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Take me to church: the rise of champing

Take me to church: the rise of champing

Camping is always marching on, always diversifying, always presenting something new. But who would have thought of putting camping and churches together?

The Churches Conservation Trust, that’s who.

Take a disused church steeped in history. Take friends and families who are always looking for the next adventure, something different, something to feed the soul. Put them together and you have champing. Church camping. A juxtaposed stay as down to earth yet as close to heaven as you’ll ever get.

The Champing churches can sleep from 2 to 16 people. The hire of a church is completely exclusive; you won’t be rubbing shoulders with any strangers, apart from maybe the odd spider or two. Child-friendly, dog-friendly, group-friendly, picnic-friendly, alcohol-friendly, the experience is surely one to consider if you’re looking for an authentic, unforgettable mini-break experience.

Facilities are basic with camping beds, rugs, cushions and camping chairs supplied but you will have to rely on your own bedding and blankets to keep warm. It isn’t fancy yet there is a certain magic and humour about having the free run of a church for a night or two that makes it seem actually quite spoily. Think of it as a massive tent filled with history. Imagine lying there with the moonlight coming through the stained glass windows, pondering awhile on all the people who have paced the flagstones over hundreds of years. Imagine the kids playing hide and seek in the churchyard and swapping spooky stories by torchlight. That is quite something. And to top the Blytonesque experience, a steaming breakfast butty will be delivered to you by a friendly local in the morning. Sold.

Brainchild of Peter Aires, director of the Churches Conservation Trust in the south east, the scheme was piloted in 2014 and launched officially in 2015 with three churches. More than 150 holidaymakers stayed at a champing church that year, including Andrew Flintoff, the former England cricket captain, who documented his overnight stay in Aldwincle on Sky One after England won the Ashes series.

In 2016 the trust opened a further four more churches for their champing experience and nearly 700 guests came through their doors. The movement (for it certainly feels like a movement) is increasing to twelve churches in 2017. It is an imaginative way to generate income to maintain these congregation-less churches while offering a new phenomenon in camping.

Champing is certainly making the press sit up and take notice. It has been featured in the likes of The Times, The National Geographic, The Telegraph, The Guardian, The Independent and even on national TV. It really feels like there is a wave to catch here. With a new website launched today at www.champing.co.uk and our online booking facility in place to support them, the Churches Conservation Trust is already ramping up the bookings, even from as far afield as America.

So, are you going to frequent church anytime soon? We most certainly are. Champing. It’s the one to watch.

Will you be providing mild camping next season?

Will you be providing mild camping next season?

A new camping industry trend has been identified by VisitScotland and is set to roll down the length and breadth of the British Isles over the next few seasons.

Dubbed ‘mild camping’, it is a type of camping for people who want to experience the wild outdoors but in a safer environment. It sits somewhere between wild camping and the kind of experience you’d get on a traditional family campsite. So rather than hanging off a cliff edge somewhere by yourself hoping for the best, you might be pitched in a wild field with the landowner within reach for greater security. It provides a down-to-earth, exhilarating experience without the worry.

It is almost anti-glamping, the other end of the scale. No marked-out pitches will be necessary, electrical hook-up will be a no-no, campfires a must. Mud won’t be frowned on, facilities can be dressed down and basic. The phenomenon opens a new world to landowners, holiday parks and campsites already in business or those starting out. It lends an opportunity to re-evaluate land stock, rebrand, or launch a business in a more environmentally sustainable way.

In an age of increased digital immersion and fast-paced living, the desire among consumers to escape to the simplicity of the great outdoors is staggering. Some are turning their backs on holidays abroad completely in favour of camping among the undulating hills and hedgerows of our fair isle. This gives the camping industry both the need and the opportunity to continually diversify, which is good news for camping businesses and good news for us. Mild camping is a new craze within the industry but it most certainly won’t be the last.

If you are a camping business looking for an online booking system to get you connected to the right marketplace and with the functionality to keep your business up with the changes, sign up to Anytime Booking now. We are the camping people.

The challenges of a holiday park: increased demand requires increased innovation

The challenges of a holiday park: increased demand requires increased innovation

In recent years, the UK holiday market has been really up against it. Soaring fuel prices, the credit crunch and some pretty crummy weather saw holidaymakers tightening their belts and opting for cheap holidays abroad or staying at home altogether. However, the self-catering market has always shown a sense of resilience and as holidaymakers were forced to look for better value in their holidays, the ‘staycation’ factor boomed. A major benefactor was, of course, the holiday park.

In 2016, the phenomenon still breathes life and boasts higher figures than pre-recession. This remains good news for holiday parks. With falling oil prices and international security issues plastered all over the news, leisure-seekers are more likely than ever to put fuel in their car to go on their holidays in the UK, especially for short-breaks.

So, with holidaymakers being driven nicely towards the open arms of UK holiday parks, what are the main issues of the day for holiday park managers?

New behaviour, higher expectations

Guests are more demanding. They have more choice, more flexibility, and more say in a connected world. The domestic tourism market is also changing demographically. The greatest growth areas are the retiree and higher social group (or ABC1) markets. The trend towards staycations is becoming increasingly concentrated at the upper end of the market, while much of the current UK tourist infrastructure is concentrated at the lower end.

