TripAdvisors’ Best

Travellers Choice awards 2020
TripAdvisor awards 2020

Congratulations to all the properties that have been featured in this year’s Travellers’ Choice Awards.  We all know the hard work and effort required to achieve excellent guest feedback so it’s wonderful for that to be acknowledged.

We’d like to give everyone a GREAT BIG ROUND OF APPLAUSE.

There are various award categories that work across every location and it’s great to see freetobook properties pretty much make up half of the UK’s top 25 B&Bs !  That’s 12 B&B’s in the top 25, a huge chunk, and we’re so proud to be working with the very best in the business.

Ensuring every guest receives the highest levels of hospitality day after day requires focus, passion and a commitment to continual improvement… well done.  Our congratulations also go out to everyone that received a Certificate of Excellence.

We’ve spotted a few more freetobook customers in various categories and locations elsewhere but please let us know if we’ve missed you out….. it’s not intentional!

UK & Channel Islands

**Best B&B & Inns Category**
Riverside Bed & Breakfast – Ambleside #3
The Redholme B & B #4
Avenue Guest House #5
The Old School Bed and Breakfast  #6
The Albaston #12
The Seacroft – Blackpool #13
Grendon Bed & Breakfast #17
The Old Parsonage #21
Alcuin Lodge #22
Fairhaven Country Guest House #23
Saxon Villa Bed and Breakfast #24
Bure Lodge #25

**Best Small Hotel Category**
Oceanic Hotel #2
The Rowborough #7
Marine Court Guest Accommodation #17
Tigh na Sgiath Country House Hotel #23

IRELAND
Avlon House #21 Best B&Bs in Ireland

COSTA RICA
Casitas Tenorio B&B #1 in Best B&Bs in Costa Rica and #2 in Best B&BS in South America

FRANCE
Carcassonne Bed and Breakfast #15 in Best B&Bs in France

CANADA
Brookside Inn Boutique Hotel #1 Best Small Hotel in Canada

MEXICO
Baldwin’s Guest House Cozumel #19 in Best B&Bs in Mexico

Traveller’s Choice 2020 awards
Newminster Cottage Bed and Breakfast
Min-y-Don Guest House
Upper Clements Cottages & RV Park
Reads Court Holiday Apartments
Pitfaranne Guest House
Bleriot’s Dover Bed & Breakfast
Ashburn Guest House
Voortrekker Shetland
Arundel House

While we certainly don’t do the hard work that earns these fantastic awards, freetobook does provide the smooth working, all in one booking solution that provides seamless guest service and gives these properties the free time to do the most important thing – look after their customers – because that’s what makes happy customers which in turn wins awards …

I’m also going to put a warning sign on these awards because they can drive traffic to the TripAdvisor website. This is not a good thing for accommodation owners (it “leaks” bookings) so please be careful of adding links on your website that take the guests away from your website. By all means trumpet your fabulous success but remember it is your award so don’t leak customers away.

As an update, we now find that Google and Facebook reviews are probably as important for guests. There is no longer a monopoloy in reviews so make sure you encourage guests to review you on other platforms (Google and Facebook) too.

Some links to related blogs from our past, might be interesting..
TripAdvisor ranking tips
10 Do’s and Don’ts for managing reviews (2013 but still good advice)

Digital registration

automated, integrated and contactless

Digital registration for hotels
Digital registration

With the new Digital Registration form you can make your guests’ lives easier and safer. Guests simply complete their forms remotely before arrival making social distancing at check-in easier whilst also saving you time and paper.  It takes seconds for them to complete and when completed it appears neatly in your new diary on their booking.

Digital Registration (d-reg) is part of freetobook’s Messaging suite meaning it’s a fully automated process that’s also integrated into the booking diary.

Key advantages of d-reg are:

1) Contactless – guests complete their registration before arrival.

2) Integrated – the form is automatically updated and stored in your diary.

3) Automatic – set up and schedule your forms once, Messaging does the rest.

4) Value add – collect all guest names/contacts plus real email addresses for OTA bookings.

5) Branding – look professional by using your own logo and colours.

automate guest messages
message automation

We’re listening too, the second version of d-reg is due for release shortly and it’s smarter than ever. Using new “logic jumps” your guests will skip certain questions based on their nationality and answers e.g. you may not want local guests to be asked for their passport details.  This makes it quicker and easier for your guests, thereby helping to ensure they complete it.

You will also be able to add your own question tips to the d-reg form e.g. ask for a mobile number rather than a landline, plus much more….

