AA B&B Awards 2017

Huge congratulations to the winners of the AA B&B Awards 2017 and especially to the two properties who are using freetobook – Mansion Hotel, Llansteffan and Glenegedale House, Islay.  The awards took place on the 8th May and we could not wait to congratulate the winners. The B&Bs using freetobook won in the following categories:

AA Guest Accommodation of the Year, Wales – Mansion House, freetobook user since March 2015

AA Friendliest B&B – Glenegedale House, Islay – using freetobook services since December 2014

Mansion House in Llansteffan   

twitter: @pantyrathro  https://www.facebook.com/mhllansteffan/

Situated in the Carmarthenshire area, Mansion House B&B has 5 luxurious bedrooms, each named after a Welsh hill farm and a restaurant that has two AA rosettes. I guess the location is not the only thing that is stunning about Mansion House, right? It is no wonder that they have won the award for a Guest Accommodation of the Year, Wales. If you are still not convinced take a look at some of the reviews their customers have left on TripAdvisor and you won’t be disappointed when you see that the place has been described as “outstanding” and having “superb food and stunning location”.

We managed to get a comment from the proud property owners David and Wendy Beaney!

 “We never imagined, whilst building our business plan on the dining table in Sydney, Australia – exactly five years ago – that we would achieve such an accolade in such a short space of time. We have defined strong financial targets for ourselves each year and slowly (and we think realistically) have incorporated professional goals for the team and the business, but this award had not even come onto our goal list yet! We are grateful for the support of our strong team of professionals: Paul, Anwen, Oscar and Nick (in the kitchen), Janet, Lucy, Paul and Ella (front of house) and Hannah and Claire (housekeeping) as well as our army of casual staff, which have excelled across the board over the past two years. And we cannot finish without mentioning our wonderful families. The support of Wendy’s parents has been unconditional particularly when we turned their world upside-down by moving back to their home with our four children! And finally to our children, who have sacrificed a ‘normal family life’ over the past few years and have become an integral part of our business. Thank you, Dylan, Lolly, Will and Rory.” – David and Wendy Beaney

Glenegedale House, Islay   twitter: @GlenegedaleH  https://www.facebook.com/GlenegedaleHouse/

Located on the island of Islay with a stunning view over the Mull of Oa and the Atlantic, Glenegedale House was voted the friendliest B&B by the AA B&B awards. The B&B has four rooms, offers delicious Scottish food and something extra – books, maps and local tourist information to browse through.  Rated 5 out of 5  on TripAdvisor with comments such as “unsurpassed hospitality”, “peaceful perfection” and “a complete dream” we are in no doubt that Glenegedale House deserves their award. This is the third award that Glenegedale won in less than 2 days. That is right, they were also awarded Breakfast Destination of the Year and a Gold Award for Food by the Scottish Food Academy in Edinburgh. 

“We are absolutely thrilled to win such an amazing national award that recognises how hard we work to make sure every guest feels welcome and that reflects how much we enjoy what we do here at Glenegedale House. We work hard to make sure each guest has a fantastic time here at Glenegedale House and this means we help tailor their time on Islay to suit each individual as much possible.  To win the AA’s most friendly bed and breakfast in the UK is out of this world.  This is something we have worked hard for and dreamed about.  Graeme and I simply love what we do and love that our guests have a fabulous time staying with us and this award recognises this” – Graeme and Emma Clark

Scottish Thistle Awards 2017

The 2016/2017 Scottish Thistle Awards were held on 16th March at the Edinburgh International Conference Centre. As usual, the category freetobookers did best was Most Hospitable B&B/Guest House. We are happy to announce that this year at the Scotland’s tourism Oscars, Brookford B&B, a freetobook user, has won the national award for Most Hospitable B&B/Guest House. Congratulations!

We asked them for a short comment and here is what they said:

“We are completely elated to have our efforts recognised in this way. To be honest, being the first time we had entered the competition, we had no expectations about winning the Regional final let alone winning the National title too.

To us, hospitality comes naturally and is all about treating our guests and recognising their needs as we would close friends whom we have invited to stay with us.

It is without a doubt that working with freetobook has played a major part in our success by helping create a good first impression with its seamless booking process and ease of use for both our clients and ourselves, thank you.” – Brookford B&B

We also have two regional finalists in the same category – Newton Farm Holidays
and Barony House Edinburgh.

