Friday, August 29, 2008

Nairn Hotel Embraces Web 2.0

The Claymore House Hotel in Nairn has today gone live with their new Web 2.0 website. The site which features online availability, a fully updateable content management system and recognises the need for accommdaotion providers to grasp the current and future potential of Google Mapping, image galleries, Blogs and RRS News Feeds.
The site was designed and published by Ayrshire based The Edge using their new SiteBuilder Pro web development tools.
The SiteBuilder project has been developed specifically for accommodation providers who are looknig to improve their web presence and incorporates a whole host of tools aimed as 1) Increasing traffic to the website and 2) increasing on line sales once the visitor is on the site.
The Claymore House Hotel team can now control and update all its metatags, create new web pages at will and even publish their job vacancies!
The Bookassist Booking engine is fully integrated into all three of the SiteBuilder packages and offers award winning and innovative solutions for hoteliers, small operators and self catering establishments. It offers real time booknigs with an easy to understand administration panel and powerful reporting tools linked to Google Analytics for unrivalled market analysis.
The three Sitebuilder packages have been built to be fully upgradeable ensuring that if the accommodation providers needs or aspirations change, the site can change alongside.
For further information on Sitebuilder and Bookassist contact The Edge on 01292 521404 or email

Royal Troon - A Visitor perspective

Anyone who has even a small involvement in the golfing sector in Scotland knows the cache that courses such as Carnoustie, Muirfield, Prestwick The Old Course and Turnberry have and the impact their products have on the local economy and on a more personal level the local pride these iconic courses can generate for the residents of the area.
However is it the case that some of these "icons" ("a symbol that is universally recognised to be representative of something") really need to recognise that they have some responsibility, if not accountability, for how they portray themselves to the wider world?
Here's an illustrative tale - and not an apocryphal one - passed to us this week by a well know Scottish Golf Tour Operator.
Eight well heeled American clients have been staying at Turnberry and playing golf and are now setting off on their way to Fife to add Kingsbarns and The Old Course to their collected list. En route the guys decide that it would be fun to pop into Royal Troon and buy some momentoes of the Open Championship course from the Pro Shop. They'd seen it again most recently on USTV.
(And anyone with a knowledge of private golf clubs in Scotland now knows where this story is going...)
On arrival at the opulent new clubhouse, on a designated visitor's day, the eight gentlemen from The States were asked if they had a reservation for today and on stating no, and explaining the reason they were there, they were asked in no uncertain terms that as they were not members and not visiting guests they would have to leave the premises immediately. No polite conversation about how the trip to Scotland was going, no experiencing the history, no visit to the gents. Simply NO. And as a direct result no purchases in the Pro Shop either.
Now this can be seen from both sides. Well to a degree at least. Royal Troon is like many in Scotland, it is a private members' club and therefore have no need to fling it's doors open; in fact legally they have certain rules that must take legal precedence but you can't help but feel that there must be a better way than this. There must be a way to get it across to Royal Troon that they could actually be more beneficial to the local economy by providing a little better service, become, dare we say, a little more appealling financially, increase their communications with the local accommodation providers, open up their course access throughout the year and perhaps just perhaps recognise that politeness and common courtesy should not be restricted to those who are paying the annual subs.
The result of those visiting Americans leaving? Well for sure they won't have Royal Troon on next year's itinerary; that has already been stated. They will tell the story to others and, you know what, someone may even include the story in a blog criticising them publicly for an attitude that does not in any way reflect the positive nature of the hospitality product across Ayrshire. Every time our visitors are mistreated there is an impact and it can have a very long tail. No play at Troon for that group; a loss of green fees sure but they can handle it (can't they?); loss of two bed nights in the area; no food and beverage spend no merchndising, no fuel purchased; no opportunity for the local businesses to make amends for a simple lack of Scottish hospitality.
And you know the worst aspect of this article? It is quite likely that they simply won't care...

Monday, August 25, 2008

BAA Sell Off - Good News For All?