There’s also an icon/alert in the new freetobook diary so you can quickly see who’s completed their d-reg forms.

With Messaging so elegantly integrated into your diary you can add images, attachments and set your text in seconds, making your messages a key part of your service offering.  Scheduling your Automated Messages means your work flows much easier and you don’t lose hours of your time sending out the same email, again and again. Added to that, your guests get the right information at the right time.

More automation is on its way to help you manage your business in these difficult Covid-19 times. Digital Registration is just one small part of what Messaging offers, based on your feedback we continue to build better ways to solve the challenges facing your businesses.

Freetobook has the technology you can trust….

Messaging is £49 per year…

All paid services are optional and pay-as-you-go so you never have to pay for anything you don’t use. If you are not already with freetobook why not try it today at no cost …

Getting back open

Operating in the current COVID19 world

Book with confidence Covid19 prepared
this image is free for you to use

Operating in a world with COVID19 is a test for all the accommodation industry and it means having to adapt as things change and new information becomes available. It is initially unsettling for everyone, including guests, but there are basic steps that properties can take that will be the same for the foreseeable future.

Safety

The key word of these times is SAFETY. Your customers will expect it and your business needs to show it takes safety seriously. If you have not done so already, conduct a Risk Assessment of your busines using the guidance issued by your government and make sure your customers know what you are doing at your property. This is the starting point for every business anywhere. There are lots of examples and templates out there (see below) also some images that you can make use of.

Communication

Covid19 ready image
click to use this image and others

We all know that communication is the key to reassuring customers and securing bookings (see earlier blog with essential tips here) and that has proved to be the case in those countries that have opened up already.

Chabanettes Hotel & Spa in France shared this feedback with our Facebook group recently

‘I put a Covid 19 statement on my website almost 2 months ago. It remains my most popular sub-page. And it works. It’s a statement, like all the other big chains, which shows that we acknowledge risks, and have put reasonable steps in to place to reduce these risks. Not eliminate, we can never say that. But it portrays a seriousness that is clearly sufficient for our clientele to convince them to book. Our new booking volumes are now on a par with previous years’

There are lots of great examples of webpages that are both clear and reassuring to guests so do have a look around and then ensure yours is relevant to your guests.

Flexibility

Being able to offer flexibility will help you appeal to some of the more nervous customers. Many of you have already displayed huge levels of flexibility in helping guests move bookings. Looking forward there’s the opportunity to introduce more relaxed cancellation policies, changing traditional minimum stays and nimble pricing. Some have also gone as far as reducing the number of rooms on offer/guests on site to phase in the return to business and offering new customised breakfast arrangements. Consider what is appropriate for your business and guests and what’s needed to attract bookings.

Domestic Travel

Book with confidence Covid19 ready
click to access free Covid19 images

With strict quarantine rules in place for overseas visitors in many countries, businesses who have previously relied on inbound customers will need to modify their marketing to focus on the domestic market….a market that may well be only an hour away from your property. These are potential guests that are concerned about travelling long distances from home but are keen to enjoy some hospitality again!

It is at least comforting to know that literally the whole world is in the same situation, and there’s an understanding that we will all need to adapt as things evolve. It is impossible to say for how long things will continue like this and although we hope they continue to improve we must also be prepared for things to tighten up with little notice.

At freetobook we can see the activity levels increasing both in general system readiness and booking levels. We’ll continue to support and advise where we can as we all navigate our way through this. Stay Safe.

A collection of useful Links which may help (there are many more so please share on our facebook group if you are a freetobook customer)

Freetobook Facebook Users Group
UK Hospitality Guidance for Hospitality in Scotland
Bed and Breakfast Association
PASC (Professional Association of Self-Caterers) Guidelines
UK Government Advice
HSE Risk Assessment
Centre for Disease Control USA
Vacation Rental Management Association Cleaning Advice


Messaging reduces face-to-face tasks

messaging helps automate

Communication is only the first part of Messaging, there is so much more. Your Messaging is fully integrated with your bookings so you can digitise parts of the guest experience, replacing some of your face-to-face interaction.

We call these “Guest Actions”, they are perfect for automating processes that were manual (saving you time) and/or replacing face-to-face tasks with digital ones.

Message for Payment:

Message a Stripe payment link

Using Stripe with Messaging you can request payments in any message. Ideal for advance payments, deposits and balances before arrival, as well as for in-house payments at check-out or during stay.

For example, guests can make a Stripe payment on their phone (in the message) so there is no need for a face-to-face terminal – this will update in the booking. Even better, if they have ApplePay or GooglePay then payment is a quick thumb print on their phone.

