Group website at zero commission

Get a Together group for direct bookings

direct commission free bookings
grow your direct bookings

Here at freetobook we are continually looking to make it easier for small independent accommodation owners to thrive. One message we hear again and again is that the large OTAs are taking more and more commission.

Well, here’s  the good news, it’s never been easier to fight back with zero commission direct bookings from your group’s website. A group website can be created for a few nearby properties who want to work together or for bigger groups like a local association or marketing group.

Get together and co-operate to reduce commission.

Key Advantages:

1) Zero commission for all your group’s bookings.

2) Easy to refer phone bookings when you are full, revenue stays local.

3) Professional online booking and mobile site improves the image of your group.

4) Simple to administer, each property handles their own availability, rates and information.

5) It’s your group – you own the website so you can invest in it and grow it.

If you want to start fighting back against all the high commission bills this is a great place to start.

Read about the together group that reached £500,000 in commission free bookings

Case study of Fort William Bed and Breakfast group

Find out more from those already doing it with their “Together” websites.

Video showing how “together” can work for you

Join Together for more zero commission bookings from freetobook on Vimeo.

 

Together group benefit circle

Direct Bookings vs OTA Bookings

Grow your direct bookings whilst using the OTAs

Direct bookings vs OTA bookings
Direct Bookings vs OTA Bookings

How much more of the “booking cake” can the OTAs (Online Travel Agents) take and how much bigger is the online booking sphere getting? They’re both interesting questions we continue to ask ourselves with a view to helping independent properties generate more direct bookings and reduce commission bills.

There is now evidence that the growth in new online customers is starting to flatten and mature. The OTAs are giant corporations that require continual growth to fire their share price. With fewer new online customers to sell to, the OTAs are looking for ways to keep their growth on target and some have been launching products to control your direct bookings. This strategy of getting income from your direct bookings doesn’t require them to find any new customers yet helps them expand their income. When they manage your direct bookings you are effectively providing them with an opportunity to acquire new customers, your direct customers.

We have also seen some OTAs removing the customer’s direct email address when the booking has originated on their site. In the past they shared these details freely with the property owners but now you need to make the effort to obtain the customer’s contact details. This will lead to less communication between you and the customer, reducing your ability to make direct marketing offers and run loyalty promotions. The knock-on effect is to shift more bookings into commissionable income and reduce direct bookings. Make sure you get contact details of all your guests.

Best Rate Guaranteed
Make sure your customers know, promise them the best rate

How do the OTAs control so much of the online business? Well, they spend billions on online marketing to get customers to book on their website. Along with the expensive adverts they quite often advertise on the search engines under cheaper terms like your property name. When they advertise under your name customers looking for your property will see them first at the top of the Google page. You will also probably see them paying for advertising on other high traffic websites e.g. your TripAdvisor page.

So what can you do about it ? Take your direct bookings very seriously, be under no illusions that you are in competition for your own direct bookings. You need to stop thinking that the property down the road is your main competition. In the online world your biggest competitor is most likely to be the OTA that provides you with the most bookings. If a potential customer has a better website experience on an OTA’s website then that’s where they’ll book.

Direct booking savings re-invested
Re-Invest your direct booking savings to generate more savings

Make sure you have invested in a great website, lots of fantastic images (critical), a great design and good original copy. There is nothing new there but independent businesses are all too often reticent to invest in their marketing, seeing it purely as a cost. Have you ever wondered why the OTAs insist on you uploading so many great images? They know customers are more likely to book with them if they have great images of your property.

A fantastic image led website will generate more direct bookings and save commission. Making sure your website is the best it can be will give you an edge when competing for direct bookings. Some of the big hotel chains even keep their best images for their own website so that they have better visual content for direct customers.

