We all know that the Cold War has been over (officially anyway) for more than 20 years now. But who would ever have imagined that UK hotels would be signing up with the KGB!
Allow me to explain. Regular readers of “theBandBer” will remember that a little while back we reported on the Groupon experience of Neil & Sally Taylor, owners of the Torcroft Hotel in Torquay. Recently, I had the pleasure of speaking to Caroline Cashmore, who owns and runs the Glazebrook Country House Hotel with her husband, David. Rather than Groupon, they decided to participate in a promotion with a similar deal-of-the-day site, called KGB Deals.
An AA 4-star guest accommodation, the Glazebrook is luxury property set in the idyllic countryside surrounding Dartmoor National Park, with the South Devon coast only 30 minutes’ drive away. Guests love visiting it for relaxing breaks that allow them to make the most of this beautiful part of the world. Its blend of traditional charm and modern amenities is reflected in the fact that several rooms boast four-poster beds while most also offer free WIFI. Its restaurant has been awarded an AA Rosette and it’s also a popular wedding venue.
theBandBer: What prompted you to take part in a KGB deal?
Caroline: The original idea came out of a conversation with the lady from our bank. She was doing our annual financial health check and just asking, in general, how things were going. When we mentioned that we were a bit “gappy” in terms of bookings in July and, unusually for us, had no weddings that month, she told us that a local hotel had recently done a promotion via KGB Deals that seemed to have gone well. We decided to get in touch with KGB and from then on the whole process was really driven by them. Having seen our excellent reviews on TripAdvisor, they were very keen to work with us. And we were interested in them as they only charge 25% commission, which is considerably less than Groupon, making the deal more financially viable from our point of view.”
theBandBer: What was the actual experience of running the deal like?
Caroline: The deal started on Sunday 8th July. It was £69 for a 2-night bed and breakfast stay for two people that would normally cost £175. The first email enquiry was timed at 6.15am and the phone started ringing at about 8.30am. Customers can redeem their vouchers until mid-July 2013. Our first guests started arriving on the Wednesday 11th July.
theBandBer: Any problems?
Caroline: Not really. We were certainly run off our feet dealing with all the calls, but things went fairly smoothly. A couple of customers were a bit miffed when, having bought their vouchers, they phoned up only to discover that the dates they wanted had already been taken. We quickly got wise to this and started filling enquiries into our book as provisional bookings then encouraging customers to buy their voucher and call back as quickly as possible to avoid disappointment. This seemed to do the trick. In three full days we sold 350 vouchers. By that point, we felt that we had done well enough and told KGB we wanted to finish the promotion early. They tried to persuade us to keep it going for a bit longer, but did accept our decision in the end.”
theBandBer: Have you found that the customers you’ve had via KGB are different in any way from your normal ones?
Caroline: Not particularly. Our guests tend to be middle-aged or retirees looking to enjoy the scenery and fresh air and that’s roughly the kind of people who have called up via KGB. We did get one young lady who asked if there was any good shopping near our hotel. I gently suggested that we might not be her ideal destination!
theBandBer: Have you tried to promote extras to your KGB guests to make up for the reduced profit on the deal?
Caroline: Not particularly. Quite a few of our guests do bring dogs with them and we charge a £5 supplement for that, since it often involves a lot more cleaning up, as you can imagine. One of our “KGB” couples did have dinner with us both nights of their stay, but so far the others have just gone for bed and breakfast.
theBandBer: Overall, do you feel that the KGB Deal has been a good thing for you?
Caroline: Yes. We won’t make a huge amount of money on it, but it should substantially increase awareness of our property. We hope to get some repeat business and, with all the enquiries flooding in, it’s a great way to build up a list of email address for marketing!