Winning Images – Part 1

Great Visuals Sell Accommodation

bestPriceTickBig hotel chains have the largest marketing budgets, so their websites must always be the ones that attract the most attention. Right? Wrong. In the USA recently, it’s the websites of smaller, boutique hotels – and even B&Bs – that have been generating the most buzz in the media. Why? Because these smaller hotels are much better (and quicker) at adapting to what customers want when booking accommodation online. And these days…

It’s All About Images!

A strong visually-oriented layout is the only way to go, because (and this can’t be emphasised often enough)…Photos sell rooms.

1. Good photos.
2. Big photos.

And, most importantly…

3. Prominent photos

Here’s a great example of a rooms page (courtesy of the Lion Inn, Winchcombe)…

 lion_inn_rooms

Don’t force your customers to hunt around for images that will tell them what the place they’re thinking of staying at actually looks like. Put them front and centre. You own a great property – let the world know about it!

So, even if you don’t want to redesign your whole site, at the very least get your web designer to boost the size and number of quality visuals on the front page and all the room pages. And, ideally, add a big, unmissable link on the front page itself that shouts, “ROOM IMAGES.”

TripAdvisor is becoming a Booking Website

8 Things You NEED to Know about the TripAdvisor Changes

Are you up to speed with the changes at TripAdvisor? Not knowing could lose you bookings.

TripAdvisor is Changing into a Booking Website. If you don’t have online booking you can lose bookings that you used to get from TripAdvisor.

  1. TripAdvisor is now a booking website, you can check live rates and availability.
  2. TripAdvisor will soon be advertising on TV just like other booking websites.
  3. The TripAdvisor home page (Image Below) now asks for a destination and your travel DATES.
  4. If you are on TripAdvisor looking for somewhere to stay they will show you availability and rates from Booking.com, LateRooms, Expedia, your property etc….
  5. You can now advertise your own direct availability on TripAdvisor next to the OTAs(Video Below)
  6. If you don’t work with any of Booking.com, LateRooms, Expedia and you don’t advertise your own availability on TripAdvisor you will lose bookings you used to get from TripAdvisor.

What do you need to do to get your rates and availability on TripAdvisor ?

  1. You need an online booking system that can connect with TripAdvisor.
  2. Alternatively you need to work with an Online Travel Agent (OTA) like booking.com that will advertise your availability on TripAdvisor.

TripAdvisor Show Prices button

Here is a short video to show you how to add rates and availability to you TripAdvisor page using your booking system.

Click Here to see the Video

As TripAdvisor grows their booking strategy you can expect more and more links to the booking process. It is likely that more of the page space on TripAdvisor’s website will be devoted to directing the customer to rates and availability.

This is a copy of the TripAdvisor home page, as you can see its asking for a destination, arrival and departure dates so they can show you rates and availability.

TripAdvisor HomePage

TripAdvisor Pay Per Click advertising
TripAdvisor Pay Per Click advertising

 

 

VisitScotland Update

freetobook connecting with VisitScotland

One of the most exciting things on the horizon for freetobook is our new connection with VisitScotland.

visitscotlandVisitScotland has a new accommodation search system that allows all B&Bs, guest houses, small hotels etc in Scotland to be displayed regardless of their relationship with VisitScotland itself (this is known as a “polling” system).

What this means is that very soon all Scottish freetobook properties will be able have their rates and availability appearing on VisitScotland’s site whenever a prospective customer does an accommodation search.

1st June is the current “go live” date for VisitScotland’s new system. Keep checking our blog for further details and updates.

2013 VisitEngland Awards for Excellence

freetobook sponsors “Small Hotel of the Year” 2013

Visit England Awards2013Quality is the key. What makes the VisitEngland Awards so important for the accommodation world – and so important to freetobook as a sponsor – is the fact that they’re not just an excuse for a boozy meal and a lot of back-slapping. Instead, they’re a beacon of excellence for all tourism businesses. By rewarding excellence, they play a key role in encouraging everyone involved in English tourism to raise their game even further. They highlight good practice amongst the very best hotels, B&Bs, guest houses and self-catering cottages in the country and, in doing so, allow other properties to learn from them. Simply by taking part, accommodation owners are inspired to improve their business performance in terms of turnover, profitability, quality, sustainability, staff morale and customer satisfaction.