Book direct for benefits
Book direct for benefits

It’s a fact that big OTAs have a global sales coverage that independent accommodation owners can’t match. Learn from the way the big hotel chains do it, they use the OTAs for customer acquisition in areas they cannot reach. Use the OTAs to get the bookings in and convert the customers to future loyal direct bookers. Not all OTAs are the same, some customers have loyalty to a specific OTA that they use most of the time. If you rely on just one OTA for too large a percentage of your bookings then you should probably diversify the source of your OTA business. Work with the biggest OTAs but not just one of them. This gives you more online exposure, access to more customers, reduces your reliance on a specific channel and gives you a better mix of customers. It’s also a lot easier to bargain with the OTAs if you have more than one.

together by freetobook
get together as a group

Co-operation between nearby properties will help grow direct bookings for all. When it comes to getting more direct bookings your main competitor is your OTA. If properties switched from competing with each other to cooperating there would be a mutual benefit for all. Taking it to another level some accommodation owners have enjoyed significant success by cooperating and creating bookable websites featuring their members, examples include Fort William and St Ives in the UK (see freetobook together).

The benefits of more direct bookings are clear, the simplest calculation is the commission. By cutting out the middleman you save precious commission but importantly you also own the customer relationship. You have the customer’s contact details, and from the booking onwards it’s your brand that they will communicate with, not the OTAs. The direct booking message is simple so make it clear on your website, social media, emails, brochures and do let guests know that booking direct is better for them and better for you.

The service you offer from the point of confirmation to their stay with you and beyond is all yours. With direct bookings you have no communications middleman, so take advantage of the opportunity to differentiate yourself and be “special”. Always have the best rate on your website. If you ever feel the need to make a special offer make sure it’s on your website so customers booking direct never pay more.

It can be complex in the online world, as an independent family business we try to keep things simple and in perspective for smaller businesses, there’s lots of bookings out there you just have to keep chasing them.

To find out more about freetobook call, email or visit our home page
Properties group up, Get Together and cooperate

Together in Gatwick

Together for accommodation ownersJust back from a quick trip down to Gatwick to see the Gatwick Guest House Association (GGHA). I was invited to give a short presentation on the Together service after a few of their proactive members thought the service may help their website generate more bookings.

Like many other associations they need to upgrade their website and in assessing the options it became obvious that a booking engine on the website would be a great benefit…and that’s where Together comes in. Freetobook are always happy to visit groups and explain face-to-face who we are, where we came from and what we do.

Gatwick guest house association
Gatwick guest house association

I was really impressed with the positive and proactive attitude of everyone at the meeting, I was made to me feel very welcome.

A big thank you to everyone and especially to Carmel at the Cumberland House for her warm hospitality…..the perfect host.

 

To find out more about how to get together click here.

Short video on the together system

 

 

Get together and win

Is your local association or marketing group doing enough for you?

Together for accommodation ownersOnline booking is just getting easier and more accessible to everyone. It’s great to see associations and marketing groups looking to improve their websites and the profitability of their membership.

Local association and marketing group websites tend to generate a lot traffic because they are the best source of local information (search engines like this), but do they really capitalise on all those visitors. If the huge growth of budget hotels and online travel agents is anything to go by you would have to say these local websites are failing to deliver what their members need most…direct commission free bookings.

together group website
together was our best decision

Why are they losing out on these bookings, because they are not offering their visitors what they want…the ability to search availability then compare properties, locations and prices, and make bookings. We all know customers want choice, value and convenience when shopping for accommodation online hence the global popularity of the OTAs.

That’s the problem, here’s the solution – get your area website set-up to take bookings for your members. To set this up quickly and cheaply you need a booking system that is accessible to all, quick to set up and easy to manage. Our solution at freetobook has been

Grow your accommodation group with together
Grow together and expand your association

simple and inclusive, the internet booking engine is free to use, quick to set-up (couple of hours) and easy to manage. Members can still run their existing booking systems if they want .. we do not mandate that they have to use freetobook exclusively and there’s no tie-ins. So the cost of entry is just a few hours time for members … a fair price for commission free bookings?

Proven benefits of working better “Together” include:

1) being able to categorically show members that they are “in profit” from their membership

2) reduce commissions paid and raise the long-term positive profile of the group/area

3) expand the membership of the group and directly increase their profitability

4) keeping bookings within the group means more bookings for all and easier referrals

Website visitors want to book online on your website and your association or group website, can you and your association afford to sit on your hands and do nothing ?

