At freetobook we were delighted to read a recent article in The Herald about the new generation of boutique B&Bs in Scotland, which it describes as “increasingly fashionable, even becoming the top choice for young travellers”. It highlights the importance of giving guests a ‘personal experience’ – something we know that our freetobookers excel at! So it was no surprise to find that of the ten properties chosen by The Herald as their top Scottish boutique B&Bs, seven were freetobookers!
And finally some more excellent news – it’s a double celebration for Kingsmuir House, who have been awarded Most Hospitable B&B at the VisitScotland Thistle Awards! Remember every property in Scotland is entitled to a free listing on VisitScotland and freetobook properties pay no commission on those bookings – double freebie!
Our freetobookers across the world consistently offer great accommodation, great service and great experiences to their guests, so it’s brilliant to see whenever you get some extra recognition! We are proud to offer a system that helps you manage your bookings and make life a little easier – so you can continue delivering a top quality experience to your guests.
At freetobook we love to hear about your achievements – keep up the great work freetobookers!
Here at freetobook we keep an eye on industry trends and an even closer watch on trends within our own booking systems.. with thousands of accommodation owners using freetobook we have an insight into trends and that can help you improve your direct bookings.
Freetobook is a highly advanced mobile friendly internet booking system which enables all our customers to maximise their mobile bookings.
7 Mobile Booking Trends you need to know about
1. Over 10% of all availability searches on property websites are using a mobile or tablet (freetobook)
2. Mobile traffic has (in the last year) grown over 10 times faster than desktop visits (freetobook)
3. In the last three months 61% of email opens in the USA were on a mobile or tablet.
4. 25% of smartphone owners booked hotels using their smartphone
5. More than half of all travellers researching their travel plans on their smartphone
6. This year over 1 Billion people bought smartphones
7. Over 50% of all phones sold are now smartphones
Most research is now showing that customers are using multiple devices to book and research travel its fair to say the touch points with customers are diverse in time, browser and device.
One of my favourite quotes is “Five minutes here, two minutes there, and I booked a trip without taking a huge, long chunk of time to plan everything.” (Google 2013 Traveler report)
Freetobook has the flexibility and advanced functionality across mobile platforms so your customers can book on any device, this means you won’t lose bookings as the world of mobile changes and customers habits morph, freetobook moves ahead.
Google has recently released their 2013 Traveler report which shows Mobile booking trends and broader traveller attitudes and behaviours. For anyone interested in how travellers are interacting with the internet Google’s report is a must read. I have enclosed a link to it at the bottom of the page. Find out more about a freetobook mobile website and mobile bookings
Watch the freetobook video below and see what mobile booking can look like for your customers.
Google research study on the 2013 Traveller – get your report on this link
Hotels will switch adverts from Google to TripConnect
Google will lose PayPerClick advertising revenue to TripConnect.
In the real world of limited marketing budgets one company’s gain will be another’s loss. The much awaited TripConnect system is a new way for properties to spend advertising money. (previous blog What is TripConnect ?)
Here at freetobook we are predicting Google will lose advertising revenue from property owners. We are already getting a significant number of property owners telling us they plan to switch their Pay Per Click budgets onto TripConnect. It makes total sense to us when you look at the logic, if your money is limited it is probably better spent on TripAdvisor’s new TripConnect system.
Why is Google Pay Per Click inferior to TripConnect ?
1.Google Pay Per Click is wasteful : TripConnect will not show adverts when the property is unavailable. The TripConnect system checks availability and rates with the properties Internet Booking Engine (IBE) before showing the advert. By comparison Google Pay Per Click adverts are not “availability dependent” and will always show, costing clicks when a property is unavailable.
2.Direct into the booking process: TripConnect puts the customer directly into the booking process cutting out wasted time spent browsing, you have all the information to make the purchase…. price, price comparison, availability and a quality ranking. A Google advert provides none of these.
3.Customer purchase point: When a potential customer is searching on TripAdvisor they are beyond the simple Google search “London Hotels” they are looking for “Which London hotel” where would you rather put your money ?
4.Easy ROI Tracking: TripConnect has built in tracking to show bookings completed alongside the costs so properties can easily tack their Return On Investment (ROI). Yes, Google has their analytics but they can require some specialist knowledge TripConnect tells a property what they want to know booking revenue vs. advertising costs.
5.Content rich : A TripAdvisor TripConnect advert is on the property’s TripAdvisor page, content and context rich.
The battle for Pay Per Click advertising revenue from accommodation owners is going to get more interesting with the launch of TripConnect. The freetobook Internet Booking Engine (IBE) is a premium partner of TripConnect so all our customers will be able to participate in TripConnect right from the start.