Scotland’s Best B&Bs, which is using freetobook as a Together Group was a regional finalist in the Working Together for Tourism category. Congratulations again to all of you!

Scottish Thistle awards 2017/2018 entries are now open. Good luck to everyone who is going to enter this year! Also earlier this year many freetobook customers from all corners of the world scooped up top awards from TripAdvisor at the 2017 TripAdvisor Travellers’ Choice awards

2017 TripAdvisor Travellers’ Choice Award

rdTopLaurel_L_no_trademarks2017Congratulations to all the winners of TripAdvisor Travellers’ Choice Award 2017!  They have all worked so hard to get this recognition so let’s celebrate their achievements. Here is a list of the best hotels and B&B’s that are using freetobook…there are quite few!  A special congratulations to the Marine Court Hotel for being number 15 in the top 25 small hotels in the world. On the B&B front, a big congratulations to Swallows Rest Bed & Breakfast (number 5 in the world) and West by Five Guest House (also in the top 10).

Each year the list gets bigger and bigger, with 7 out of the UK’s top 25 B&Bs currently enjoying freetobook. Well done to everyone, including the 100s with a certificate of excellence.

See the full list below and let us know if you found your name!

 

Top 25 Small Hotels – World

  1. Marine Court HotelIlfracombe, United Kingdom

 

Top 25 B&B’s – World

  1. Swallows Rest Bed & Breakfast – Brigstock, United Kingdom

 

  1. West by Five Guest House – St Ives, United Kingdom

 

2017 Travellers’ Choice Award – UK

 

Top 25 B&B’s in the UK

  1. Swallows Rest Bed & Breakfast Brigstock, United Kingdom

 

  1. West by Five Guest House – St Ives, United Kingdom

 

  1. Riverside – Ambleside, United Kingdom

 

  1. Eighteen97 – Goathland, United Kingdom

 

  1. Heddwyn – Llandudno, United Kingdom

 

  1. Maxwell’s Piece Bed and Breakfast  – Moreton-in-Marsh, United Kingdom

 

  1. Highcliffe Contemporary Bed and Breakfast –  Falmouth, United Kingdom

 

Top 25 Small Hotels – UK

 

  1. Marine Court Hotel  – Ilfracombe, United Kingdom

 

  1. Ascot House Hotel – Torquay, United Kingdom

 

  1. Pencubitt House – Liskeard, United Kingdom

 

  1. Abbeyfield Hotel – Torquay, United Kingdom

 

Top 25 Bargain Hotels – UK

 

  1. Karden House HotelLlandudno, United Kingdom

 

Top 25 Hotels for Romance

 

  1. Trelaska Hotel & Restaurant Looe, United Kingdom

 

  1. Abbeyfield Hotel – Torquay, United Kingdom

 

  1. Cary Court Hotel – Torquay, United Kingdom

 

 

TripAdvisor’s Number 1 B&B In the World

millgate b&b

Sue Burrell, owner of the Millgate B&B in Masham, recalls the excitement and media frenzy and tells us why she will always be indebted to her local dentist and freetobook.

“Sometime in January 2015 I answered the telephone to James Kay, Senior Media Relations Manager for TripAdvisor who said, “Remember me from last year? You won an award as one of the Top 10 B&B’s Inns and Lodges in the World. Well, this year we have a special award for you”. I thought he was talking about my scones.  You see every new guest arriving at our B&B is greeted with freshly baked scones in their room and most of our TA reviews since we had started in business (just 2 years 10 months previously) had mentioned our scones.

I waited. ‘You have been voted TripAdvisor’s number 1 B&B in the World. But you cannot tell anyone” James said.  “Can I tell my husband?” I whimpered. “I think you probably will have to tell your husband” he said. I could tell he was smiling as he said that and I began to cry.

 

The next few days were just a blur. James would be telephoning to book in journalists from the UK’s national press for overnight stays while interviews with numerous TV and radio stations, local press reporters, newswire photographers and cameramen were lined up in total secrecy, ready for the day the news was to be announced to the world at the end of January 2015.

We had to stand in the little lane outside our home shaking bottles of sparkling wine (not champagne!) whilst photographers said “Just one more” for hour upon hour.  Tourists passing in the street were curious and I’m sure our neighbours thought we were Lottery winners as we stood together for the TV cameraman.