This relentless focus on quality and making things better is what freetobook is all about as well. We provide cutting-edge booking technology, but we also offer a huge range of advice on boosting your online business and getting the very best out of a fast-changing digital world that is full of just as many opportunities as it is pitfalls.

With this in mind, freetobook is once again delighted to be sponsoring the “Small Hotel of the Year” category at the 2013 VisitEngland Awards for Excellence. The ceremony will take place on Monday 20th May at Lancashire County Cricket Club, Old Trafford.

Here are the finalists in the freetobook-sponsored “Small Hotel of the Year” category. Click their names to view their websites and connect with them via Facebook & Twitter (all, of them, interestingly enough, are strongly active on Social Media):

Brockencote Hall, Worcestershire

Gidleigh Park, Devon

Holbeck Ghyll, Cumbria

Northcote, Lancashire

The Scarlet Hotel, Cornwall

And given the fantastic range of our customer base, we’ll also be keeping an interested eye on the “Bed & Breakfast / Guest Accommodation of the Year” category too…

Alkham Court Farmhouse Bed and Breakfast, Kent

Fern Cottage Bed and Breakfast, South Gloucestershire

Pendragon Country House, Cornwall

The Bear’s Paw, Cheshire

The Salty Monk Restaurant with Rooms, Devon

Best of luck to all the nominees!

 

 

Wonderful Widgets

Why your widget is so important to your business!

A sports car may be beautifully styled, but if it can’t go anywhere it’s just… well, a sculpture. In the same way, no matter how good your website looks – and no matter how much money you spend getting people to it – if it doesn’t have a robust “engine” under the hood, no-one is going to book on it. Your booking engine really is the “business end” of your website.

widgetWe’ve put a lot of thought and effort into making those bookings happen for you, but that can be wasted if you don’t spend a little extra time making sure your widget looks fantastic.  Your room details page is usually the 2nd most visited page on your website. Why? Because people, quite understandably, want to see what they’re getting for their hard-earned money!  Showing customers what they are getting whilst they’re considering prices and availability will increase their likelihood of booking….it’s as simple as that.

Here are our 5 top tips to making your widget wonderful!

  1. Room images that keep the customer in the “booking zone”
  2. A list of room facilities that avoids any doubts/delays (i.e. is there a hair dryer?)
  3. Short and clear room descriptions that sell the benefits (i.e. free WIFI, a view etc)
  4. An enticing breakfast description that reinforces the value
  5. A beautiful header image that says “you’ve found the perfect place….”

The right level of information at the right time with a clear “call to action” (i.e. “Book Now”) is what great marketing is all about. That’s what will get you more bookings. Guaranteed.

Fort William B&Bs get “together”

More “togetherness” thanks to freetobook

Wasn’t there a hit song out a few years ago called “Better Together”? Don’t know, off the top of my head, who sang it, but here at freetobook, we’re all about “togetherness” too, and it’s one of the main things that’s helping our customers go from strength to strength.

FWAMGWhen we talk about “togetherness”, though, we’re talking about a lot more than just a warm, fuzzy glow of cooperation. An affordable product unique to freetobook users, TOGETHER is specifically designed to enable smaller businesses to market themselves more effectively as a group, as you can see HERE.

The latest group of forward-thinking accommodation owners benefiting from our TOGETHER product is the Fort William Accommodation Marketing Group (FWAMG), who’re using it improve their current website and booking process.

“Using freetobook’s TOGETHER was a no brainer as far as the members of FWAMG were concerned. We had already benefitted from freetobook individually. This new product gave us an affordable opportunity to collectively generate additional commission-free bookings whilst maintaining the local identity that is so important to us and our visitors”

–  Andy Keen, Chairman, FWAMG

So what do the Fort William folk get from TOGETHER? Here are the benefits:

1. They can offer their customers a fully functional online booking engine that increases conversions on their group website

2. Members using freetobook don’t need to update any other system

3. Each member can track the bookings through their “Together” booking engine

4. Bookings are kept and shared within the group

5. It’s a real marketing asset for the group, tracking the success of any marketing campaigns

6. If members are full, they can use the booking engine to see who else is available

7. It’s a great resource and benefit to offer and attract new members to the group

8. No technical knowledge is required…we do the clever stuff!

And, best of all…

9. There’s no commission on any bookings!

Well done to FWAMG for getting it up and running in under a month! You only have to look at their great site HERE to know that the future really is “Better Together.”