I've taken a little time to reflect on the announcement regarding the recommendation that BAA sell off of one of it's threee Scottish airports.

It is almost universally accepted that Glasgow would be most likely to be the preferred sell off option if BAA are indeed forced to sell.

Tom Dalrymple, chairman of the Flyglobespan airline, was quoted in The Scotsman and said he was firmly in favour of a break-up and would like to see two of the three Scottish airports sold off, particularly Edinburgh."This is the only way we can guarantee competition and the most competitive prices for our customers," he said. "If there is to be an airport sold it should be Edinburgh as Glasgow already has a measure of competition on its doorstep from Prestwick. Competition will be of benefit to passengers."

He certainly has a good point with regards to competition in the west coast. Prestwick in Ayrshire has provided an increasingly competitive edge over the past ten years and whilst Globespan chose Glasgow eventually as its preferred departure point over Prestwick the competition has meant and increase in flights from Prestwick with Ryanair and undoubtedly increased the sharpness of Glasgow's pencil when it comes to negotiating with other operators.

The catastrophic scenario for the Ayrshire economy would be the releasing of Glasgow from BAA's hands into an aggressive operator resulitng in a direct challenge to Prestwick Airport's existence. Doomsday scenario? Well yes but not the impossible scenario that some in ayrshire seem to think. Ryanair have been responsible almost single handedly for the increase in tourism numbers in Ayrshire over the past decade - it has not been destination driven; the growth has been access driven. The problem with Ryanair now is that their methods are well known and whilst they undoubtedly enjoy being the main player at Prestwick they have expereince of shaping strategy at larger airports - see Dublin and Stansted - and I can see a whole host of reasons why the could (not would) transfer the whole shebang up the M77 to Glasgow. It will certainly be high on the agenda of any of the prospective purchasers of Glasgow Airport from the BAA.

Is it worrying business in Ayrshire? Well that depends on who you speak to. The local papers ignored the annoucnement completely with a journalist indicating that should something actaully loom then it may then cover it. Non story from that point of view.

Bob Leitch from the Chamber of Commerce was at some odds with his Edinburgh and Glasgow colleagues (who are currently opposing the sell off) when he stated, "That anything which increases competition is good for business. The possibility of another Scottish Airport being sold to another company I think as much increases the prospects for Prestwick as it does deter. Over the past five years and more remarkable progress has been made by Prestwick and greater competition will only lead to greater opportunity as there are many other airlines flying to those other airports who might consider Prestwick in a more competitive environment. Changing market conditions always creates new challenges and I am sure Prestwick and Ayrshire will be ready to deal with such a situation if and when it happens."

However, one prominent hotelier in the area sees it potentially differently and understands from airline insiders that there is a genuine worry about the reliance on Ryanair and any potential loss of that business to Glasgow. It was felt that while Ryanair can exert real influence at Prestwick and they recognise other benefits such as landing fees, two runways and greater reliability of weather these still may not be enough in the long term to ensure their tenancy.

So here's hoping that the optimism of the Ayrshire Post journo is not unfounded but perhaps, and without scaremongering, business in Ayrshire should be looking a little more strategically at the proposed sell off and deciding whether a more pro-active, less laissez faire attitude may be required to ensure that one of its most influential economic drivers continues to flourish. The management of Prestwick Airport are to be congratulated for what they've done over the decade for the local economy often without the recognition of those they've benefitted and it really is pretty critical to the economy of South West Scotland that it continues to flourish and that Ayrshire fights to maintain its excellent accessibility for both tourists and business.

By coincidence, the Ayrshire Chamber of Commerce are hosting an open forum on September 4th in Kilmarnock to examine the key performance indicators for the Ayrshire economy and the structures needed for growth for the future. It's an agenda free afternoon so putting forward discussion topics maybe defeats the purpose but on access could the following be worth being rasied from the floor?