Standing in the cold for around six hours we opened up around four bottles of fizz posing for photographs. By 6pm I told Andrew we should eat out as by this stage I was ‘twinkling’ after drinking on an empty stomach.

It was Steak Night when we arrived at The Bruce Arms in Masham. Two steaks with all the trimmings and a bottle of wine for a bargain price.  After weaving our way home Andrew opened another bottle. I was just about to take a slurp when I missed my mouth and hit my front teeth with the glass, knocking off a porcelain crown which hit the terracotta tiles in the kitchen and shattered like a Ming vase. “Oh crikey, we have got telly again tomorrow” were my last words that night.

 

The following morning was the day the news of our award was announced to the world at 0500 hrs UK time. The first booking came in at 0509 and after BBC 2 radio show host Chris Evans began telling everyone to book Millgate B&B they were coming in at the rate of four a minute.  We had BBC Radio York broadcasting live from 6 am from our home.

I did radio interviews about our award from as far away as Cambodia, to Spain and Cambridge.  We had to unplug our telephone as it was ringing constantly and I couldn’t take the bookings fast enough.  We relied on freetobook for over a month to take the bookings for us as we had 1,427 email enquiries on the first day alone.  It took just four days for us to be booked for almost the full year ahead!

I was still worrying about not being able to smile on our ITV This Morning appearance because of my missing tooth when I received a text from my dentist asking for a radio ‘shout out’. My response clinched the deal, “As long as you do a temporary crown for me by 12 o’clock today”. I was grinning like a Cheshire cat for the cameras later that day.

 

I wish the winners for 2016/2017 all the very best and hope that they have an on-line booking system like freetobook to take the strain.

With hindsight, I wish we had booked some days off for ourselves as we only had 7 days off until October of 2015.

 

CNN wanted to make a film about us and wished to come over in March 2015.  We only had one day off that month and the next break was just two days off in May.  Despite their global audience of 240 million I turned down their kind offer (much to the consternation of TripAdvisor who wanted the extra publicity for their awards).  As I said to Andrew at the time, we would never have been able to have our telephone plugged in as there were so many time zones, calls would have been coming in 24 hours a day.  Although on the upside, I am able to say I turned down CNN and it sounds very flash!”

Sue Burrell, Millgate B&B

 

Winners TripAdvisor Travellers Choice Award 2015

Number 1 B&B IN THE WORLD

TripAdvisor Certificate of Excellence 2015

Bookingcom  Award  of Excellence 2014

Sunday Times Ultimate 100 British Hotels 2015/2016 –  Top 10 B&B’s.

Winners TripAdvisor Travellers Choice Award 2014

Tripadvisor Certificate of Excellence 2014

Number 9 in the TOP 10 B&B’s IN THE WORLD

Winners TripAdvisor Travellers Choice Award 2013

Number 23 in the TOP B&B’s IN EUROPE

How to win on TripAdvisor

Win on TripAdvisor
Winning on TripAdvisor

It’s great to see so many small businesses flourishing on TripAdvisor with the recent Certificates of Excellence. What does it take to get one? We are privileged to have a special view of the accommodation business chatting to thousands of owners across the world. On the whole customers openly share their success to help others get ahead.

When you look around at the independent B&Bs and guest houses that are winning there are a few things that seem to make all the difference to their guests.

Their welcome is warm, friendly, unique – it sets the tone for the stay. You, the host, make all the difference…. unlike some large corporate hotel chains where you’re “checked-in” by a machine ! That’s a huge advantage straight away, use that encounter to understand the guest, they are all different – some want to chat, take advice etc. others may not.

They have a small “flourish” at check-in that’s worth it’s weight in gold….a fresh pot of tea, some home baking, interesting events for them to see, something local ?

Their “wow factor” often comes from plain old attention to detail. Having everything spotless is a good starting point and then its lots of very small things done well….that add up.  In elite sports it’s called “marginal differences” i.e. the type of bed the athlete sleeps on, the liquids they drink, the make up of their diet, added together all of these 100s of things can mean the difference between a gold or silver medal on the day!

They are “great” at something (most people are!) and they show it off, differentiating themselves from the “crowd” and creating a memorable experience…something guests want to tell their friends about.  It could be flower arranging, local history, gardening, baking bread, carpentry, telling jokes….

