to spearhead a travel-tech revolution across Africa. At their recent ‘Wakanow Unpacked’ expo, the company introduced its new product lineup, promising enhanced ease, convenience, and profitability for users. Featuring over 1.5 million registered hotels, a multinational payment gateway, and a modular storefront on its revamped website, Wakanow aims to capture a significant portion of the trillion-dollar travel and tourism industry, reports Esther Oluku

The freedom to explore the world is undoubtedly one of life’s greatest pleasures. It allows us to experience nature’s beauty, immerse ourselves in diverse cultures, and share in the civilisations of people across the globe.

Travel encompasses more than just flights; it includes everything necessary for comfort and well-being throughout a stay at any destination. This covers food, accommodation, healthcare, recreation, and transportation.

The COVID-19 pandemic, with its restrictions on movement, severely impacted the travel and tourism industry, the hardest-hit sector. Four years after the pandemic, the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) notes that global economies have yet to fully recover to pre-COVID-19 levels.

According to the World Economic Forum (WEF) Tourism and Travel Development Index (TTDI) 2024, while middle- to high-income countries are expected to see significant growth in the travel and tourism sector, developing nations in Sub-Saharan Africa, like Nigeria and Côte d’Ivoire, remain on the margins of tapping into tourism’s economic potential. Of the 19 Sub-Saharan African countries featured in the 2024 TTDI, out of 119 countries globally, 12 ranked between 104 and 119.

Global reports on travel and tourism industry

The World Economic Forum (WEF) Travel and Tourism Development Index (TTDI) 2024 reports that global travel and tourism revenue reached 88 per cent of pre-COVID (2019) levels in 2023, totalling $9.9 trillion. A 2023 report by the UNWTO also states that global tourism alone generated $3.3 trillion, accounting for three percent of global Gross Domestic Product (GDP), with Statista forecasting a growth rate of 3.47 percent over the next four years.

Additionally, a graph by Statista shows that hotels and package holidays account for over 75 per cent of travel and tourism revenue, and this industry alone is projected to contribute $446.50 billion in 2024. Statista also reports that with user penetration rates increasing from 25.9 per cent in 2024 to 28.1 per cent in 2028, online sales will account for 76 per cent of total travel and tourism revenue. The hotel market is expected to increase to approximately 1.397 million users by 2028.

WEF’s vision for leveraging technology to revolutionise travel and tourism sector

The WEF proposed integrating technology into the travel and tourism sector to enhance user experience and expand the industry into larger markets. Highlighting some of the benefits, the WEF report suggests that adoption will “revolutionise the tourism industry, fundamentally altering how travelers explore destinations and interact with service providers.”

“From personalised trip planning powered by AI algorithms to immersive virtual reality experiences, technology will increasingly offer travelers unprecedented convenience and customisation, while digital technology and online platforms empower destinations and T&T businesses,” it stated.

Wakanow’s technological adoption

The Wakanow Group Chief Executive Officer, Mr. Bayo Adedeji, explained that the need to create products tailored to the African market while meeting the dynamics of emerging global travel demands necessitated upgrading the company’s user experience.

Wakanow Group has integrated a virtual travel assistant, fintech solutions, and accommodation booking into its product range. The new website features an AI travel assistant named Amina, a seamless international payment gateway (Kalabash54), and an Africa-focused accommodation service platform, Roomde, which are set to significantly enhance the experience of African travellers.

Adedeji noted that the new website’s functionality allows users to select multiple products and check out under a single ticket. Discussing the inspiration behind integrating AI, fintech, and accommodation booking into their offerings, Adedeji said: “As we continue to lead Africa, our success pales compared to the opportunity in front of us. The opportunity in front of us is larger than what we show and have taken.

“Today, what we want to talk about is those opportunities, and our work right now has positioned itself to take those opportunities. I started to think about more than just air travel, and I said what happens on the other side of travel and tourism. Africans don’t camp, and we obviously do not get on cruises either, but you know what we do? We stay in hotels and do package vacations. Africa is projected to spend about $3.8 billion in this division alone by 2028.”