Guests can pay at anytime from within a message if you are using Stripe alongside our Messaging system. Getting payments by message reduces unnecessary contact and can be initiated in an automated message or a manual one.

Arrival Times:

Just like the payment action guests can interact with the booking to change their arrival time. You can add a Confirm Arrival Time button to your messages so that when guests change their arrival time it simply updates in their booking, no manual changes required. With this information you can better manage everyone’s arrival times and prepare for their welcome.

Electronic Registration:

Guests will soon be able to register online from a message

We are currently adding registration to guest actions and aim to have it live by the end of June. Guests will be able to complete their registration details in Messaging so there’ll be no need for paper forms on arrival. This contactless registration puts guest safety first and streamlines check-in, avoiding any queues or delays.

As accommodation owners demand more automation we continue to enhance Guest Actions to automate more of your interaction with guests.

In addition, you can also brand Messaging with your logo, colours and customise messages to fit your style of communication by adding images and attachments. Why not take steps to further impress your guests.

For a limited time we are offering full access to Messaging for a trial of two months. You must register before the end of June 2020 to qualify for the free two month trial, you can opt out at anytime or choose to continue with Messaging at only £49 per year.

You can access further details about this fantastic Messaging solution from within your freetobook account PLUS tab.

Guests love Messaging

As a guest we all love that time leading up to our holiday, the anticipation and excitement. The wind down from work and daily bind as we get our heads and hearts into holiday mode. Never have we been more ready for a break.

Preparation and planning, brings a hint of anxiety to the excitement. Are we ready to make the most of our stay ?

welcome guest message
welcome your guests

Messaging can get your guests into that happy zone of prepared and excited. Start by reassuring them that you’re here to help with answers to all their questions.

Scheduled messages send out the right information at the right time – every time, delighting guests with answers to questions they haven’t even had to ask… that’s service at its best.

Automated messages are an ideal way of establishing that first guest contact and letting them know you’re there to help. Add small touches like lovely photos of your property or area, tips on secret nearby local walks or a favourite restaurant. Set it up and let automated messaging do the rest for all your bookings.

schedule guest messages
schedule messages

Create and save templates so you have good detailed answers at the ready for many of the most common questions. Replying with templates takes literally 3 seconds and that always impresses guests.

Your Messaging Hub in freetobook gives you easy access to all replies, neatly ordered with notifications to say you’ve got a reply. Managing messages is simple with access integrated into your bookings.  Each message thread keeps a clear record of the conversation for both you and your guests, so you always know what’s been said and what’s next.  Having full control of all messages in the hub saves you jumping from booking to booking.

automate guest messages
messages go out automatically

We’ve integrated Messaging into freetobook so it’s as much part of the booking fabric as anything else so you can build relationships even before the guests’ arrived.  Using our own technology also enables us to connect Messaging to other key parts of freetobook (e.g. payments, arrival times, channels etc.) all to make your lives easier.

Messaging massively improves the guest experience, saves hours of repetitive work and makes you stand out from the crowd.

Simple, slick and elegant…. guests love it!

Smart Guest Messaging

As technology develops so do your guests’ expectations.

Smart Messaging
Smart Messaging

In the last 5 years messaging apps have flourished and entered our everyday lives. This has again accelerated in the last few months as we’ve have had to find ways to communicate with loved ones that we can’t visit. Family and work WhatsApp and Messenger groups have really come into their own.

These tools all have two things in common – they are conversational, less formal and richer in content. Adding images, links and other attachments means you’re able to share so much with so little effort.  That sharing helps create stronger bonds and brings us all closer.

So how does that fit on a business level?  Well, for starters it means our guests are familiar and comfortable with messaging as a technology.  With such a big part of the service you offer guests driven by communication, why wouldn’t you take every opportunity to finesse that communication?

That’s why we built Smart Messaging.

How you communicate with your guests before, during and after their stay is changing. The ease with which you can schedule key messages for your guests makes Smart Messaging invaluable.  And those automatic messages can be rich in content, so attaching images and links makes them not just interesting but also very useful to guests. We know this because the guest replies say it all.

Smart Messaging
Get Better Replies

What’s also fascinating is that guests respond quickly (because it’s easy) and they become more engaged with the host.  So building that relationship is a natural process. Guests even use emojis in their responses, who doesn’t love seeing a 😊 in a response! 👍

There’s lots and lots more on offer, so click here for more… We have built Smart Messaging from the ground up ourselves so it’s fully integrated with all your bookings and continually being added to. It’s also why we can offer it at such a low price of just £4/month (£49/yr + VAT)…. ridiculous value yet again from a family business that enjoys building things that make your life easier.

