Wednesday 30 November 2011

Bookassist Bookshelf

If you're looking for information on your Booking Engine for 2012 we've created an easy to browse bookshelf for you featuring the products and services of offer from Bookassist.

For further information on any of the services featured call the Bookassist team in Scotland on 01292 521404 or email

Happy reading!

Tuesday 29 November 2011

Love Fairmont - Hate Groupon!

Okay, no sitting on the fence here!

It won't come as much of a surprise to anyone involved in marketing hotel accommodation in Scotland has been impacted in one way or another by the plethora of Flash Sales Sites that have appeared.

Good or Bad. Well in our opinion there is little doubt but we can also understand why hoteliers may wish to sell cheap at this moment in time. Understanding and agreeing with those decisions however are a little different.

We posted a positive article last week when we were over in Fife at a golf launch at Fairmont St Andrews. It is a wonderful property and it is picking up awards right left and centre for its facilities and services. It was awarded Golf Tourism Scotland Golf Resort of the Year and picked up a similar accolade earlier this month from the International Association Golf Tourism Operators.

But this morning saw the second Groupon offer in a month for the resort's accommodation and you can't help but wonder what the effect is on those around them. The resort of course have the freedom to act as they wish and the success of the offer is not in doubt. According to the Groupon page the first offer ended with over 800 purchases (maybe 1200 bed nights?) and the second one today will no doubt produce similar results.

But how do smaller private operations deal with such price driven competition. St Andrews is a premier destination for golfers but it is also a busy leisure hotspot for short breaks and cultural escapes with perhaps the widest range of accommodation available outside of Edinburgh and Glasgow.

What is the impact on the local economy on the sales of perhaps as many as 2500 five star bednights in the first three months of the year? It must impact on both the availability and rate achieved in the East Neuk of Fife, in St Andrews and even into Dundee and south and west Fife. There is also an argument that suggest that the wider impacts of such price lead promotions is detrimental to the pricing structure of other five star resorts in Scotland such as Turnberry and Gleneagles.

This is not a criticism by any means it's just looking at it from the outside in. Large scale operations at five star standard who then price at three star DBB rates are inevitably going to have an impact on the businesses around them. The business is not new high end visitors coming into Scotland, or even arguably Fife, but the displacement of those from smaller operations who can't compete or gain the distribution that the bigger hotels and brands have.

It is just a reality and no-one's suggesting anyone's in the wrong. It's just that for the cash strapped small hotel owner it is a very painful reality.

PS - as a consumer I may just of course have a different viewpoint...

Monday 28 November 2011

Affordable Mobile Websites are you ready?

As we've said in previous mobile website blog articles accessing hotel and travel information via smart phones and mobile devices is not the future it's the present and accommodation providers across Scotland need to be looking at what their offering is ahead of what is going to be a highly competitive year ahead.

If you haven't given it a thought spend five minutes reading the article and then deciding how you should act.

What we've created is both uniquely simple and affordable - under £500 affordable - and with the growth in mobile devices is something that you really should consider now.

How Does it Work?

Well it's pretty seamless really. The mobile user searches for a hotel in St Andrews and finds The Inn at Lathones in either Google Adwords, natural listings. He may also be using Google Hotel Finder or Google Places.

It's important to your search strategy but not to your mobile website because as soon as he click onto the hotel website address it recognises that it's a mobile device and diverts the user straight to the mobile version homepage - on the left. The user can now simply scroll up and down the menu and click on what is required.

The hotelier can update their pages easily and quickly using our content management system The Claymore Project. Add local events, special offers or even daily menus to encourage the conversion of the enquiry. It's up to you as it's all managed by you - drag and drop new pages in as you wish.

Mobile sites are stripped down so your website is really travelling light. No needless graphics or long content. The user profile is likely to be on the move and looking for a room or a restaurant or an event in the near future.

Introduce your property and sell it. Who, What, Why, Where, When and How always works!


Outline your facilities with a simple to scroll list of highlights and selling points.