Accessibility to Ayrshire - Maintain and increase accessibility
- based on the above Ayrshire business and public sector should actively campaign for the sell off by BA of "Edinburgh not Glasgow." This will truly make Scotland's three central airports more competitive and have a generally bigger impact on competition for the flyer and airlines. It may help avoid displacement. From a purely Ayrshire perspective the sell off of Edinburgh is a potentially "less worse" option than the sell off of Glasgow and therefore the interests of business and residents in the Ayrshire should be sacrosanct.

Sea - refocus on the Irish markets with the ferry operators coming into Troon; examine development of creative seasonal routes such as Troon - Campbeltown - Ballycastle.

Road - continue the campaign fro further upgrading of routes from the south on the A77.

Rail - examine increased integration and highlight the plusses of integrated rail ticketing with the good practice at Prestwick Airport.

The subject of why doesn't a county with the population of Ayrshire have a single council instead of the triplication of North, South and East must surely be raised but maybe that's for another post...

Arisaig Hotel Launch Online Booking

The Arisaig Hotel in Inverness-shire has gone live today with their new booking engine. The wonderfully located hotel overlooking Arisaig Bay towards the Isles of Eigg and Muck dates back to the Jacobite era, and was originally built as a Coaching Inn around 1720. Set on the scenic Road to the Isles, Arisaig is 35 miles from Fort William, and 8 miles from Mallaig (the ferry terminal for Skye) and attracts visitors from all points of the compass because of its location.
The hotel is now using Bookassist to offer these visitors direct bookings from their own website thereby both increasing traffic and reducing the cost of the room sale.
Steven Timpson, from the Bookassist Scottish office explained further, "We've uploaded the availability checker into the hotel's current website as an immediate improvement and will now work with the hotel's sales and marketing team to develop the site structure, content and conversion rates. We'll also discuss cost effective options regarding upgrading of the website's design."
Bookassist are committed to providing full account management support to all their accommodation providers with the view of building traffic and direct room sales. This account management support extends to unique Trafficbuilder programmes and even Sitebuilder development and integration of Web 2.0 tools such as Blogs, YouTube, Picasa galleries and even integration of Google Analytics report with Google Adwords. For more information on the Booking Engine and how you can get your rooms online visit Bookassist in Scotland

Booking Engine Combines with Google Analytics

Bookassist, the leading reservation software and online marketing provider for hotels, has announced a major innovation in its Traffic Builder search engine optimisation and marketing services.
Clients of its award winning Booking Engine software can now use Google Analytics to track usage throughout their websites and specifically to trace clicks on individual adverts right through to a specific booking by a specific person in the Bookassist system via a direct integration between both systems. This allows for website visitor statistics as well as advertising revenue tracking in unprecedented detail.
Client hotels can now "drill down" into any pay per click (PPC) advert campaign and determine instantly the return on investment, in booking revenue terms, for each accommodation package they offer online. This allows for immediate feedback on the perceived value by online customers of special offers, discounts and other offerings the hotel has online, giving the hotel valuable instant intelligence on what is working online and what is not, rather than having to wait to analyse returns at a later date."What we now have is a complete integration between our Booking Engine system and our Traffic Builder [online marketing service] system, all rolled together in Google's Analytics. So in one place you can view user patterns throughout your site and track every single cent spent on PPC to see if a particular advert is generating real booking revenue, what part of the world your booker is coming from, what kind of package was booked and whether any add-ons or additional services were bought", said Mary Collins, responsible for Traffic Builder strategy at Bookassist.
Bookassist's integration of Traffic Builder with Google Analytics leaves no room for doubt and is the most powerful analysis of online marketing available to hotels today. Hotel clients using Traffic Builder can respond instantly to the marketplace based on real data, not on supposition. It is another in a string of tie-ins with Google technology for Bookassist.
Early in 2008, Bookassist was first in the industry to adopt the then-new Google Charts technology for the generation of innovative real-time graphics in its Booking Engine reporting. As far back as 2005, Bookassist integrated its entire database of hotel information with Google Maps. Bookassist is a Google Adwords Qualified Company and works closely with Google and has had access to early technology releases. In 2007 the company was a beta tester of the Google Local service on Google Maps where it now features prominently.
Traffic Builder with Google Analytics is available now, exclusively to hotels using the Bookassist Booking Engine on their websites.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Crusoe Hotel Launch New Site

