How To Increase Your Direct Bookings

Get more direct bookings

Always on the lookout for great practice, I spent some time on the website of one of our customers in Thailand. Tom, from the Crystal Bay Beach Resort,

More online bookings with freetobook
Get more direct bookings

had just sent a great testimonial saying how freetobook had increased his website conversion (thanks Tom – see below.) So I wanted to know what it was that he was doing right.

The most obvious thing was the bits of reassurance he was giving his customers, around the direct booking message: letting visitors know that booking direct is a good thing, gently reminding them of the benefits in booking direct. Customers like to know they are doing the right thing, so a little message encouraging them can make the difference between getting the booking or not. Some subtle understated reinforcement strategically placed can reap great dividends. I’m certainly not saying “paste the message everywhere” (don’t!) But putting a little bit of text or a little graphic here and there saying something like “Book direct for the best prices” or “Guaranteed to get the best deal when you book direct” can really help.

I think the Crystal Bay has got it quite right. In three places the customer gets a positive message about booking direct. As you will see from the testimonial at the bottom it works!

1) On the Booking/Rates page – that’s a good place

 

2) On the Contact Us page – another logical place to echo the “book direct” message

 

3) And finally on the freetobook search page – the most important place to have the message, as the customer is just about to book. Where better to whisper, “You are doing the right thing.”

Not everyone takes full advantage of the freetobook search image. You should. It’s a good way to sell yourself at the moment of booking. To upload an image, go to TAB “Home,” SubTAB “Widget,” click edit and upload an image (800px by 200px) into your widget. Then click save.

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Here’s Tom’s Testimonial:

“Free to Book is great, the user interface is the easiest and most intuitive we’ve ever used. After switching to Free to Book we massively increased our website conversion rate for direct bookings which has saved us a fortune in commission. What’s more the support is awesome.”

Tom at Crystal Bay Resort Koh Samui Thailand http://www.crystalbaykohsamui.com/

What to do when VisitScotland suddenly closes its online booking service…

It came as bit of a bombshell to lots of hospitality businesses when VisitScotland suddenly announced the withdrawal of its online booking system.  Many, including myself, would argue that this was long overdue. VisitScotland’s foray into this area over the last 10 or so years has left many Scottish tourism businesses disgruntled and wary of online booking….not a great record.

In my view, it was simply not fair for them to compete against private enterprises whilst receiving funding from government or EU bodies.  The accommodation sector has been radically altered by the internet and the pace of change is unrelenting. There is just no way an organisation like VisitScotland, with all its processes and its complex culture, can keep abreast of developments and provide a service of any quality or value.

Now, with limited time to find an alternative, many businesses are understandably worried about the process and cost of changing.  For these accommodation providers I would say:

  • take your time; don’t rush into anything – you’ve got a month
  • make sure you have a good look around – look at 2 or 3 options
  • try before you buy; it’s important the system works for your business
  • you can test most systems in an hour or so; some (like freetobook) can be set-up in 2 hours
  • call and speak to a few providers; get a feel for their “service”, not just sales
  • ask your friends and users of each system if they’d recommend it and why?
  • make sure you get the best, most cost-effective solution
  • map out what you think you will want from the system – not just now but 3 years hence
  • consider the system from your customer’s perspective i.e. how easy is it to book?
  • don’t base your comparisons on what you currently have
  • find out the cost and ease of connecting back in to VisitScotland via whichever system you’re considering

The solution currently being put together – whereby many suppliers will be able to offer their customers a link into the VisitScotland website – is absolutely right, because it gives accommodation providers the choice.  When you add to this the zero commission policy from VisitScotland website bookings you can clearly see the benefits i.e. more businesses will join the site, providing a better experience for visitors with greater direct access to Scottish tourism products.

The project is currently being run well and although it has a rather distant delivery date the signs are very encouraging.  VisitScotland is offering an intermediate step, whereby business can have a link to their online booking engine on their VisitScotland page.

We have always campaigned for an open system because that serves both the accommodation providers, and their customers best, so freetobook is proud to be the only free system connecting with VisitScotland, ensuring you don’t lose out on any bookings. What’s more, you won’t have to pay any connection fees or commission on bookings from the VisitScotland website.

New Default Widget Search Date

Brand new functionality from Freetobook offers you even more flexibility by enabling you change the default search date on your booking widget.

In the past it was automatically set for 7 days in advance. Now you can set it to anything between 0 and 14 days in advance. If you choose to set it to 0 days in advance, potential customers will instantly see same-day availability just by hitting “search”.

You can find this functionality by going to the “Home” tab then the “Widget” subtab:

Click on “Edit” then, on the next page, go to option 4 in the left-hand column:

 

 

 

Now you can set your default number of days and the default length of stay.

 

More bookings for Elgin B&B via Freetobook channel manager

Case Study: Freetobook’s channel manager brings more bookings to Ardgye House B&B in Elgin.

In the current economy, many independent accommodation providers know all too well the importance of getting new business. It’s a challenge, especially if you can’t afford expensive campaigns or newspaper advertising. Freetobook now offers some help: an easy-to-manage connection to LateRooms and Booking.com, which allows you to update your availability on both those sites quickly and easily via your Freetobook diary.

