Tuesday, January 5, 2010

2010 Online Bookings up for Scottish Hotels

The New Year has started positively for Bookassist powered properties throughout Scotland according to Ian McCaig from the Ayrshire office.
"The first few days in January are showing fantastic growth on the beginning of last year and we're hopeful that this is a pattern that can be continued throughout the remainder of the month.Hotels are understanding much more clearly the need to grow their direct online sales and for the more proactive amongst them this is producing clear results."
He continued, "As well as providing a highly specified booking engine to the guests which makes it easy to book, hoteliers are beginning to recognise the need to support the reservations engine with marketing activity. A booking engine on its own is no longer enough. A site needs to portray their product graphically and attractively, it must ensure that the site is being found for the appropriate search terms by the appropriate markets and then Bookassist will convert and we believe convert more highly than any other online reservations system."
To achieve the above, Bookassist in Scotland don't only provide the online booking system but also the knowledge and marketing support to help secure the increase in direct sales that is required.
"Of course we understand why hotels have been looking to Online Travel Agents over the past year. The market for some areas in Scotland has been flat and reservations from any source are welcome but we don't beleive that this should be at any cost.
It's a simple question that we ask of our prospective clients; "Do you think the demand for booking direct through your own website is going to increase or decrease over the coming decade?" It may almost be a rhetorical question for sure but it focusses the mind on the need to take the provision of the online reservations service more seriously and actually plan strategically in order to speed up the growth."
Businesses who are looking at their online booking options are being encouraged to look at their whole online marketing strategy by the Scottish Bookassist team - search engine optimisation, paid advertising, e-marketing, social media (with purpose), guaranteed best rates, merchandising of rooms and add on products, online agency and corporate relationships and even best practice in designing a new website.
"All of these areas require not only consideration but action. We see examples of hotels plowing hours of time and hundreds of pounds a week into their local newspaper advertising and radio schedules and then skimming over their online marketing programmes and website content. It is our resolution in 2010 to work even more closely through our account management structure to build the understanding of how integral to all areas of their business an online strategy must be - even to the smallest of operators"
If you wish more information on building your direct online reservations contact scotland@bookassist.com or telephone +44 (0)1292 521404.


Anonymous said...

of course, what this article does not state, is the revenue online book assist earn. percentages are all part of profit. if you forget about the percentage you are charged by a credit company when you process a guests final bill, then you can kiss goodbye to between 1.5 and 3 percent of that bill. I am not aquainted with current costs but I can confirm that when we considered this option 3 years ago, and again 2 years ago, the percentages were not attractive.

As a note, when you run a relatively small hotel (we have 8 bedrooms in a very good quality 4 star hotel) if you cant fill them by yourself with repeat, recommended and new guests, then no amount of on line booking is going to bring these guests back, get them to recommend you or guarantee them a great time, no matter what they say, individual contact in small intimate places is what people are looking for, afterall, thats part of why they are visiting.

Of course, on line booking in vast hotels is definitely a plus, but I still contact hotels anywhere in the world directly when we book, it is too much of a risk to book a hotel you wont be able to change when you get there any other way, I want to know that the hotel wants me, cares about me and takes any personal requests seriously instead of that cliche remark ' we will endeavour to provide you with your special request but we are unable to guarantee this as the hotel will only receive your request on the day of your arrival'

It is not time consuming to process a booking, write an email to confirm from standard ones already saved and keep your own records of the booking, make special notes about a comment or request and have a more than happy guest arrive because of this at a future date. Small things mean a lot.

Dont fall for this caper!! We dont and we are VERY successful!!

Admin said...

Not sure that I could agree with the sentiments at all I'm afradi. Distribution channels are changing all the time and whilst it would be wonderful to rely on the same visitors coming back year in year out the law of diminishing returns would have you out of business. We never underestimate the value of repeat business, it is critically improtnat in reducing business development costs but is only part of the overall customer profile. New customers must be nurtured all of the time. Online booking and online marketing has an increasingly importnat role to play for all sizes of accommodation providers and whether you select a commission based model or some other method the importance of online reservations cannot be understated.

The argument about personal contact is one which we now counter quite assertively; the online booking process itself does not depersonalise the booking process. The opposite is in fact the case. It increases the options for the consumer, something we all should be aspiring to in Scotland. It opens up the opportunity to make a reservation without having to pick up a phone. It is a proactive choice handed to the potential visitor by the forward thinking accommodation provider. If the buyer wishes to pick up the phone they can do. Remove that choice and you may well find they will move on to somewhere they can book online. Things is they won't phone you to tell you.

If it were my eight bedroom hotel I'd be offering my site visitor a guaranteee that the rate online was the best available rate, I'd be offering full room descrip[tions with the option of adding on dinner, wine, flowers, chocolate, tickets fro visitor attractions or golf even. I'd even be giving them the choice of calculating the cost in their own currency, or making the reservation in their own language.

Once I'd received the email or text confirmation that the booking had been made I'd then either email them a personalised thank you for booking online or even offer to call them to reassure them that the booking is being looked after. That might that be a way of upselling them some flowers or chocolates or dining reservations for their stay and increase my profit at the same time.

Personalisation is about how we deal with our overall businesses. Receiving a letter is just as impersonal as receiving an email confirming an online transaction. It's how you deal with the transcation from the point of receipt that makes it all personal.

You mention caveats in reservation systems; anyone not being able to guarantee the terms of an online booking is selling both the customer and their business short. If a hotel wishes to add some get out clause to their process it reflects on the hotelier and their operation not the booking engine being used. There is a clear differentiation.

