New Software Clears Hotel Booking Hurdles in South Africa

Computing

The travel industry is increasingly seeing the importance of smaller, independent hotels and guesthouses in meeting demand from a growing tourism sector.

Online travel group Global Online Hospitality Holdings will, in association with Vodacom, launch new software that will allow travel operators to tap into this market by booking online in real time.

The group will offer establishments with fewer than 50 rooms the software free, with Vodacom providing connect- ivity for a small fee.

Until now the biggest hurdle facing guesthouses and B&Bs entering the mainstream travel market was that their inventory was not readily available to travel operators, with bookings often handled manually. The software will enable hotels to manage reservations better while making their inventory accessible to travel operators.

Fraser Gregg, MD of Global Online Hospitality Holdings, said the group learnt a lesson on its website Justin-time.co.za where guesthouses were slow to confirm bookings or made double bookings.

"The failure of our system become clear when over a particular busy rugby weekend last year when we made 300 accommodation bookings, several of which were bungled. While we were making bookings online the hotels would take their own booking without checking with us first. It really blew up in our faces. It was then that we realised the importance of booking in real time," said Gregg.

The group has spent the past seven months working on the new software and is now ready to launch it to market.

"For the first time, travel agents will be able to offer smaller establishments to customers, knowing their bookings are secure," said Gregg.

Global Online Hospitality was not the only group eyeing small hotels. Match, the events company overseeing accommodation requirements for the 2010 World Cup, has targeted the sector to make up the shortfall in its inventory with large hotel groups. It has already secured 6000 rooms with smaller hotels out of a targeted 10000.

Low-cost airline Kulula.com is also expanding its travel offering, building on the popularity of its website. Using its own flights and car rental through Imperial Car Rental, the focus is on accommodation and it has signed up a 1000 smaller establishments to complement the larger hotel groups represented on its website. But signing up these guesthouses and B&Bs is not without its challenges.

"T here about 10000 guesthouses and B&Bs in South Africa but the industry is fragmented and often not represented online. We will only load inventory that can be book in real time, otherwise it is too costly to integrate into our system," says Comair joint-CEO.

Business Day