Find out more with examples of existing “together” websites

Case study of Fort William Bed and Breakfast group

Video showing how “together” can work for you

Together case study – How to get a group accommodation website

How a group of B&Bs got Together.

together by freetobook
get together as an accommodation group

Keeping bookings in the community and working together with nearby accommodation businesses has never been easier or more profitable. A small group of Fort William Bed and Breakfast owners got together and use the freetobook software, here is their story.

In their own words…..

together fort william accommodation group
Fort William marketing Group get together

“Together has contributed dramatically to the expansion of the group and to the individual profitability of our members. Without exception, all of our members have gained a substantial value of commission free bookings directly and measurably.”

This is powerful stuff.

Together: provides a live booking website showing rates and availability for all of the group with direct commission free booking….“an almost perfect match for a number of reasons”.

1) All availability for the group can be accessed through a single search. “helping guests save time …. and increasing booking retention within the group”

2) By adding the group search facility to their website they “transformed their group site with almost no cost into a fully functional mini OTA (online travel agent)”

3) All members update availability using their freetobook account so maintenance and upkeep is easy.

4) The Together fees are fixed keeping each member’s annual cost to a minimum…. “we know in advance the cost of maintaining our market advantage…as the group grows individual costs go down !”

The group has gone from 8 local B&Bs to 26 members. With other guest houses in the area wanting to join as they became aware of the benefits in a cooperative approach. “As group members reduce their reliance on the OTAs … we will continue to reap the rewards of the best decision the group has made to date !”

Fort William Marketing Association Case Study with freetobook together online booking

 

freetobook together system for group booking of accommodation providers

Together the video on youtube

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

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.”

Get Together with a group of properties using freetobook

It pays to get “together”

online group booking website
together you get more

With “together” a new solution by freetobook, properties can can easily co-operate to maximise their bookings. It’s great for associations, tourism groups, destination marketing and anyone else that just wants to get together. You can even use it for an independent chain of properties.

All you need is a group of properties that want to work together and we will build a website for your group. We will provide the customised graphics to brand it, we will host it for you and best of all we will provide a professional booking system to generate bookings for your group.

We all know it’s easier to stand out and get noticed as group. Getting a bookable website for your group makes perfect sense in terms of marketing and as a long term asset that you can invest in and grow over time. That’s why it pays to get together.

together online booking systems by freetobook
get together video

Collaboration pays with more bookings. From time to time properties get fully booked, so it makes sense to keep the booking within your group. When one is full the chances are that some of the others have accommodation available. This makes the customer’s life easy and means you don’t lose any bookings – more bookings for the group means more bookings for each member. Nothing wasted, nothing lost – that’s why it pays to get together.

We already have a few examples (check out our blog articles) on Ayrshire Bed and Breakfast Association and Scotland’s Best B and Bs – we welcome more co-operating groups.

You know it pays to get together: Find out more and tell us about your group. Contact Iain or Craig by email or phone. Contact details at the bottom of freetobook homepage.

 

 

 

 

Scotland’s Best B&Bs select freetobook

Scotland’s Best B&Bs – a highly regarded group of nearly 100 bed and breakfasts, all rated 4- or 5-star by VisitScotland– have awarded Freetobook a major contract to provide commission-free online booking. www.scotlandsbestbandbs.com

Scotlands best  bed and breakfasts
Scotland’s Best B and Bs

Freetobook’s technology enables customers to select from any of the available properties on the group’s website and book them immediately. Thanks to us, Scotland’s Best B&Bs are now open for business throughout the world, 24 hours a day. No potential booking need slip through their fingers just because someone couldn’t answer a phone or reply to an email enquiry. As you can well imagine, a small B&B group like this one doesn’t have enormous resources, so Freetobook’s agency solution is ideal for its members. Set up costs are minimal and bookings are commission-free.

visitEnglandFreetobook has several similar group projects under development, helping independent properties harness the power of cutting-edge technology and benefit from strength in numbers.