Adedeji added, “Hotels remain the largest segment of this business. The number of users in hotels is expected to grow. But do you know that there is no hotel player in Africa? If the customer is booking on a foreign platform, it means that they’re using a foreign gateway. A foreign gateway means that money is being bled out of our system. We keep talking about foreign exchange bleed out; this is exactly how it happens.

“I believe strongly that only Africans can build Africa, and innovation does not stop anywhere, it starts with us. We have built innovation that fits the African customer.”

Introducing the new Wakanow website

Mrs. Adenike Macaulay, CEO of Wakanow Nigeria, emphasized that the primary goal of the new website is to create a more simplified and user-friendly interface.

She explained that customers’ needs have evolved, necessitating continuous improvements to keep pace with changing travel patterns. One major issue identified was time-consuming searches, especially as customers become more price-sensitive. To address this, the new website features a fare calendar on the homepage, allowing users to see different price points for various return dates at a glance.

Another challenge was international payment barriers. In response, Wakanow developed a modularised cart system streamlining the checkout process. Customers can now book multiple products, such as flights, hotels, lounge access, visa assistance, and airport transfers, all under a single booking ID. This unified checkout process simplifies and enhances the user experience.

“So, you can book your flight, add to cart; book your hotel, add to your cart; book your lounge if you’re flying economy class, you don’t have access to the lounge, you want that, add to cart; visa assistance, add to cart; you need airport pickup or drop off at your destination, add to cart and check out one single checkout,” she said.


Roomde.com is a digital product by the Wakanow Group targeted at solving the accommodation needs of travelers. The Senior Vice President, Product and Strategy, Wakanow Group, Mr. Gbolahan Salami, explained that Roomde.com represents the Group’s commitment to leveraging technology to bridge accommodation challenges for travelers by incorporating features which transcends just hotels to apartments, short-lets, and other unique accommodation features that the client may need.

With close to two million accommodation platforms on-boarded on Roomde across the world, Roomde promises security, simplified access to accommodation while considering the uniqueness of individual preferences.

Salami said: “Roomde.com represents our commitment to leveraging technology to enhance the travel experience for our customers, both B2B and B2C alike. It offers a comprehensive solution to the perennial challenges faced by travellers in finding and booking accommodations.

“As a traveler, the need for a convenient and reliable platform to search and book hotels online is paramount. Roomde addresses this need by providing a user-friendly interface with access to a vast inventory of hotels, shortlets, apartments, conference rooms, event venues, and more, all in one bucket and at competitive prices.

“Roomde offers ease of access to a wide range of accommodations, coupled with accurate information on pricing, availability, and amenities. Our platform ensures transparency in cancellation policies and payment methods, providing travellers with peace of mind and flexibility in their booking decisions.”

Introducing Kalabash54

Kalabash54, a subsidiary of the Wakanow Group, offers streamlined payment solutions for customers. These include currency conversion capabilities, an e-wallet, Kalabash naira and dollar Mastercard, and an international spending reward programme.

Mr. Ladi Ojuri, CEO of Kalabash54, explained that these products are designed to cater to modern, mobile customers by eliminating liquidity hassles during their global travels. He emphasized the Kalabash app’s ability to facilitate long-term planning and savings, allowing travellers to pay in instalments for flights, hotels, or other expenses from 24 hours to six months.

“Our ‘pay small small’ product enables instalment payments, which helps travellers manage dynamic flight pricing,” said Ojuri. “Paying six months in advance ensures a lower cost compared to booking closer to the travel date when prices typically rise.”

He added, “We apply a service charge based on the chosen instalment tenure, ranging from 0.5% to 10%. Opting for longer terms provides greater value. Our currency conversion feature ensures seamless transactions globally. For instance, customers can switch between currencies like cedis and naira directly on our website, facilitating convenient payment choices.”

Ojuri mentioned that the firm currently offers naira and dollar cards and plans to introduce a cedis card in the fourth quarter (Q4), pointing out that Wakanow’s platform supports payments in multiple currencies, enhancing flexibility for international transactions.

He added, “We apply a service charge based on the chosen instalment tenure, ranging from 0.5% to 10%. Opting for longer terms provides greater value. Our currency conversion feature ensures seamless transactions globally. For instance, customers can switch between currencies like cedis and naira directly on our website, facilitating convenient payment choices.”

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