Our guess is that Google Hotel Finder will be watching TripConnect with their data microscope, after all not even Google wants to see their click revenue start to shrink. However, the lack of connectivity to the world’s property owners, their booking engines and inferior review data are three weaknesses they would need to rectify before a realistic chase can commence on TripConnect.
On the 17th December 2010 freetobook took it’s very first customer booking…to our customers that makes us 2 years old (even if we were established in 1998), party time! It does seem a long time ago, much has happened and so much has been learnt and applied.
Going forward we will bed down the TripAdvisor link and will very soon finish work on mobile enhanced results. We are in discussions with more channel partners, including Venere.com, Hostelbookers, HRS, BudgetPlaces, Hostelworld, Hotels.com, TravelRepublic and Expedia. We are also starting development on some clever tools, such as a online merchant account and a system that helps you work with other freetobook users! We are also looking to make translations available to all our International customers. These are all designed to help you get the most from your freetobook account.
When we set out to build freetobook (well over 3 years ago) we had one goal in mind; to build the best online booking system in the world for independent accommodation providers. I suppose that in itself is not a such crazy ambition but we also wanted to make it available to all small independent businesses….that created lots of puzzled looks and a good degree of scepticism.
For us building a great service is all about putting our customers in the driving seat, understanding what matters to them and why. We were lucky because we already had 11 years in the “booking business” and had honed processes and systems to create simplicity and maximum efficiency. We had seen at an early stage how powerful the internet would become and then witnessed first hand it’s ability to increase reach and exposure exponentially. We had marvelled at how the linking of the digital world with clever software simply made life so much easier for our customers, it was trend that was clearly going one way…..up. It was perhaps that realisation more than any other that led us make freetobook an open system (available to all).
We invested early in creating our own software development capability by getting in some of the best people available, and keeping them. People like Eleanor who has been with us for over 8 years add tremendous value to the system and service that supports it. Across our team, over 75 years of booking experience has gone into freetobook.
These capabilities gave us a platform to be creative without risk, to understand and experiment without crippling costs. It also taught us that the true value of any software lies in the people that create it and those that use it. Also that the software itself is always “a work in progress”, and that just as with children, you get out what you put in, you need to feed, nurture, care for and cherish them in order to give them the best possible future.
Those values probably derive from us being a family business. As two brothers you can also be sure that there is not always a pleasant nodding of heads and calm contentment, there is belief, there is passion, there is trust and there’s just plain old sibling rivalry! In many senses the differences are our strengths and that’s another lesson we can take and use everywhere, but what unites us is that we have always tried to put the customer at the centre…. simply because it’s the right thing to do.
It has been an exciting 2 years and we have made mistakes that we are only just realising and correcting. We put freetobook out there in the market as “free”, which of course it is (and will always remain so), but perhaps we undervalued our knowledge and experience in building quality systems and services. Our customers use freetobook not because it’s free but because it works well for them and they enjoy and benefit from it.
Customers describe freetobook as …..fantastic, simple, professional, extraordinary, versatile, intuitive, exceptional, comprehensive, unbelievable, hassle free, superb, seamless, brilliant, a blessing, painless, efficient, speedy, first class, secure, helpful, flexible, sophisticated, the best, wonderful, fast, reliable, tremendous, very special……
These words are such a strong encouragement to us and we are very fortunate to have such generous customers. We have not invested in an army of sales people with clever ways of instilling fear and doubt in prospective customers, instead we have tried to build trust and help our customers wherever we can. The vast majority of our rapidly growing customer base have come from other customers recommending and talking about their freetobook experience, be that face to face, on social media or in their various associations.
We also needed to articulate the “freemium” model more clearly to answer the perennial question “how do you make your money then?”. At the start that wasn’t easy because we didn’t have any premium services to offer our customers! The “freemium” model is widely used in many software services and has two parts – a free product or service (i.e. our booking engine/diary) and then premium more advanced features and services that are charged for.
There have been some great achievements; the Ayrshire Bed and Breakfast Association’s online booking website (a global first?), a great value channel manager, the addition of cottage and hostel style availability, properties in over 80 countries using freetobook, Ways to Sell, being selected as preferred supplier for Punch Taverns….these are just a few and there are many more to come. As we write this there are 10 current/live feedback forms in the freetobook system and every single one gives freetobook 10/10…thank you! Many of freetobook’s achievements are a direct result of your input, your requests, queries, concerns, passions, quirks, suggestions etc. keep them coming!