Describe your bedroom facilities, wining and dining options to give the guest the comfort that you have what they are seeking.

If you wish emphasise and promote something that's taking place or an offer to encourage immediate booking.

Remember this site is probably competing with the OTA's (, and possibly even Groupon and Living Social) so you need to sell up what you have on offer in the same way to get the much needed DIRECT sale.


The Mobile version website may be stripped down but that doesn't mean it lacks neither functionality nor personality. You can add and managed your images shown on the site easily from your own computer and change when required. This includes the background image on the mobile website menu/home page.

The interface for the mobile user is easy too.

Click on the Gallery, select an image and a full version of the picture comes up on screen.

The user can then simply swipe the screen or click on the arrows to navigate through the whole image gallery.

Easy to use and with the proper images another way to convert the "Looker to a Booker". So you're not sacrificing the use of images in your mobile site just keeping them in a single place.
Contact Details

The contact details page is again more than just a listing. It is interactive and designed for the mobile device which is using the information

It therefore allows the user to send an email or phone the accommodation provider with a simple click or tap.
It can also link directly to a Facebook page if required or go straight to the booking page.

If the mobile device user wishes to call the hotel directly to enquire about reservations it's made simple for them.

A tap or click on the phone number will bring up the Call box.

The same process would be used for an email or if requested a text message if the hotel wished to provide a dedicated mobile number.
Geo Location (or Maps!)

For a mobile device it is essential that location information is provided in a user friendly manner.

Our mobile website uses Google Maps and means that the user (if their location services are activated on their device) can easily get travel directions to the premises from their current location.

They simply click on the address or location button and the map with the hotel location appears. Turn on Route and the directions appear.

This is what your potential visitor wants to see.

Not only does it include the practical it also includes the graphic. The little yellow man icon at the top of the map page indicates the availability of Street View.

A tap or a click will bring up the Google Street View image of the property. Nice little touch.

Booking and Conversion

There's little point in creating a fully functional easy to navigate mobile version of your website if it can't just as easily take bookings.

Our mobile websites are powered by Bookassist Booking Engine which means that for current Bookassist users you have to do nothing more than update your extranet as you currently do. The same availability and rate details feed your mobile site as feeds your main site and Facebook page.

Not using Bookassist? 

Not a problem then you can still use our mobile sites - simply treat it as another distribution channel - we can set you up on Bookassist within 72 hours and you can have your own fully functioning, low cost of commission, seamless mobile room sales channel (complete with complimentary Facebook App!).

We have designed the Mobile Website to be useful for any and every accommodation provider.

Once the mobile user has clicked the calendar dates they are taken to the choices screen on the left.

The screen will show all the hotel's room options and packages.

With the new drag and drop interface in the booking engine it easier that ever to position your room order to suit your sales needs.

Room prices and full descriptions with a specific image for each package will show on the screen and the Book button sits prominently at the foot of the description.

The booking button takes the mobile user into the third and final screen in the booking process with confirmed credit cards being entered to confirm the reservation.

Note: like the version on hotel websites, the mobile version is fully PCI compliant - something worth remembering and a major plus point for your customers and merchant services provider.

Booking Summary

The mobile users preferences are shown listing

  • Total Cost including any booking fees (usually none)
  • Total Payable Now
  • Balance Due at the hotel on arrival
  • Deposit terms and conditions
Credit Card Details

Full details are then entered to secure the booking
  • First Name
  • Last Name
  • Mobile Number (Text confirmation is sent automatically)
  • Email (Also sent automatically)
  • Card Type
  • Card Number
  • Cardholder Name
  • Verification Number
  • Terms and Conditions Tick Box (These are specific to the individual hotel and not general terms)
The user clicks the Complete My Reservation and the transaction is complete.

In all honesty it could probably take less time to complete the reservation than it does to read the above! It is very simple, safe and secure.

Ensuring return on investment from your web app Bookassist booking engine also tracks all bookings through its systems, including hotel web app bookings. The powerful reporting is based on booking engine integration with the Google Analytics and will show you at a glance how your mobile platform is performing.

