How To Avoid That Dreaded Overbooking

Is overbooking a sign of marketing success, process failure or just bad luck?

There’s a real stigma attached to over/double booking. Why?

  •  Is it the failure to deliver on a personal promise made to your customer?
  • Or is it the fear of your contractual obligation once a booking has been made?
vacancy by LOLren
Fear of overbooking can lead to empty rooms!

In these days of litigious customers and a compensation “culture”, it’s no wonder that small businesses err on the side of caution. These valid concerns appeal to our most human of instincts: fear. Yet when you de-construct the problem, it’s not as bad as looks!

Most businesses need to maximise their chances of getting bookings and the most effective place for this is online.  The more places you can be found and booked, the more bookings you are likely to attract. But by increasing your exposure online you may also increase the risk of double booking.

Many businesses have held back from maximising their online advertising for fear of double or overbooking. There must be thousands of lost bookings every night because businesses don’t feel confident offering their full availability.

So if you sell across a variety of places online (i.e. channels like Booking.com, Bed & Breakfast websites etc.) then you need to ensure various systems are kept in sync. It’s time consuming and can be a stressful process.

One option is to show only a selection of rooms on each channel, so they are distinct and when they run out they can’t overbook. It’s not very efficient and you need to know what channels will sell what rooms best and when.

no_vacancy_p_a_h
Effective channel management can avoid lost bookings

Another solution is to have your booking system linked to your various sales websites (or channels), so that your one diary keeps all the other channels up-to-date. This means any phone bookings you add to your diary update all the channels and any website bookings automatically appear in your diary. This technology is usually called “channel management”.

When you consider the benefits of extra exposure, additional bookings and time saved updating various sites – not to mention the end of all that worrying – channel management can represent great value. Ideally you want a channel manager that works with the key channels, is flexible and isn’t too expensive. There are some clever “pay-as-you-go” options available where you pay according to the number of bookings you receive.

This technology can free up a lot of time and allow you to disappear for the odd week (or longer) without having to take the mobile phone and diary with you!

Even if you don’t go for any of the above options, I would stress that the fear of an overbooking should not stop you selling your rooms.

After all, the definition of overbooking is the deliberate practice of hotels to take more bookings than they can accommodate in order to avoid empty rooms, on the basis that there will be no-shows and cancellations.

This is hardly a claim that could reasonably be levelled at a B&B or guest house. Most customers, if contacted quickly, will understand that with modern technology it’s a rare possibility and not a result of negligence or greed on your part.

That’s a different story if you are a large hotel that regularly overbooks and then “bumps” or “moves” a customer on arrival and just blames someone else! Been there and got the scars to show it!

VisitScotland – get free bookings on VisitScotland dot com using freetobook

Bookings are already flooding in from VisitScotland to properties using freetobook, don’t lose out and get yours at no cost whatsoever.

If you are an accommodation in Scotland you can get free bookings from the VisitScotland website. No signup fee, no annual fee, no commission – using freetobook system you can feed your rates and availability onto their website and get bookings FREE.

VisitScotland and freetobook connected
Get connected to VisitScotland with freetobook

This is a NO-BRAINER, bookings are already flooding into freetobook properties from VisitScotland and there is no cost from freetobook and there is no cost from VisitScotland.

How do I get free bookings from VisitScotland ?

  1. You get a free listing on VisitScotland (this is free)
  2. You have an account with freetobook (this is free)
  3. If you don’t have an account with freetobook get one today (this is free)
  4. VisitScotland and freetobook are connected (you get free bookings)

Find out more about how to do it – click here

The Benefits of Getting “Together” in Torbay

Accommodation associations the length of the country are benefiting from freetobook’s innovative “Together” product, which allows them to market themselves more effectively as a group.

getTogetherTopLogo-click-for-videoIt’s already revolutionising life for members of the Fort William Accommodation Marketing Group (FWAMG) up in the Highlands. Now it has also been adopted by the Torbay Booking Association down in Devon.

The Torbay group consists of over 20 hotels, B&Bs and guest houses, ranging in size from 6 – 14 rooms. Their new “Together” site, which went live last week, is called www.torbaybooking.co.uk

Now these small, individual properties will no longer have to go it alone in an increasingly competitive world where big budget chains dominate more and more. Thanks to “Together”, they’ll be able to benefit from strength in numbers and take advantage of all these innovations:

(1) Increasing conversions by giving customers a fully functional booking engine

(2) Bookings are kept and shared within the group

(3) If members are full, they can see who else is available

(4) They can track bookings through their “Together” booking engine

(5) They can also track the success of any marketing campaigns

And, best of all…

(6) All bookings are commission-free!

Scotland’s Best B&Bs and the Ayrshire Bed & Breakfast Association are also using our terrific “Together” product. You can find out more about it HERE

3 Things You Need to Know About Mobile Bookings

smart_phone_okalkavanEvery day, more and more people are using iPads, iPhones, Androids etc to book hotels and B&Bs.

Pretty soon more people will be booking travel via mobile than on old-fashioned desktop computers. Google – the (current) kings of all things search – regularly produce stats on the growth of mobile. Here are some of the most eye-catching latest figures:

(1)   Almost half (47%) of all travellers now start their travel planning from a mobile device.

(2)   Today, 40% of leisure travellers and 36% of business travellers use mobile search engines to find hotels and book overnight accommodation.

