As we’ve mentioned many times already, B&B owners benefit enormously when they don’t have to struggle in isolation. Strength in numbers is what theBandBer is all about. So it’s great to be able to talk about an inspiring example of B&Bs getting together to support one another, boost their collective profile and drive new business.
Last month, a new online booking website went live: ayrshirebandb.com. It features 25 properties from the 50-strong Ayrshire Bed & Breakfast Association (ABBA):
The website has been created for the association by Craig and Iain Stewart, who, for more than a decade, have owned and run one of the UK’s leading internet travel firms, known for its roomgenie extranet and justonehotel.com brand. Though their annual turnover is in the millions, they agreed to take a ‘modest’ four-figure sum to share their expertise with ABBA.
The ABBA site is based around their acclaimed freetobook software. With the advent of ayrshirebandb.com, members of the association are now benefitting from joint promotion and a world-class booking engine. They project that bookings could rise by around 10% in the first year alone, increasing members’ combined revenues by as much as £200,000.
The ABBA site is an important innovation from a technical point of view. It moves away from the usual “brochure style” B&B association site where the customer browses a list of properties but then has to do all the hard work contacting each one for rates and availability. Instead, the customer is enjoys a full “end to end” online booking capability, being able to compare properties, locations and rates all in one go, as they would on the major online travel agents’ websites.
Technical innovations aside, the site also shows every property off to best advantage with the clearest possible images (a must when it comes to encouraging customers to book). It also includes lots of high quality, bespoke information about Ayrshire’s historic sites, leisure attractions, activities and dining options (accompanied, once again, by the best possible photos). As you might expect, Robert Burns gets a big look-in, given the number of Ayrshire attractions that are dedicated to him, including the new Burns Birthplace Museum in Alloway.
In every respect, ayrshirebandb.com represents a strong move forward towards a more prosperous future that could easily be adopted by similar associations. Indeed groups of B&Bs in other parts of the UK (and elsewhere in the world) have already approached the Stewarts with a view to having similar sites created for them.
The advantages of having a stylish website underpinned by a cutting edge booking engine are not lost on the vice-chairman of ABBA, Charlie Steele: “We decided we wanted a website that would look professional, and be simple for the customer to book a B&B. We looked at many website designers, and in the end settled with the freetobook team, as they had years of experience in the tourism market, and really understood what we needed. Being local was an added bonus.”
Running a B&B himself, Charlie is also well aware of how much strength and confidence an accommodation owner can derive from being part of a larger group: “Many small B&B and guesthouse owners can feel isolated when it comes to being able to market themselves properly so this move allows us all to have a stronger and more confident voice together. We are sure more owners will join us to combine forces… Each owner has control over their own details and can update and change their content and photographs very simply. The system is extremely easy to keep availability up to date.”
So B&Bs in Ayrshire are already benefitting from strength in numbers and the very best of modern technology. It can’t be long before the word spreads…