The Crusoe Hotel in Lower Largo has arguably one of the finest locations of any hotel on the east coast perched above the beach and harbour in the pituresque East Neuk village.
It has today just published its new website which is driven by an all new Sitebuilder Pro package developed for Scottish hospitality businesses.
Sitebuilder Pro includes a full content management system as standard which allows the hotel the ability to not only update their content but manage their images, metatags (for search engines) and add news features, events and even vacancies.
The new website also includes a number of Web 2.0 tools to help get the message across to potential site visitors and includes a complementary Crusoe Hotel Blog which allows guests to subscribe to.
Sitebuilder Pro was itself built around the award winning Bookassist booking engine and therefore offers state of the art online reservations to the guest visiting the site. The booking engine allows The Crusoe site visitor to check availability in multiple languages and currencies, add extras such as chocolates, wine or even a round of golf to their room reservation.
The administarion of the website and availability is easy to manage and even allows Stuart and his team at The Crusoe to update their web 2.0 tools such as their Blog, Google Map, Analytics tools and even their Picasa Photo Gallery all from the same admin panel.
Sitebuilder Pro is now available (along with its partner products Lite and Standard) from Ayrshire based tourism web developers The Edge .
Visit the website for more information on The Crusoe Hotel or to find out how online reservations can work for your business visit

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Aviemore Hotel and Restaurant Puts Bookassist on Menu

Aviemore restaurant with rooms, International Starters have chosen Bookassist to drive their online reservations. For those who know Aviemore, the new business has risen from what used to be the Alt-na-Craig. Some of us even remember the "Altna" as our home as students working at The Stakis Coylumbridge earning our tax free Christmas and Easter holiday monies to supplement the next three months term time drinking. I recall six of us (rising occassionally to eight or ten) sharing a room for three weeks and doing sixteen hour split shifts over New Year!
Fortunately, Fraser Coyle who owns and operates the new premises has promised not to achieve such high levels of occupancy for the new rooms!
The whole premises offers a superb new experience for the visitor to Aviemore - something totally different to the chain hotels and smaller B&Bs in the area - with a cosmopolitan dining area and menu and some really well finished bedroom accommodation.
The site now has Bookassist running and with the demand for accommodation in that part of the Highlands still running strong it can expct to secure an impressive share of online bookings through its own website. Visit International Starters in Aviemore and book your room now!

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Online Booking for Ayr Guest House

Dunlay House in Ayr with its six bedrooms has this week gone live with online reservations on their website.
They have chosen to use Bookassist as it integrates with their website design easily. The web developers were provided with a bit of CSS code and the site went live within three days of signing up.
It's essential now that all accommodation providers of any size recognise the need to offer theior rooms online. It's neither impersonal not difficult to manage; it's now become an essential offer that many potential visitors now take for granted. To find out more about how online reservaitons can work for your accommodation have a look at

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Badenoch and Strathspey Buck Tourism Trends

According to an on-line tourism business barometer conducted by Aviemore and the Cairngorms Destination Management Ltd looking at the current situation and business confidence in the area's most important industry "Badenoch and Strathspey is bucking the national picture of doom and gloom caused by the credit crunch and soaring petrol and energy prices."
The results point to a feeling that summer business levels should hold despite reports elsewhere in the UK of a slump in visitor numbers. Local businesses are much more cautious what the next 12 months has in store for them, however.

Mr Alan Rankin, boss of ACDM Ltd, said: "Businesses predict that they will see a slight increase in customers this summer and a slightly greater increase in turn-over indicating that we may see consumers spending that little bit more when in the area." He said that room occupancy levels was a good measure of the health of local tourism. For April to June, this year, 45 per cent of accommodation providers reported occupancy levels between 30 per cent and 50 per cent.