Getting Your Business Mobile with Open Rooms MM12

Providing proper mobile and social media access for hotel guests can create a strong impression of the business and what it stands for and for sure properly built platforms drive conversion.

You can get your hotel or accommodation on the move with Open Rooms Mobile in less than 72 hours and for current users of Bookassist there's a great incentive to get your website mobilised before New Year.

Open Rooms MM12 is our suite of four website design and development options for accommodation providers of all shapes and sizes across Scotland.  

Call us on 01292 52104 or download a Open Rooms Mobile PDF for more information.

Tuesday 15 November 2011

Can Hotels Take More Control of Promotional Pricing Campaigns

Using Bookassist to Maximise Your Own Price Lead Promotions
The increase in “Flash Sales” sites has changed the dynamically priced room promotion dramatically over the past six to nine months.

It’s not that price lead promotions are anything new; it’s just that the delivery mechanism – most commonly email marketing - has become quicker and more efficient. The result however has been that the customer is now seeking a deal and many hotels feel it necessary to compete on price at the current time.

As part of an overall marketing strategy this need not be a bad thing but basic principles must remain – the best route for any hotel to generate business is direct with the customer and therefore developing your own “flash sales” is in many ways better than developing it with a third party.

If you’re going third party anyway you should most certainly consider making sure you create your own onine promotion alongside the one you are running with the third party. If you give the customer the opportunity to book a similar limited availability deal directly through your own website they may well switch – booking direct can be more trusted – and save you substantial marketing costs. One thing is for certain if it’s twice the cost of the promotion price there is no chance of switch selling.
The Process

A simple price lead offer can be easily managed and costs reduced by using your booking engine’s tools.

A Six Step Approach
  1. Set up the new room package and pricing in your Bookassist administration system
  2. Allocate the number of rooms available for each night of the promotion
  3. Decide on whether the package will be seen by all visitors to your site or just those you contact
  4. Use a Promo Code or a Price Group to direct customers direct to the promotional offer
  5. Add the link or promo code to your email campaign or Facebook pages
  6. Track the click through rates and conversion using the Bookassist application in Google Analytics
Repeat the above steps throughout the year as necessary!

The Benefits?
  • The customers are your customers and you can then nurture them for repeat visits and other services.
  • The cost of sales is reduced by not having phone’s requiring answering
  • You can sell valuable secondary spend add ons through the system to every booking – wine, dinner, golf, transfers, flowers and the rest.
An Example... New Year Promotional Offer

If done systematically the following process could be completed and ready for distribution in under an hour.
  • Create the sales proposition - £20.12 per person B&B available January through March for bookings made in January 2012.
  • Add the package and description and terms into your booking engine for each room type you are offering
  • Create add ons specifically linked to the promotion – they will not be seen for any other room type
  • Create a promotional banner on your website and social media with a direct link to the packages if you are selling it fully publicly.
  • Open up your availability as required for each room type
  • Create a “Price Group” or Promo Code if you wish the offer to be limited to those you contact and then Publish the link or promotional copy to your Facebook, Twitter and email marketing campaigns with the direct link to the package on your booking engine page.

  • Track click throughs on your Facebook, email and website statistics. Your Bookassist reports and Google Analytics Goals will give a direct measure of promotional success – compare on and off line conversion rates.
For more support on using Bookassist’s Booking engine to help drive more traffic direct through your own website and sales channels call us for a chat or any specific assistance. It really couldn’t be much more simple to use.

Bookassist is managed in Scotland by the team at Plan B based in Ayrshire. We provide support and advice on all aspects of the Bookassist system and provide account management support on an on-going basis and provide pro-active communication and online marketing advice where required or contracted.

Tel 01292 521404

Thursday 10 November 2011

Growth in hotel bookings on mobile shows opportunites for hotels

Bookassist CEO Dr Des O'Mahony shares some data on hotel booking performance on mobile platforms, showing the clear and growing opportunities in the area and some surprises in the user patterns.

