VisitScotland Update

freetobook connecting with VisitScotland

One of the most exciting things on the horizon for freetobook is our new connection with VisitScotland.

visitscotlandVisitScotland has a new accommodation search system that allows all B&Bs, guest houses, small hotels etc in Scotland to be displayed regardless of their relationship with VisitScotland itself (this is known as a “polling” system).

What this means is that very soon all Scottish freetobook properties will be able have their rates and availability appearing on VisitScotland’s site whenever a prospective customer does an accommodation search.

1st June is the current “go live” date for VisitScotland’s new system. Keep checking our blog for further details and updates.

Wonderful Widgets

Why your widget is so important to your business!

A sports car may be beautifully styled, but if it can’t go anywhere it’s just… well, a sculpture. In the same way, no matter how good your website looks – and no matter how much money you spend getting people to it – if it doesn’t have a robust “engine” under the hood, no-one is going to book on it. Your booking engine really is the “business end” of your website.

widgetWe’ve put a lot of thought and effort into making those bookings happen for you, but that can be wasted if you don’t spend a little extra time making sure your widget looks fantastic.  Your room details page is usually the 2nd most visited page on your website. Why? Because people, quite understandably, want to see what they’re getting for their hard-earned money!  Showing customers what they are getting whilst they’re considering prices and availability will increase their likelihood of booking….it’s as simple as that.

Here are our 5 top tips to making your widget wonderful!

  1. Room images that keep the customer in the “booking zone”
  2. A list of room facilities that avoids any doubts/delays (i.e. is there a hair dryer?)
  3. Short and clear room descriptions that sell the benefits (i.e. free WIFI, a view etc)
  4. An enticing breakfast description that reinforces the value
  5. A beautiful header image that says “you’ve found the perfect place….”

The right level of information at the right time with a clear “call to action” (i.e. “Book Now”) is what great marketing is all about. That’s what will get you more bookings. Guaranteed.

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.

 

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.

Cleaning Report

365.294: VacuumBecause we know that running your own accommodation means having to do a million things at once, at Freetobook we’re always coming up with new innovations to make life easier for you. Our recently added Cleaning Report will help you manage check-ins and check-outs, add notes for cleaners, and print out any requests for today or tomorrow.

You’ll find the Cleaning Report by logging into your Freetobook account and going to the “Diary” Tab then the “Reports” SubTab. Click on the “Cleaning” option and you’ll see this:

cleaning_report_screenshot

Select the fields you want included then click “Generate Report”. Once the report shows you can create a PDF to print for your cleaner (or for yourself!)

You can add notes to any booking by clicking on the booking in the “Diary” Tab. At the bottom of the PopUp you will see “Additional Information.” Click “Modify” to add or edit Requests, Cleaning Notes, Check In/Out times. These notes will then appear on the Cleaning Report when you need them to.

 

Share the love

freetobook heartIf you love something, wouldn’t you want to tell everyone about it? Thanks to all the great feedback we receive, we already know that our thousands of Freetobook customers all over the world are amazed by the great stuff our technology empowers them to do. Now you can easily share your enthusiasm for Freetobook.

When you log into your Freetobook profile you’ll see this new button at the top of every page:

share_the_love

 

 

Clicking on it will allow you to:

  • send a message via Twitter
  • post on Facebook
  • send an email

You can either send a pre-written declaration of love for Freetobook (e.g. “We love using freetobook it’s simple free and easy, get yours at www.freetobook.com”) or delete our version and write your own.

Iain’s guest article on tnooz.com

tnooz_logoOur Co-Director, Iain Stewart, has written a guest article on travel technology website Tnooz about how technology is having an increasing influence on tourism in South Africa and the wider region, allowing small (and sometimes remote) properties to compete on an international scale.

Read More: http://bit.ly/K4B3uK

New LateRooms link from freetobook…

LateRooms logoIncrease your sales, customer base and web visibility with this new functionality from freetobook.

Very soon, freetobook customers will be able to link to LateRooms through our system and manage all their rates and availability in one place. If you’re already signed up with LateRooms, just let us know your ID and we can do the linking for you.

Continue reading “New LateRooms link from freetobook…”

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:

deco_screenshot_resized2

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

Managing your online reputation

Internet Symbol by MickyManaging your online reputation

Why bother?

  • People now research trips, make decisions and share experiences online via social media.
  • 75% of customers now cite reviews as being influential.
  • More and more people are using social media platforms, like Twtter and Facebook, so review information moves at ever greater speed

Continue reading “Managing your online reputation”