Online Room Reservation Remains a Major Challenge

Online Room Reservation Remains a Major Challenge
Online Room Reservation Remains a Major Challenge

Reports emerged in early January that a solution to one of the most striking challenges facing Iran’s nascent travel industry—the lack of an online hotel booking platform—was imminent.

Jamshid Hamzehzadeh, president of the Iranian Hoteliers’ Society, was widely quoted as saying that the hotel reservation website was to be launched on January 21, which would “facilitate hotel reservations and increase bookings”.

Fast forward six months and the website is still not operational. Aside from a list of hotels in various provinces on its reservation page, the platform offers nothing else; not even an appealing, user-friendly layout.

Hamzehzadeh was recently quoted by Mehr News Agency as saying that the website “will be updated” and “made available to the public as soon as possible”, but stopped short of setting a deadline.

There are plenty of other online platforms that allow people to search for hotels and book rooms, but they all have glaring problems. Most lack multilingual support, while almost none of them can claim to have a full list of lodging facilities and the listed hotels do not always update their information.

Another problem is that numerous hotels have all but abandoned checking reservations on the platforms they are signed up on, which makes for a rude awakening for tourists who have gone through the trouble of booking a room and paying for it online, only to find out upon arrival at the hotel that the room they reserved has been given away.

The websites have two major problems in common: First, none of them can accept overseas payments due to international banking limitations imposed on Iran; second, they are not monitored by Iran’s Cultural Heritage, Handicrafts and Tourism Organization, which is the top authority on tourism activities in the country.

  No Middlemen

An online room booking platform is a computerized system, known in the industry as a central reservation system, which stores and distributes information related to a hotel, resort, or other lodging facilities.

“A CRS assists hotel managers in managing their online marketing and sales, allowing them to upload their rates and availabilities to be seen by sales channels,” says Abbas Bidgoli, an executive advisor at IHS.

Sales channels may include conventional travel agencies as well as online travel agencies.

However, travel agencies will not be able to use the society’s platform any time soon. Bidgoli says the platform aims to allow for “direct contact between hotels and guests, scrapping the need for a middleman”.

However, IHS is considering granting travel agencies access to the system to make reservations.