Bookassist launched its mobile web app solution for hotels in late 2009 ( and more than 150 hotels and hotel groups are now using the solution. We thought we'd share some of the results we are seeing with usage on mobile, both mobile access of regular hotel websites and mobile web app usage.

Growth Trends for Hotels

Trends in our data to date strongly indicate that city hotels perform far stronger on mobile than those outside cities, in terms of traffic and in terms of conversion of that traffic to bookings. Also, the lead-in time for bookings on mobile has proved to be very short, with more than 65% of all mobile bookings we track being for within 24 hours of arrival. The necessity of having last-minute availability on mobile is clear for city hotels given this trend.

While city hotels are performing much better on mobile, it is clear from our data that other hotels are also showing mobile business growth, though with a time lag compared to the city properties. We expect to see growth continue in all sectors on mobile, which represents a very real opportunity for hotels in the coming months and years, especially with industry figures showing over 100 million smart devices now being sold per quarter through 2011.

Traffic Growth and Conversion

Figure 1 shows an example of a small European city hotel group and the evolving mobile business it has seen through 2010 and on to today (the figures have been rounded for clarity but are otherwise accurate). During 2010, the hotel group did not operate a mobile-optimised web solution up to end July 2010, but adopted our mobile solution from the start of August 2010 onwards.

The growth in traffic during the first half of 2010 (blue graph) is attributable to the general mobile traffic growth trend in society based on the explosive sale of smart devices in the last number of years. The standard website that this hotel group used was bookable on mobile, but was not especially optimized for it, and recorded a relatively poor conversion of 1.1% to 1.24% across the six month period.

We introduced the webapp solution and saw an immediate change in conversion from mobile devices from 1.24% to 2.31% in the weeks prior to and after the launch, a clear vindication of optimized mobile strategy. The hotel group also indicated the availability of a mobile optimized solution on its online and offline marketing, helping increase the general mobile visitor growth trend from that time onwards (blue graph). Mobile advertising was also initiated, though its impact compared to the general mobile traffic growth trend is hard to quantify. Critically, the conversion continued to grow to finish the year at an impressive 2.91% conversion across all mobile platforms.

Revenue Growth

More importantly, the combination of capitalizing on traffic growth and an optimized webapp to drive conversion has had a very significant revenue impact. Bookings revenue from pre to post webapp time periods has risen from about €2,500 per month for the group to over €20,000 booking revenue per month in 2010 (green graph). This now represents a significant percentage of the group's online revenue and by the third quarter of 2011 had reached €35,000 in monthly revenue, with a conversion creeping up to 2.99%, a very welcome conversion rate for any hotel on any platform.

Overall for clients with this profile, we are seeing up to 5% of online revenue now attributable to mobile devices in 2011, from basically zero at the start of 2010.

Platform Specifics - Usage

Market figures for device sales currently show that about 50% of smart devices sold are Android-based. Despite this, only 15% of our figures show traffic from Android devices (see Figure 2). This trend is reflected in general web access data that tends to show Apple's iOS devices taking up to 80% of all online mobile traffic. It appears that since the Apple iOS devices are more of a premium product, their users are more committed users and more internet-savvy, while many Android phones are being supplied by telecom operators as their standard phones, even to users who have no interest in internet access. While our webapp is optimized for both iOS and Android, it is vital that iOS is optimized for in the first case since it represents the largest market right now.

Platform Specifics - Conversion

When we look at conversion figures, below, an extremely interesting picture emerges. Android users are converting way below the average, at less than 0.8%. iPhone users convert more than three times better at 2.5%, while iPad users convert at a whopping 8 times their Android cousins, at 6.5%. The iPad conversion in particular is strongly surprising and again reflects the attitude of the iPad use to internet usage and engagement. It is clearly vital that hotels consider targeting this platform preferentially and ensure their websites are optimized for it.

The Bottom Line

Mobile is a very real opportunity. Volume is growing, conversion can often be higher than regular web access and is definitely higher when optimized mobile solutions are deployed. iPad stands out as a clear opportunity and with the rate of sales of iPads and their dominance among travelers, it is clearly a target platform above all others. Short term booking is dominating and last minute availability on mobile is critical for successful conversion.