It’s true that some property owners are still wary of LateRooms and Booking.com, concerned that the commission charged by these Online Travel Agents will erase their profit margin. But experience has shown that many accommodation owners who take the plunge really benefit from the increased exposure. The internet is just so big and managing to get your property in front of the customer at the right time is no easy task.

One Freetobook customer who has definitely benefited from the extra exposure is Kerry McInnes, who runs the 4-star Ardgye House in Elgin. A beautiful 5-room Edwardian property, built in 1904, the Ardgye has been welcoming guests for over 20 years. It boasts sumptuous Family, Twin and King Rooms and is rated #1 on TripAdvisor for Elgin B&Bs/Inns. None the less, Kerry had noticed that it was becoming harder and harder to compete for attention in an online world where paid results dominate the first page of any accommodation search.

Already offering online booking with Freetobook software, Kerry decided to integrate with LateRooms via company’s channel manager.

“We’ve always been successful and we have a great reputation. We get a lot of bookings from the RAF at Lossiemouth and the Royal Engineers at Kinloss. We’re also very popular with German tourists visiting Scotland. But as with a lot of properties these days, it has become harder and harder for us to be ‘found,’” says Kerry. “The main thing that attracted us to LateRooms was their huge advertising spend. We realised that we could piggyback on that to become much more visible to potential guests. The Freetobook system’s channel manager allowed the integration to be done quickly and easily. It really couldn’t have been simpler.”

Kerry is well aware that some accommodation owners feel they’ll lose money on booking by going down this route, but she doesn’t share that view.

“I don’t see a LateRooms booking as 15% lost in commission, I see it as 85% gained on a booking I wouldn’t otherwise have got,” she points out. “I’m also noticing that guests who book through LateRooms the first time are becoming repeat customers who book with us direct on subsequent occasions, now that they know we exist.”

And although Kerry has only been offering LateRooms availability for a short time, she has already seen the benefits: “LateRooms bookings are up by a third since we integrated via Freetobook. We’re much busier than we were before and we are starting to see a pick-up in direct bookings too. Pretty soon we’re looking to integrate with Booking.com via Freetobook as well.”

Connect Booking.com and LateRooms

Update Booking.com & LateRooms in one place

We all know that in the current economy every extra booking is precious. We also know that an accommodation owner’s time is valuable. There are always a million things to do and not nearly enough time to do them in. With that in mind, freetobook now offers you a channel manager that allows you to connect to Booking.com and LateRooms and update them direct from your freetobook diary.

Thanks to this new functionality, you’ll no longer have to update lots of different systems. One diary will automatically update them all so you can never go over-booked. It’ll also allow you to alter room rates across different sales channels from one place. And each time a booking is made, it will go straight into your diary with all the customer details (phone, email, and prices) captured.

Not only will this new functionality save you time and increase room sales, it will also increase your exposure via the world’s leading booking websites and eliminate the worry of double bookings.

To find out more about how our new channel manager works and all the benefits it can bring you, go here.

 

 

 

New Facebook booking app

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facebook app

With 845 million active users, Facebook is becoming an ever-more useful way of reaching new customers and generating more revenue. If you already have a Facebook business page, Freetobook can now create a Facebook booking page for you as well. This will allow you to:

  • Display great photos of your property.
  • List all your property information and room descriptions.
  • Display your location on a Google map.

And most importantly of all…

  • Link to your booking engine, providing easy online booking direct from Facebook.

You’ll find this great new functionality by logging into your profile and clicking on a new tab called “Social.”

Learn more by watching this short video:

Are you on the same page as your customers?

With nearly a billion users on facebook there’s a good chance a few of your current or potential customers are on it and they’ll be looking for your property.

facebook booking button app
facebook app

Facebook business pages have been around for some time now so if want to be on the same page as your customers then look into getting a facebook page (link below).

If you already have a page then you will be pleased to know freetobook will soon be launching a facebook app to help you:

 

Continue reading “Are you on the same page as your customers?”

Pinterest booking link

Generate bookings from your Pinterest pins with freetobook booking button link.

Add your online booking link to Pinterest with freetobook. Pinterest is all about images, so have a great image ready to upload, something with the “wow factor”.

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Pinterest gets freetobook booking link

Log into freetobook and upload the image to your image Gallery (it’s in your Profile tab under Images), select the category “Pinterest” from the drop down menu. You can have as many images as you like in each category.

Continue reading “Pinterest booking link”

Get even more bookings with a customised header

In the world of accommodation websites, good photos drive sales – it’s as simple as that. Now Freetobook allows you to customise your header with an eye-catching image that will make it look even better and encourage more direct online bookings. For example:

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Continue reading “Get even more bookings with a customised header”

Displaying your booking button on facebook

With facebook on track to reach one billion active users worldwide by the end of 2011, it has become not only a great way to promote your property but also a really valuable booking channel. New technology from freetobook offers a simpler way to place a booking button directly on your facebook page.

We’ve created this online video tutorial to show you how it works:

Independent accommodation providers have shown great skill in using facebook as a billboard, creating distinctive pages, posting lots of great pictures (including guest photo albums) and putting on imaginative special offers.

All these “soft sell” strategies are terrific. But facebook can help you in a much more direct way. It doesn’t need to be solely a customer relations tool. It can also be a new revenue stream.

Our new booking button can be installed in a few simple steps and will link directly to your freetobook availability page, where guests can see live rates and book.