They think of their guest all the way, anticipating their needs….if they are in a “walking Focus on Successarea” they provide advice or maps, if guests need to eat out they know which restaurants do what food best.  By spending time with their guests they are better able to understand how to make their stay just that little bit more memorable.

If you do all this you need to understand that although this level of “service” is natural to you it is also a real part of your marketing plan, so make the most of it.  Ask for a review and respond to them on TripAdvisor (all types), it shows you care but it’s also a fantastic source of marketing information. You will find out what “made the difference” in the eyes (and words) of your guests.

Essentially, “the host” seems to make the difference, not the free wi-fi or parking, so organising your time around the guest is critical. The best in the game know this, they clear their “admin” desk, use technology to the max – they don’t waste time processing bookings, typing in payments, updating booking systems …. instead they invest the time saved delivering a friendly, unique and memorable experience… it pays off!

Some winning accommodation owners case studies for further reading

Maxwell’s Piece B&B in Cotswolds
Glangwili Mansion in Carmarthen
Millgate B&B in Masham
Lincoln Yurts Glamping

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!

 

 

Craig & Iain at the Scottish Thistle Awards 2012

Craig & Iain will be attending the Scottish Thistle Awards ceremony on 9th November 2012 at the Kelvingrove Art Gallery in Glasgow. They’re looking forward to seeing old friends and making new contacts, so do drop by their table and say hello if you’re attending.

scottish_thistle_awardsThe “Oscars” of Scottish tourism, the award ceremony is attended by more than 400 guests. In an era when tourism is one of the most promising drivers to get the economy back on track, the Thistle Awards encourage professionalism and promote the quality service and products that reflect all that is great in Scotland’s internationally celebrated tourism industry.

2012 VisitEngland winners

visit england awards
Iain with (L-R): Lady Cobham (VisitEngland Chairman), Sue and Caroline from The Bath Priory

Craig and I were fortunate enough to attend the Visit England Awards for Excellence last night at the Athena in Leicester. It is inspiring to see the best tourism businesses operating at the top of their game. They had all achieved something quite special and really deserved their hard-earned time in the limelight.

We all manage businesses and aspire to be the best we can, but as most owner-operators know, we can often feel that we’re in a fairly isolated place where recognition and thanks are in short supply. Success when it’s earned needs to be celebrated, and we take our hat off to everyone who was there last night. It’s impossible to measure the passion and focus that got these award winners to the event; their drive to deliver better, day in day out, customer after customer, meal after meal is well worth making some noise about!

VE Small Hotel Land RedA special congratulations to the finalists of our sponsored category, “Small Hotel of Year”: The Bath Priory, Bath and Swinton Park, Yorkshire. They’re absolutely amazing properties, offering only the very best in hospitality.

Also a big thanks to Visit England for hosting a fantastic event and making everyone feel so welcome. Again it was all about the people.

You can see all the winners here: http://bit.ly/KBcchm

Freetobook presents “Small Hotel of the Year”

VE Small Hotel Land RedWell, the bow ties are unpacked and the shirts are ironed, which means Freetobook is ready to proudly present the Small Hotel of the Year Award at the VisitEngland Awards for Excellence 2012 on 22nd May. We’re really looking forward to a great night at the lovely Art Deco Athena venue in Leicester. Do drop by for a chat!

Freetobook proudly sponsors a VisitEngland award for excellence

visitengland awards for excellence 2012Freetobook is most chuffed to be sponsoring the VisitEngland awards for excellence in 2012. In our minds it’s a great way to raise the quality bar and promote all that’s best in accommodation.

As a family business (not a giant corporation) we couldn’t afford to sponsor the whole event, so we had to choose just one category. Ah… now which one do we choose? Should we sponsor the Bed and Breakfast award? It would make sense when so many of our wonderful customers come into this category, but then we also work with lots of Self Catering providers and we can’t leave them out. Then there are Small Hotels and Large Hotels. We like them and many of them like us, so what do we do? It seemed most logical to go for the middle option and chose to sponsor Small Hotel of the Year which includes so many fabulous and varied properties throughout the land.

We are all looking forward to hearing about the short lists and the finalists and then getting our kilts on for the finale black-tie dinner. If you want to see freetobook in kilts you need to enter before 6th Jan 2012 on VisitEngland’s website: www.visitenglandawards.org