Dr Des O'Mahony is CEO and Founder of Bookassist, the technology and online strategy partner for hotels with offices in Dublin, Madrid, Paris, Rome, Vienna and Prague.

For further information on getting your hotel on a mobile version contact Bookassist Scotland on 01292 521404

Tuesday 8 November 2011

VisitBritain gets further £27 million for 2012

Some additional money has been earmarked for tourism marketing of Great Britian next year. Should complement the spend being undertaken by the Scottish Government and VisitScotland but will in all likelihood just overlap! I know overly cynical. Anyway the announcement was reported thus on TravelMole.

VisitBritain has been given a further £27 million Government funding to attract visitors from overseas.
Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt today announced the funding which is to capitalise on the international attention the UK will receive during 2012 - the year of the Queen's Diamond Jubilee, and the Olympic and Paralympic Games.

The UK aims to attract an extra 4.6 million visitors, spending an additional £2.3 billion across the country and supporting the creation of almost 60,000 new jobs.

This will be in addition to the existing £100 million match-funded marketing campaign being run by VisitBritain. It is part of the GREAT campaign launched by the Prime Minister in September to show the world that Britain is a great place to visit, to live, to invest and to do business with.

Chief Executive of VisitBritain Sandie Dawe said: "This additional funding means we will be able to run the largest tourism marketing campaign in our history. New Yorkers will see our ads in their papers and on the subway as they travel to work, meaning 72% of our target audience there will have a myriad of opportunities to see our campaign."

“In India and Paris we will also be on cinemas screens, while in China we will reach over 15 million potential visitors through a combination of magazines, subway and station ads, as well as using various online platforms."

"This GREAT campaign aims to reinvigorate our appeal in mature markets such as the USA where we have seen decline in recent years, and it will help raise our profile in the vital emerging markets, securing growth for the future.”

Friday 4 November 2011

Golf Tourism Scotland Awards 2011 Announced

The Scottish golf industry’s top honours have been announced at a glittering awards ceremony held in St Andrews. The annual Golf Tourism Scotland’s Gold Standard Awards is the sector’s blue-ribbon event where the very best of Scottish golf tourism is celebrated.

Hosted by Fairmont St Andrews, this year’s gala evening saw the presentation of 11 awards including the Special Achievement Award which was received by the former secretary of Prestwick Golf Club Ian Bunch. This year’s Young Industry Person of the Year was presented jointly to Simon Redmond from Macdonald Rusacks Hotel in St Andrews and Valerie Houston formerly of the Royal Golf Hotel in Dornoch.

The prestigious Golf Course of the Year award went to Kingsbarns Golf Links which beat off competition from the likes of Castle Stuart and North Berwick. In the accommodation provider category, this year’s hosts Fairmont St Andrews were named the country’s top resort, while Macdonald Rusacks Hotel was awarded the Large Hotel accolade.

Crail Golfing Society received the Golf Secretariat award and St Andrews Executive Travel was named Transport Operator of the Year. Elsewhere, Old Loans Inn at Troon received the Small Hotel/Guesthouse award while Meldrum House in Aberdeenshire was named Scotland’s best country hotel.

“This year’s awards reflect a busy year of events that have showcased the breadth and depth of Scotland ’s golfing sector,” noted GTS chairman Lee Derrick. “Many of the world’s leading amateur and professional players battled it out over courses across Scotland providing great opportunities to show the world what we do best. The industry as a whole benefits from these occasions, so with more high profile events scheduled for next year, including the Seniors Open at Turnberry, The Scottish Open returning to Castle Stuart and The Curtis Cup at The Nairn Golf Club these are undoubtedly exciting times for golf in Scotland .”

Other winners of the GTS Gold Standard Awards included Martin Roy of Carnoustie Golf Links who clinched the Caddiemaster of the Year accolade and Golf Scotland which picked up the Golf Tour Operator of the Year award.

