By Victor Anikeenko
From February, any hotel in Minsk, or elsewhere in Belarus, will be available for booking via the Internet, in addition to bookings being taken by phone. All hotels countrywide will be available on a single database (at http://belarustourism.by). Simultaneously, a national system of online booking of excursions and tours is being prepared, supervised by the National Tourism Agency. Valery Boldyrev, the Head of Marketing and Publishing Activity Department at the National Tourism Agency, tells us more.
The project should enable Belarusian hotels to work to global booking standards, increasing the country’s popularity. Belarusian hotels will become available to hundreds of thousands of foreign tour-operators and tourists. The scheme has no intermediaries, who require additional time and money. From now on, each hotel can independently register with the database, with potential guests seeing real prices on the monitor of their computer. Accordingly, they can immediately book a room, paying by card, receiving email confirmation of their booking. The Belarusian tourist-information network will thereby join the international database of hotels. People will be able to search the database from their own computers, or mobile phone or from a special terminal (soon to appear at Minsk National Airport, railway stations and trading centres).
If I were a tourist using the online booking service for the first time, what would I do?
You just need to choose a hotel, viewing available rooms and choosing the one you like. To book, you give your personal data and the number of your card account, so that one night’s stay at the hotel can be reserved from your account. You’ll be able to pay on arrival but your card gives a guarantee. If you fail to arrive, this amount is deducted by the hotel; the scheme works in most countries.
Are Belarusian hotels ready for this system?
Large and small hotels alike are now ready to join the system. However, the first thing they need to do is conform to European terms regarding prices and discounts. Of course, online bookings don’t limit a hotel in its distribution of rooms.
Is the project aimed at foreign tourists?
Yes. The project primarily focuses on raising incoming tourism. As soon as the number of hotels on the national online booking system reaches 30-40, we’ll be able to connect it to global systems, like HotelsPro or Booking.com. This step will allow Belarusian hotels to access a wider audience. A tourist from New Zealand, for example, will be able to easily book a room at a Minsk hotel, for any day and at any moment. The development of the online booking system is just one stage in establishing of a single tourist-information network, under the aegis of the National Tourism Agency. Visitors to the belarustourism.by website will also be able to book a guide-translator or a tour guide, to accompany them on an excursion or a tour they’ve chosen. Transport services are also to be available for online booking soon.