A new agreement between the Booking.com hotel reservation portal and a Middle East telecom provider is changing the way customers make hotel reservations in the Emirates, and throughout the Middle East.
The Zain Group, a top regional telecom provider, announced recently that when its customers choose hotels through the Booking.com portal, they'll get benefits related to their wireless accounts. Customers will be rewarded with the allocation of additional mobile data or voice benefits that are credited to either their prepaid or post-paid line.
Benefits vary according to country-specific audiences; for example, Kuwait customers will get broadband services of up to a terabyte, while Iraqi users will get additional voice and SMS credits.
“As we evolve to become a digital lifestyle operator, this agreement with another world-class digital marketplace provider represents Zain’s ongoing commitment to delivering exciting and compelling user experiences to our customers.” Zain Group CEO Scott Gegenheimer said. “We admire Booking.com’s customer orientation in its own right, and feel that the collaboration between our two organizations will be of enormous mutual benefit, offering our customers the best choice of rewards and convenience.”
Zain’s move utilizes the power of a hospitality platform that is truly built for international service: with more than 900,000 booking venues in 223 countries, Booking.com supports 24/7 booking operations staffed by more than 11,000 multi-lingual customer service workers.
Along with revolutionizing the practice of choosing hotels in the region that's rich in tourism and high-end accommodations, the agreement between Zain and Booking.com will also help individual telecom customers.
Edmund Herod, vice chancellor at Houston Community College, lived and worked in Qatar for a number of years as the school maintained a campus there.
“Telecom was a big deal.” Herod told the Gulf News Journal. “People love their phones.”
Part of the difference between American and Middle Eastern telecom services, Herod said, is related to the ways that will pay for phone calls.
First, he said, in the Middle East region, the caller pays for all charges. The recipient doesn't get charged for incoming calls. Also, he said, the subscription model is different.
“You paid for the minutes and you actually ‘charged’ your phone,” Herod said, comparing the Middle Eastern system to the use of prepaid “burner” phones in the U.S., which is a much smaller market in America.
While Americans like to sign up for unlimited services or those that provide automatic renewal of minutes, other customers around the world are well accustomed to buying cellphone credits from kiosks on printed cards, and entering those credits into the phone to "charge up" its minutes.
“There was a different sort of mindset.” Herod said.
Booking.com's top brass have also gone on record to promote these types of initiatives. In a 2005 interview, Booking.com CEO Darren Huston spoke enthusiastically about trips to strengthen relations with Middle Eastern partners and the potential for Booking.com in the UAE.
“The amazing thing about Dubai is that it’s one of the most mobile cities in the world.” Huston said. “In fact, for (Booking.com), we get a higher percentage of mobile bookings in Dubai than any big city in the world.”