5 Tales of great low cost service

Every business is currently faced with some tough decisions, not least how to maintain quality and still save money in difficult times. Some very recent customers have shared their feedback on freetobook. As a family business we really know how to keep those budgets down and satisfaction up.

Even during these terrible times all of our service is running at full capacity developing new features and servicing all customers.

Wildercombe House

Having recently joined freetobook, I wish I’d done it ages ago.  The set up was straightforward, and together with the great help and useful tips from Heather, along with Sandra on the Help Desk with the integration of bookings from an OTA, I couldn’t be happier.  Nothing to pay unless you want to, so with the added bonus of only having to pay for the services that you need, what’s not to like.  So what are you waiting for?  Join freetobook today!

Lochinver Guest House

I returned to freetobook from ev***vo just a few months before the lockdown, and I am so glad I did – they simply provide the very best customer service I’ve experienced from a channel manager, and are always available to assist, especially during the dark days of the lock-down. No hanging on the phone for ages before you can speak to a real person who actually understands your issue and gets it resolved in no time! I can always get advice or answers to questions very quickly either via the online support, via phone or on the Facebook group. The fees are very reasonable and the team continues, even now during Covid-19, to work on great new features on their system. I can’t recommend them highly enough – this family-run company has good morals and ethics. 

Tyndale Boutique B&B

We were using ev***vo as our channel manager but were let down by the lack of customer support despite the high monthly costs. Since we switched to freetobook we have seen a noticeable reduction in our outgoings and yet their support, both online and over the phone, is incredible. We highly recommend FTB.

Birklands Guest House

Just wanted to drop you a line to thank you for your recent advice which has certainly just saved us a considerable amount of money!

We also wanted to let you know how glad we are that we made the decision to join freetobook. As ‘newbies’ to all of this we were finding the system that we ‘inherited’ so very frustrating and confusing – not to mention expensive! We found FTB so easy to set up, simple to work round, and extremely user friendly. Without exception, any query we had was dealt with quickly and efficiently by your knowledgeable and friendly team, and the continued support in these highly unusual circumstance is just brilliant. When we then take into account the clear and, in our view extremely reasonable charges, we believe we’ve found the best and couldn’t rate FTB more highly.

Foxhills of Shanklin

The process of changing over from our previous online booking system to freetobook was a breeze. We were up and running on the system within just a couple of days. The system is intuitive and easy to use, but great support is there if needed. The customer service is available online or by phone and the responses are received so quickly. Not only is this a great system, but as a small B&B I appreciate not having to pay extortionate monthly fees, particularly when we are closed over winter!

I wholeheartedly recommend freetobook to anyone looking for a system which provides all the functionality, and better service, at a very reasonable price.

Want to know more about us ?

Interested in freetobook ? It’s easy to register today.

At freetobook we know we can do more and do better.. so we’ll keep working hard for our customers to ensure we all come out of this stronger.

Stay safe and well

New additions coming very soon:

Updated hotel style diary with extra functionality, split billing so guests can share parts of the same bill, new attachment types for smart messaging, cobooking for a new way to find and book direct.

Working hard for you

Keeping Busy

So much is beyond the control of accommodation owners in this difficult time. Yet we hear so many inspiring stories of owners using their extra time to help their community while others offer accommodation to key workers or get on with renovations and tidy ups, ready for a return to business.  

We are positive, inspired and continually asking – What can we do to make a difference?

All working

“… the very best customer service…fees are very reasonable. … this family-run company has good morals and ethics.” (Lochinver GH)

You will be pleased to know that freetobook has ALL our customer service staff working from home helping your businesses where and when you need it.

Just as importantly, ALL of our developers are working from home creating the next generation of technology to make freetobook even better value with even more smart functionality.

Pay-as-you-go

“…we only pay for what we use nothing more, what could be fairer? Thank you freetobook for first class caring support.” (Drinkstone Park B&B)

Our unique pay-as-you-go cost structure means that many customers are paying nothing whilst business is low. We have no monthly charges and all costs are optional, so not only are we keeping going at full pace we are also literally sharing the financial pain in these difficult times.  

Offering real, honest value for money service and technology is at the core of any family business. We will never waver from supporting you to grow your accommodation business at the lowest possible cost.