There are small operators all over Scotland who pride themselves on the service they provide and who have guests, even repeat ones, who will happily reserve online time after time.

I would agree that it is indeed not time consuming to process a booking but the missing point is that the potential online guest has chosen to make the reservation that way. It doesn't make them strange or distant or less welcome.

Small things mean everything - totally agreed - and that personalised response to their chosen method of booking is then noted by the client. The client is only a booking reference number if that's how you wish to see them. Good operators will unscramble the reference number to give it a name and personality.

You are undoubtedly succesful becuase you have in the past recognised the importance of giving your customer what they are looking for.

Many of them, whether you accept it or not, are looking at least for the choice to book online.

Online booking should be seen as a positive addition to accommodation providers' portfolio of services.

Anonymous said...

Actually I thought I made it clear that we are not just lucky, we work efficiently and affectively to ensure that our hotel is right for the guest. This does require direct contact and if a typically seasonal hotel in a Scottish rural or semi rural location cannot commit the time to their bookings there is little or no chance of achieving success when face to face with a guest. Take a look at all the dissatisfied guests who review on tripadvisor, it is more often because of a breakdown in communication and expectations, I for one would never chance this most important aspect of my business to a stranger.

You are unable to replace the personal conversation or email correspondence (often over a period of time) that I as an owner have had with my future guest, you are further unable to meet that guest at the door and welcome them with any phrase that can refer to every aspect of a conversation/email correspondence had at the time of booking. This is all part of a very important and integral aspect of personal and intimate hotels.

People who do not want this will book a place on line, and there is a further debate to be had about the satisfaction a potential guest will get from a hotel that is impersonal in its booking process (because that is what it is) but quite the contrary face to face, they are 2 extremes that often dont gel well in the end for the guest or hotel because it was not what the guest had expected.

It is unfair of on line booking companies to try and push this approach to the general public as being 21st century or modern, and that if a hotel does not do this it is not up to date, you have to take your business for what it is, if you offer what we do in the location that we live in, we have to offer it from the start. Success is proof of this.

I am not relying on the same visitors returning year after year, but any good hotel should have approximately 40% of its guests fitting the bracket of return or repeat, that is a hospitality business fact.

And of course, you state that the options of all hotels for the consumer should be paramount, maybe to you, but in fact it is of paramount importance to me as a hotel owner that as many potential guests as possible do not bypass me and stay elsewhere in my location. I have absolutely no intention of courting this absurd idea.

However, if a guest is visiting several areas of Scotland we are more that happy to help with travel plans, ferries, directions and places to stay. That reputation of being helpful and going the extra mile is part of our own personal hotel success rate.

General further statements have been made in your response, but I can only refer to what I have already said in my first response as being far more accurate in my experience - both as an hotelier and as a guest.

Direct approach, knowing and remembering people, providing them with what they are seeking, or being honest enough to refer them elsewhere if you know that you cannot meet their expectations is all part of running an efficient, productive and successful hotel. Its called being hands on. Something sadly and frequently lacking in many businesses generally.

State what you have on offer on your website then deliver it. You do not need a middle man to accomplish that. And you do not need a middle man in a relatively small and personally run business.

I stand by what I said, large hotels, possibly - not small, personal and privately owned ones. You are misleading the general public to suggest otherwise.

And as a final point, when we take a break ourselves we stay in some amazing and wonderful hotels around the world, the best ones deal with their bookings personally, I for one know this is why they are successful.

Admin said...

I'm enjoying the debate.

Howver having read your second post I think we need to define exactly what we mean by Onlien bookings. When I eulogise, I am only talking about direct distribution through your own website. That is direct online sales; I have great trepidation about hotels using third party websites for their bookings and our mission is to convert accommodation providers to moving more of their online sales away from third party OTAs (online travel agents such as Booking.com, lastminute, expedia, visitscotland.com and all the others) towards converting sales through their own website.

Now that we''ve ascertained that I would still contend that you're taking a very stark "either or" position here.

You seem to suggest that online booking must make a hotel impersonal?

I actually agree with and commend you on getting your service levels right. Everything you talk about regarding service and going that extra mile is the basis of my own hotel education under some superb general managers. Only yesterday I revisited Borthwick Castle, one of the places where I learnt perhaps the most about service levels and last week was in Aviemore with a colleague discussing the merits of the sadly missed hotelier peter Steinle who I had the great pleasure to have as a mentor.

Service levels and the offering of online availability through your own website cannot be seen as incompatible, too many wonderfully personal establishments see them sitting together hand in hadn for that ever to be the case.

You can't seriously suggest that because one in ten of a hotel's booking may be made by a customer online that that hotel is then not going to offer advice, a warm welcome, information on the area, log burning fires and pick ups from the nearest railway station?

I think you have unjustly demonised internet bookings for reducing standards. I do wonder how awdul your own experiences of online reservations have been - and you did reference that it was something you looked at three years ago. A lot has changed since then and if you wished I could point you towards a dozen sites of hotels we work with which certainly do not offer impersonalised reservations tools. A road to Damascus perhap!

There are a hundred perhaps a thousand reasons that may have seen the erosion of standards over the past decade but I can't in this instance blame technology. There are an awful lot of hoteliers, just like you, who believe 100% that standards and courtesy and service and understanding the customers needs and wants are what make their businesses succesful.

Those hoteliers would suggest that being able to book online is just another service, like breakfast in bed, that they wish to offer. Offering it in no way diminishes their respect for and treatment of their guests.

In my opinion it remains difficult to see how the two can be argued to be somehow mutually exclusive.