Ayrshire Bed and Breakfast Association gets Online

ABBA Case Study : Brochure websites no longer work, your customers want  to book online.Ayrshire Bed and Breakfast Association

Getting your Association online – Ayrshire Bed & Breakfast Association Case Study

Many websites created by accommodation associations are informative but don’t offer a great user experience because the customer can’t search and book accommodation.  It’s frustrating for customers who are used to searching, comparing and booking online.

The accommodation sector has been radically transformed in the last 10 years by the internet. Accommodation websites, with their sophisticated booking engines now transact billions of dollars weekly. Customers find these sites easy to use, they provide information, choice and ease of access to accommodation grouped by area. The Online Travel Agents (OTAs) can afford to pay and compete for a strong presence on the search engines by offering a variety of properties, which  improve their chances of converting searches into bookings.

ipadAs online booking becomes more and more the norm, the OTAs continue to grow their influence. Individual properties cannot compete due to the limitations of their single product offering.

Any marketing Association needs a strong internet presence to improve awareness of their area and member properties. It makes sense to capitalise on these grouped marketing resources by offering customers a direct booking channel, cutting out commissions and increasing efficiency.

For  Associations to compete online they need:

  • a professionally designed website
  • great local content and quality images on the site
  • a good number and variety of properties
  • a simple search and online booking process

Associations have an inherent advantage on content due to their deep understanding of their customers and how their area attracts and fulfils the needs of these customers. They will also have a good range of accommodation covering various local areas and markets.

Finally, it would have been impossible several years ago to access this level of technology as the cost of placing a professional online booking engine on their website would have been prohibitive.

Competition in the online market place is fierce so Associations must use all their websiteResultsresources: Create a bookable website to fulfil your visitor’s needs. Direct traffic to the website so it can be converted and monitored. Use the improved marketing power to earn the Association more visibility and credibility locally.

There are barriers, some real, some perceptual that can all be overcome.

Cost: The cost of sophisticated professional technology is no longer expensive (relative to the past), just look at freetoboook.com, a world class system freely available to the world. This is effectively a marketing exercise (not a technical one) and there are often grants (some involving match funding) that can help reduce the initial set-up cost.

Competition within the Association: Many businesses compete on a day-to-day basis so getting agreement from everyone maybe impossible…. at the outset, but this is nothing new to voluntary organisations!

Project Management: Set clear objectives and get several quotes all based on the same criteria.  Selecting the right company to go with may determine the success or failure of the project.

Get the right person in charge from the start, support them and select a strong team to help. They must have executive decision making powers.

Updating rates: Not everyone will agree to use or update just one system, don’t try to force it. Find one that’s : effectively free for everyone to access and use and doesn’t require members to use on their own website, simple to set-up and easy to update well supported, so there’s help and encouragement to those who need it.

It will take time before the website gets into the internet’s “bloodstream”.  You can decide to take it slowly and see what comes from free search or create Pay Per Click (PPC) campaigns. If you opt for PPC, the association can manage it or choose to hire someone to manage it.

Associations must utilise all their local membership connections to build links into the website with surrounding businesses. Collaborating and creating local partnerships benefits the area as a whole, increasing the local spend of customers whilst providing you with access to the most relevant and up-to-date content available.

As with any project, it must work! Ideally, it will be on time and look impressive. That’s easy to test with friends and local businesses, are they keen to link to you? Are members proud of the site, has it encouraged businesses to join the Association. The process may also bring the members closer together and there should be improved partnerships within the local community.

These are the “soft” measures of success but you need hard measures as well: Does the website and system bring in bookings, are your marketing efforts sufficient? How well does the site rank? Remember it takes time and effort to show on key terms. How many visitors is the site getting compared to before? Visitor time on the website should increase, as will page views, monitor this with google analytics. Direct user feedback can be collected by members and fed back in to optimise features. Bookings may generated from any new marketing that directs customers to the site.

There are now opportunities for Association websites to really harness the power of their many members, hitherto this has not been the case.

My bet is that fortune will favour those who realise their strength lies in co-operation, not isolation.