(3)   By the second quarter of 2013, travel-related search queries will increase by 68% from smartphones and 180% from tablets. As you can see here…

google_mobile_2012

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

But perhaps most important of all is the news that far more last-minute bookings are made these days from mobile devices than desktop computers. Properties whose websites are not optimised for mobile are missing out these bookings, since, according to Google, 36% of last-minute travellers said that difficult mobile navigation is the main deterrent from booking…

google_mobile_2012_part3

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So don’t put it off any longer. Get a mobile-optimised website and a mobile app today. You know it makes sense!

Winning Images – Part 2

5 More Ways That Great Photos Can Boost Your Bookings

Book Direct for the best price

Great photos can massively enhance the first impression guests received from your website – and therefore boost your bookings. Here are a few clever strategies to really drive home the benefits that excellent visuals provide…

 

  1. the-lion-inn-suiteCollect lots of terrific photos of your property by all means. In particular, make sure that your room photos present your accommodation in the very best and most flattering light. But once you’ve done this, chose a SINGLE PHOTO that you’ll use to convey everything you feel is best about the experience your offer your guests. Use the photo as a kind of unofficial logo anywhere you can – on Facebook, on Twitter, on Google Places (and whatever other ‘must do’ social media channels are lurking over the horizon!) Once people see it often enough, they’ll associate it instinctively with your property.
  2. When you (or your web designer) is updating the photos on your site, make sure you think carefully about how you name them. Well-named photos add a lot of Search Engine value to your site. It may seem a bit unwieldy, but make sure the file name for each photo includes the name of your property and where it is (e.g. mayfield_guesthouse_norwich_bedroom1.jpg) rather than just (room.jpg). Lots of people find accommodation by doing geographic searches like “B&B in ­____” or “guesthouse near ­____”. Naming your photos in this way will help them find you. Congratulations, your site just got “Searchier”!
  3. the-lion-inn-foodGreat photos of rooms are the gold standard when it comes to visuals that will entice people to stay with you. But other types of photos can also be great when it comes to really emphasising the cosy, personal experience that people crave. If you take great pride in your home cooking, for instance, have some great photos of your meals on your site. If you’re on the coast with spectacular views, emphasise those. In other words, find your unique selling point and push it as clearly and concisely as possible through your visuals.
  4. Putting guest reviews (even TripAdvisor reviews!) on your site can be a terrific way of establishing trust (i.e. “Look, we’re a wonderful property with nothing to hide and here are the reviews to prove it.”) But some people these days don’t even have the time/patience to read reviews. A Guestbook page with a few photos of you with your guests (ideally smiling!) creates an instant and very powerful positive message. They’re also great for your Facebook page.
  5. Going back to how people search, it can be immensely useful to have a “Local Area” page on your site, with lots of smartly-labelled photos showing nearby attractions. Placing yourself within your community means that you become a strong part of its online presence and an advocate for it. It also means that you’ll score well, once again, with Search Engines if anyone searches for a local attraction then starts looking for accommodation.

How do the Changes at TripAdvisor affect accommodation ?

TripAdvisor is changing into a Rate Comparison and Booking website. How does this affect accommodation owners ?

Some accommodation providers could lose bookings from TripAdvisor as a result of these changes, others will gain. Here are a couple of videos to help you understand where you stand.

First Video about the changes, how they look to potential bookers

 Second Video about how you can deal with them

Another couple of blog articles might help you understand the changes. Official TripAdvisor is a Rate Comparison engine. And also 8 Things you need to know about TripAdvisor

 

 

 

 

TripAdvisor Goes Official (now a Price Comparison Website) Press release 5June2013

At freetobook we have been tweeting, facebooking and blogging about this change for months – Now its official from TripAdvisor themselves – they are a rate comparisson site with booking links. (8 Things You NEED to Know about the TripAdvisor Changes)

press release [start]

No More Pop-Ups Crop Up as Hotel Price Comparison Search Finally Goes Live

Applying radical common sense, TripAdvisor®, the world’s largest travel site*, announces the launch of its all-in-one Hotel Price Comparison search, now live

TripAdvisor Show Prices button
Video of TripAdvisor show prices and availability

worldwide.  TripAdvisor *is* the first to match real-time pricing and availability with the more than 100 million original reviews and opinions of TripAdvisor travellers.

“Our bad,” said Steve Kaufer, co-founder and CEO of TripAdvisor. “We want to help travellers plan and have the perfect trip, not drive them crazy with endless annoying pop-ups before they’ve booked it. We are excited to offer real-time hotel prices and availability in one convenient display.”

“I recently searched a popular New York hotel, hit the ‘See All’ pricing link and — expecting to wade through countless pop-ups — I went to grab a cup of coffee,” said one TripAdvisor “member.” “When I came back to sift through the results, there was only one display…one!  Can you believe it? A unified price comparison search is a dream come true!”

TripAdvisor now displays an easy-to-read layout of pricing and availability from multiple booking partners in one view. This means that travellers can apply a simple method for choosing top-rated hotels at a great price: research a hotel for their chosen dates of stay, compare options at a glance to select their favorite, and click through to the booking partners’ sites to complete the transaction.

“This was the most logical step in the evolution of TripAdvisor,” said Kaufer.  “Pairing our best-in-class user-generated content with pricing in one display gives a better experience to our travellers and even more qualified leads to our hotel booking partners.”

Book Direct for the best price
Book Direct for the best price

The new price comparison search display is now live for hotels in every country in the world and is available on all TripAdvisor sites and all mobile platforms.

press release [end]

See the freetobook view on this change with our Video and Blog article.

Click here to see the VIDEO

Click here to see the Freetobook view BLOG

Get the news first with freetobook, our online booking solutions empower you to make the most of the online world.