"Indications are that this is holding with levels perhaps higher than would have been expected when considering all the doom and gloom reported nationally in recent weeks," said Mr Rankin.
"Concerns over general tourism trends have increased by some 17 per cent amongst local businesses since the last quarterly survey. The much greater uncertainty about prospects for the coming years is understandable, given the difficulties in the wider economy and the squeeze on family budgets. Much needs to be done to set the economy on the right track.

Mr Rankin is hopeful that local tourism businesses can weather the storm. He said: "Consumer trends all point towards more activity orientated environmentally responsible leisure breaks taken nearer to home. The area is well placed to make the most of this change but to do so we need to up our game, invest in and support quality products and service along with co-ordinated marketing and promotion."

The full article is available from The Badenoch and Strathspey Herald

Scottish Tourism Forum Weekly News

The excellent weekly news digest has just come in from STF - if you don't already receive it here's the latest...

"The continued concerns on the impact of the credit crunch on tourism in Scotland are now showing a real slow down highlighted by low advanced bookings. Concerns have increased with the news of cuts to the number of flights into Scotland by BA and other operators adding to predictions of a longer term slow down. The accommodation sector has seen numbers reduce noticeably in Glasgow and with the start of the Edinburgh Festival seeing accommodation still available. Bucking the trends however, the Caravan Club are reporting a good season as are top end self catering market across Scotland looking encouraging. We would ask you to feedback your reports from around the country so we can share this with Government.

Thanks to all of you who have replied to our previous requests for feedback on the impact of the new alcohol licensing. With up to a 40% reduction in licence application, mainly from the rural areas, a loss of service to our visitors is certain. We have had examples of B&B's who provided a decanter of whisky for guests after dinner to sample the local malt, attractions who unable to cross sell between items, high lawyers & architects costs, village pubs closing, self catering cottages who provided a welcome pack of local produce including a bottle of wine - all examples of the issues experienced by the tourism trade.

The Fire Legislation is also affecting numerous smaller accommodation operators with the enforcement of the new guidance instructions varying from area to area. We are again gathering information on this to demonstrate the impact of new legislation on an industry already under pressure. Please continue to email us your examples to and we will advise you of the feedback we get from Government on your behalf. "

You can find out more about STF at

Campaign Websites - Why They Work

An interesting email came through yesterday debating the merits of "Mini Campaign Websites". It's something that we've been encouraging clients to make use of over the past few years and whilst there has always been resistance to the move we've always felt that creating websites focussing on specific campaigns, or markets or products has made sense and can be highly cost effective. The article argued the case for arguing that it was an effective method of enhancing traditional online marketing efforts.

The seven reasons listed make sense to us and are perhaps best reflected by the work we've done with Fairfield House Hotel in Ayr. When we redid their website a couple of years ago we started looking at their key products and printed materials. One campaign that was needing refocused was the Christmas promotion. It was taking over the website for a disproportionate time and didn't correlate with the revenues and was a distraction for the visitor looking to book a room or find out about business meetings. It was a perfect candidate for a campaign website and Stuart the GM agreed. "We felt that the hotel website was being undermined by the Christmas promotions which were starting in August and disenchanting the visitor who had no interest in booking festive parties. It made sense to break the product out.

"The new website is now rebranded annually but provides the Fairfield with a twelve month a year site for the search engines as well as the early booker!
Have a look at the Christmas 2009 Campaign website for the Fairfield House Hotel in Ayr - The "Long Tail" and 'niche markets' are in everyone's thought process but what should your business be doing about it? So many companies sell the same product, the same way, to the same audience, that people no longer pay much attention. The tourism market requires that small and medium sized operations have to be different to be heard. They need to be bold and innovative and constantly try new approaches to reach their audiences.
If you need to chat about how a campaign website could work for you why not drop us a note? Below are seven reason why you could consider the potential strengths of campaign sites.

1. Focus Your Presentation: eliminate distraction and non relevant clutter.
Wanting to cram everything you provide into one website aimed, or more to the point not aimed, at every interested audience only creates clutter and confusion. A campaign or brand specific website allows you to get right to the point. A focused brand or campaign site shortens the sales cycle by making what you provide clear and distinct; it provides visitors with the sense that you are both competent and innovative in what you do and how you do it.