Thank you for your tremendous support, encouragement and belief. Busy days ahead!
This year will see a unique global marketing campaign to promote Scottish tourism. Disney-Pixar, the film company behind such modern classics as Toy Story, Wall-E and Monsters Inc will team up with VisitScotland for a series of promotions around the film Brave, due to premier in June 2012. Never before has the company collaborated with a nation’s tourist board on this scale.
Export, export, export is the way to a prosperous future. An export led recovery is what we all need. The story goes something like this: if we can encourage more folk from abroad to part with their hard earned cash, spending it on our stuff, we can pay off our debts and maintain some of the living standards we have become quite attached to. At the same time, to double the effect, we need to curb our habits and spend a little less on the old imports. This all seems quite simple home economics. It even makes perfect sense to me.
In the accommodation business we have an ideal and somewhat rare chance to help the economy in terms of both exports and domestic consumption. Accommodation is not only a key element in the tourist experience, it is also a significant generator of jobs and GDP. So in our business we can help to grow exports, lower imports, create jobs and boost GDP: a quadruple benefit. Wow! You would think any government would see the advantage in promoting the accommodation business, and, as I will show, almost all governments have seen the benefits; it’s one of those “no-brainer” things.
As accommodation providers, we often look at improving our service to customers and potential guests. Essentially we aim to encourage them to stay with us for the first time or come back again next time. In this improvement exercise, it often pays to take a look at what the competition are offering: it gives a great snapshot of who’s doing what and, let’s be honest, there is nothing more satisfying than pinching an idea and making it even better. An important job of governments is to do a similar thing but on a far grander scale. They need to look at other countries and work out what the competitors are up to and which great ideas they can pinch and improve.
At this point I feel the need for a bit of research well above my pay grade. Luckily those clever people at the World Economic Forum produce a very useful report every other year. It’s called the world tourism competitive report and the last one was published in March 2011 – pretty up to date. It lists every country’s worldwide relative competitive tourist ranking using a wide variety of factors.
So, how does the UK government help us compete against our nearest competitors? The table below shows the top 10 European countries* listed in order of competitiveness, displaying their standard VAT rates versus their accommodation VAT rates. It’s an interesting measure of how much they look to promote their domestic accommodation businesses:
I find these results quite literally shocking. Every single competitor we have enjoys a tax advantage against us. In relative terms, the UK government is effectively taxing exports (domestic accommodation) and allowing tax breaks for imports (European accommodation). You might be tempted to forgive them if this related to a couple of countries, but every single one bar the UK has a tax break. The world of international trade is heavily regulated, so it’s very rare to have a sector where a government has the power to legitimately favour its local business. This is one of them and it seems to me that every other government knows it. So why doesn’t the UK? I suggest they look at our competitors and pinch a good tax break or two. That would be something to really help the export-led recovery we all need.
* Source – The Travel and Tourism Competitiveness Report 2011 by World Economic Forum
We’ve all heard about “green” holidays, but how about “green with envy” holidays? Research just published by Teletext Holidays suggests that over 50% of Brits now post holiday photos on their Facebook profile pages and that an increasing number of their Facebook “friends” book copycat trips after viewing those photos.
Teletext surveyed 3000 UK travellers and found almost a fifth admitting that they had booked a completely identical holiday to a friend – right down to the same hotel or villa – having heard about their experiences. After seeing the Facebook photos on a friend’s profile, 13 per cent of people have gone on to take a similar holiday, while another six per cent have arranged a break after just seeing someone’s status. Not only that, but nearly 30% said that looking at friends’ Facebook profiles left them feeling envious enough to book a holiday for themselves soon after, regardless of whether it was a ‘copycat’ trip or not.
It looks as though Facebook and other social media sites, with the powerful word of mouth that they can generate, are becoming significant drivers of business for the travel industry. In particular, the ability to make frequent updates – whether it’s changing your status as soon as you hit the beach or posting a photo of yourself next to a famous landmark as soon as you arrive at it – keeps reminding other people where you are and what you’re doing far more vividly that just showing them your holiday snaps when you return. Thus the idea of a similar holiday remains more at the front of their minds – and harder to resist.
Oh… in case you were wondering which destination leaves us feeling most jealous, it’s Australia, closely followed by Barbados and the Bahamas. It seems that nothing provokes more envy amongst Brits than sunshine. Funny that.
Infographic digest of VisitEngland Business confidence monitor survey July 2011. The complete survey is available from VisitEngland, this digest focuses on booking paterns of hotels, B&Bs, guest houses, self catering, camping and caravaning.