The full list of winners is as follows:

GOLF COURSE OF THE YEAR. Nominations for this category were open to any golf course in Scotland that offers tee-times to visitors. And the winner is:

Kingsbarns Golf Links

GOLF SECRETARIAT OF THE YEAR. Nominations for this category were open to any golf club/course whose administration provides a service to visitors and/or the travel trade. And the winner is:

Crail Golfing Society

CADDIEMASTER OF THE YEAR. Nominations for this category were open to any caddiemaster providing a service to visitors and/or the travel trade. And the winner is:

Martin Roy, Carnoustie Golf Links

HOTEL OF THE YEAR (Small hotel/guest house category). Nominations for this category were open to accommodation providers with 20 or fewer bedrooms that provide services to golf visitors. And the winner is:

Old Loans Inn, Troon

HOTEL OF THE YEAR (Country house hotel category). Nominations for this category were open to hotels and exclusive-use properties operating in rural areas that provide services to golf visitors. And the winner is:

Meldrum House County Hotel, Aberdeenshire

HOTEL OF THE YEAR (Large hotel category). Nominations for this category were open to hotels with more than 20 bedrooms which provide services to golf visitors. And the winner is:

Macdonald Rusacks Hotel, St Andrews

HOTEL OF THE YEAR (Resort hotel category). Nominations for this category were open to resort hotels with golf course(s) attached. And the winner is:

Fairmont St Andrews

GOLF TOUR OPERATOR OF THE YEAR. Nominations for this category were open to any tour operator bringing golfers to Scotland . And the winner is:

Golf Scotland

TRANSPORT OPERATOR OF THE YEAR. Nominations for this category were open to any business providing transport services in Scotland including rail, road, air and sea. And the winner is:

St Andrews Executive Travel


Ian Bunch


Simon Redmond, Macdonald Rusacks Hotel and Valerie Houston, formerly of the Royal Golf Hotel in Dornoch

Thursday 3 November 2011

Digital Survey Scotland link

Following a discussion on Linkedin we decided to set up a short survey on digital, broadband and mobile services across Scotland with a view to generating responses from hospitality related businesses across the country.

So if it remains one of your bugbears - or even if it's not! - we'd be grateful if you could take a few minutes (and it is quick and simple) to complete a snapshot picture of the signals where you are - just click on the link.

Wednesday 2 November 2011

New Google Search Features Places Top Right?

Now the thing about monitoring Google searches is you're never quite sure whether what you are looking at has been live for days, weeks or months but I'm pretty sure that the addition of Hotels' Google Place information to the top right corner of the search screen is a relatively new addition - and must surely be a poisitive one for hotels seeking direct bookings through their own website.

It is however another flag if one was needed that your Google Places entry is of primary importance to your overall search strategy and if not in place it really must be by the end of play today. Not tomorrow. Today!

(See previous article on Google Places for Business)

However it also highlights some of the drawbacks of technology and content that is not as immediately updateable as others.

The example here is Google Street View.

Now you can update you images, your copy, guest reviews can be responded to and your online availability (we assume!) is updated regularly but what do you do if on Google Street View your property happens to have been snapped at an inopportune moment in time!

Like maybe there was a delivery truck outside, or anti capitality protesters had camped in your car park? Or perhaps like the example below at The Old Loans Inn in Troon you had just closed your hotel prior to demolition and refurbishment into an award winning hotel and restaurant in Ayrshire.

"Hi Google Street View? Can you send your guy around again to rephotograph our hotel please?"

Guess there's not really much you can do about the fact that's when the photography took place but there must be a way to have it removed from the new right hand side feature box. Anyone had experience?

Anyway main lesson is that this must be a positive for being found for your own business name and thereafter improved conversion. Go get your Google Places entry updated. Now!

And for those looking for a fantastic quality inn for your golfing holiday in Troon Scotland next year or a fantastic lunch or evening meal then The Old Loans Inn actually now looks like this and is a wonderful place  to visit!

Check it out online for yourself.