2. Use Alternative Tactics: experiment with non traditional campaign and sales' approaches.
Most companies follow a consistent sales approach that they have found successful. This is both a good thing and a bad thing: following a plan that has worked in the past aimed at your traditional customer base makes sense, except that it also limits you in reaching new audiences for your products and services. Why give up on these potential customers when you can create an audience specific Web-presentation on a separate campaign website aimed specifically at that market. With a series of highly targeted websites you speak to the needs of specific audiences and at the same time insulate your regular clients from the alternative approaches.

3. Create Urgency & Impact: campaign sites urge quick response, while creating a memorable impression.
Website visitors are always complaining how much time it takes them to search for and find the products and services they need. A campaign or brand-specific alternative marketing site gets right to the point and delivers the information or the promotion referenced in your email, banner, and print ads, or television and radio commercials.

Your targeted marketing sales pitch won't get watered-down by extraneous information that just gets in the way. Depending on how the site is constructed and what the marketing objectives are, a campaign specific website can create a sense of urgency by building in a time sensitive expiry date.

4. Target New & Alternative Audiences: create new markets for old products and services.
Not every audience for a product can be approached with the same tactics. Specific brand or campaign sites allow you to customise your approach for new or alternative markets appealing to their specific lifestyles or behaviour patterns. Different markets require different approaches. Like a one-size-fits-all hat, it rarely fits anybody. Customise and isolate your approach to different markets, so you can speak directly to that market's needs and attitudes.

5. Isolate & Differentiate Brands: target specific audiences with specific tactics.
Tourism businesses that provide a large number of products or services often confuse potential customers by presenting far too many options and alternatives. You want to provide prospects a limited number of distinct alternatives, just enough so they feel they have been given a choice, and don't have to look elsewhere. But too much choice within the same product category creates buyer indecision. If a product or service is aimed at a particular market because it has specific features, create a separate website to sell it. Isolating a product line on a separate website allows you to create a distinct image and brand story for that offering. In tourism terms this could easily relate to specific activity breaks or seasonal breaks; create your own autumn breaks website? Why not

6. Accelerate Comprehension: be clear, be understood, be direct, and sales will follow.

Campaign websites get right to the point. They present the marketing message quickly, and promptly direct people to take action without making them wade through introductions and information on weddings, new menus, room types, or special offers or other parts of your product mix that they don't wish to trawl through.

The longer it takes for someone to understand what the campaign is all about, the less likely they are to stick around long enough to make sense out of it. When it comes to website visitors the old maxim is true that you only have one shot at making a lasting impression, so don't blow it by confusing the visitor.

7. Support Other Advertising Efforts: supplement other marketing material with engaging, viral presentations.
Campaign websites can function as landing sites and contact venues for print, television, radio, online video, banner, and display ads, as well as for articles, newsletters, and news releases.
By segregating your campaign site you can more easily track responses better than if the campaign material was integrated into your main site. Separating your campaign website from your main site allows you to experiment with marketing tactics aimed at new or alternative audiences, with approaches that may not be suitable for your regular site visitors.

Golf Tourism Monitor Results Published

Golf tourism is a key sector of Scotland’s overall tourism industry, and measuring its performance is vital. The Golf Tourism Monitor does this by gathering, analysing, and reporting on monthly figures provided by a wide cross-section of golf courses across Scotland. Golf Tourism Scotland is conducting the 2008 Monitor on behalf of VisitScotland and Scottish Enterprise. It is being carried out by Golf Tourism Scotland, and managed on their behalf by Mike Williamson. Each month, Golf Tourism Scotland will publish summary reports based on the figures submitted. These reports summarise overall levels and patterns in golf tourism in Scotland for the month in question, and the reports can be accessed on the public area of the website. Courses participating in the Monitor are able to log in and call up more detailed reports comparing their performance to the averages for their region, or other courses of a similar type elsewhere in Scotland. The April Report 2008 is now available