“Changing over was breeze… up & running in a couple of days. … I appreciate not having to pay extortionate monthly fees.” (Foxhills)

“…very satisfied with their amazing service, and much lower costs. …their support, both online and over the phone, is incredible.” (Tyndale Boutique B&B)

New additions coming soon:

Updated hotel style diary with extra functionality, ability to create unit specific smart messages, split billing so guests can share parts of the same bill, new attachment types for smart messages, cobooking for a new way to find and book direct.

“…so easy to set-up, simple to work round and extremely user friendly. … we believe we’ve found the best and couldn’t rate freetobook more highly.” (Birklands GH)

Stay safe and well.

Price freeze since 2012

You might not know this but freetobook’s core functionality is exactly the same price as it was in 2012. Yes, we haven’t increased any of our prices ever.

How have we managed to do this? Well, our loyal customer base has grown to over 11,000 businesses world-wide!

Our paid services are optional and pay-as-you-go ensuring you only use what you need, no pressure from us. There are no tie-ins or set monthly costs regardless of your booking volume. You only pay for what you want, all the way from the free service to an all-in one singing and dancing system that does everything but make your morning coffee.

With many accommodation owners facing difficulties as a result of Covid19 you can rest in the knowledge that we are the best value system on the planet.  

Not only that, it just keeps getting better. Over the same period we have continually developed new functionality. It is in our blood to keep improving so almost every week we’re releasing new and better versions of our service, bringing more benefits to our loyal customers.

How do we do it? A key part is the massive savings we’ve made because we’re lucky enough to have customers who are really passionate about us, they’re our sales force. Hence, we don’t need a pushy sales team but instead can rely on recommendations from existing customers. If you’re not with freetobook…. ask someone you know who is!

A price freeze since 2012 with optional low cost services (pay-as-you-go) that are reliable and secure all make for an extremely compelling case to switch to freetobook. Couple this with our family company’s caring service and our 7 pledges of online booking and you’ll know we’re here to help you through these difficult times.

If you’re not with freetobook just register today – get up and running in a couple of hours.

Customers book on different sites, spread your bookings

Diversity is security. Relying on just one source of bookings is a risk to any business.

Your first priority is maximising direct bookings and it’s what we do best at freetobook. You simply can’t ever have too many direct bookings!

Channel Manager
Channel Manager

Next in importance, if you need more bookings than just your direct ones, is your channel bookings and your meta bookings**. Freetobook does the whole range of channels: Bookingcom, Expedia, Airbnb, Hotelscom, Agoda, HostelWorld, HRS, Pitchup and a few others in the wings.

For Meta you can use Google Ads (UK only, world-wide by summer) and TripAdvisor (worldwide).

The 3 biggest channels are Bookingcom, Expedia and Airbnb. If you only work with one then you’re in danger of that source being too dominant, one channel is not a healthy spread. Some customers prefer to only book with certain sites (like Airbnb) so you may just not be reaching them if you’re not on that channel. Also a specific channel may do something you disagree with (it’s not unheard of!), so having alternatives will help in these situations by providing resilience.

High Connection Quality

Freetobook is regarded as one of the most reliable and high service channel managers in the world. There’s a lot of high tech in action, making sure it works all of the time. On the service side, unlike most, we do all your rate plan mapping and pro-actively manage connections once in place. This hands-on human support and advice makes the all difference. We also provide you with tools to ensure your direct rates and direct availability are the best they can be.

A good healthy business mix includes a majority of direct bookings alongside a diversified strategy with Bookingcom, Expedia and Airbnb.

Google Ads in the UK

OTAs are not for everyone, some properties can manage to fill up without them and we support those efforts. If you want more exposure but at a lower cost than the OTAs we suggest Google Ads at 7% advertising. In our experience TripAdvisor advertising works best if you are not with any OTAs, if you are with OTAs then TripAdvisor is too high a cost.

If Google Ads and direct are not enough to fill up your property we would suggest a diversified selection of OTAs. These channels can be managed in a way that prioritises your direct bookings, you would expect nothing less of a family company like freetobook.

Google meta search
This is what Google Hotel Ads looks like – we call this **meta search

**Meta is a source of direct bookings from rate comparison systems. Examples are Google and TripAdvisor – They are NOT Online Travel Agents (OTAs) and you pay for advertising rather than commission. Your direct rates are shown alongside the OTAs (only if you are with the OTAs). Meta is most powerful when you are not with any OTAs – your direct rates then become the only rate Google shows !!

Google Hotel Advertising is here
Channel Manger details and pricing on freetobook is here
TripAdvisor advertising is here … (TripAdvisor is DIY you do it with them)

Links related
Freetobook 7 pledges for online booking (this shows how we are different)
Book direct images for your website, signature, facebook etc…