Holiday park operators are starting to address this shift; many of them are investing in glamping facilities or other luxury accommodation and products to encourage a new kind of experience on site. Catering with, and selling, local produce is also becoming more important, as is promoting ‘wellness’ to a growing band of new clientele by providing, for example, spa days and a range of life-affirming activities.

More online visibility, more connectivity

Holidaymakers now expect to be able to browse a holiday on a responsive website from their mobile or tablet. They want to see top quality, attractive photography and clear, honest information about what kind of holiday experience they will get. They also expect to be able to book their holiday online there and then through a clear, responsive booking engine. And God forbid if a destination doesn’t have WiFi! Holiday park owners can look into improving their websites and connectivity to dramatically reduce turn-aways from potential guests and therefore any loss of precious revenue.

Operational and administrative overload

If you’re out on the road as much as we are, you will often hear park owners say, “Owning, managing or working on a park is a way of life, not a job.” Life is very demanding; there are copious hours of round the clock admin, year-round stress keeping up occupancy levels, producing effective targeted marketing, and keeping the site itself maintained. Getting a good overview of the operational status of the business while keeping a hand on all the nuts and bolts of running a busy holiday park is paramount to an owner or manager.

So the holiday park environment has become challenging; it’s no longer okay just to receive bookings and carry out general maintenance and upkeep. It’s about really knowing customers, nurturing those relationships, planning smarter, constantly innovating and reacting to trends, and providing a gold star customer experience.

This is where a good PMS needs to step in, and Anytime Booking fits the bill

Anytime Booking is a PMS (property management software) that makes life easier for park owners and the very busy members of staff who work on site, addressing the challenges above.

Designed specifically for this sector, Anytime Booking is a responsive online booking and site management software that enables parks to sell holidays online, market through other channels such as Trip Advisor, Booking.com and Pitch Up, handle payments, manage reception, reduce admin, reduce running costs and produce a whole host of operational reporting and segmented marketing to the customers they want to attract. We also give parks the opportunity to sell activities, courses and any other extras such as fire-pit hire, logs, welcome packs, gift vouchers, tickets to barbecue nights, you name it.

“Not only has Anytime Booking revolutionised how I run my business, and kept it open all year round,” says Andrew Radford of Home Farm Camping and Caravanning Park, “an additional and welcome bonus is that we have had a massive increase in bookings. Before, I was often unable to get back to customers soon enough. Keeping track of payments, receipts, who is on site and who is arriving are all so simple with Anytime Booking – the system even sends out email communication, directions and a map on its own! What better service could you give to your guests?”

If you want Anytime Booking to help your holiday park go the extra mile to deliver a gold standard customer service, please contact us on 01326 574660 or info@anytimebooking.co.uk.

Every Word Means Business

Every Word Means Business

This blog looks at the best ways to communicate with your guests in the digital era.

It covers three key areas to give you food for thought:

  • Making sure your website is working hard enough to best reflect the holiday experience that you are offering.
  • Looking at pre-arrival communications with your guests to make sure you’re pitching to them just right.
  • Understanding your clientele and building ongoing relationships using clever content to promote guest loyalty, referral and repeat business.

Your website: is it working hard enough for you?

Glampers want to live and breathe the great outdoors while moving beyond traditional camping and trying something different to the good old self-catering cottage. As such, they are expecting a VIP service, so the images and content on your website should reflect that. Getting your business online is one of the best things you can do to reach new and potential customers.  But there’s an art to getting it right. Having a clear website and further information ready to fire out to them is absolutely key. There are some basic steps to help you make your website memorable and engaging.

Strong and clear message

Your website is your best chance to make a lasting impression to your customers. They will need to get the very essence of your holiday offering from the moment they land on your homepage. They want to see top quality, attractive photography and clear, honest information about what kind of holiday experience they will get. Addressing this will dramatically reduce turnaways from potential guests and therefore any loss of precious revenue. Many websites online fail to communicate the essence of their business to customers on their homepage and lose valuable leads and sales as a result. Make it count.

Responsiveness and connectivity

Holidaymakers now expect to be able to browse a holiday on a responsive website from their mobile or tablet. They also expect to be able to book their holiday online there and then through a clear, responsive booking engine. No-one has the patience for paper booking forms and cheques anymore! This is so important. Responsiveness doesn’t have to cost an arm and leg either. Depending on your budget, you can either go to your local web design agency, or use a simple website builder and do it yourself. Check out this website builder comparison site, it’s a great tool to work out which one is best for you: http://www.websitebuilderexpert.com/.

Easy navigation

Keep the navigation around your website easy, really easy! Put yourselves in your visitors’ shoes and imagine what you would want to find out before you make a choice. Include well-structured pages and clearly labelled tabs that intuitively lead visitors to relevant sections of your website. The moment you start to add pages in lots of sub headings, the customer is going to head off to the next website. The customer journey is very important, if you make them feel cared for, wanted and welcomed from the beginning you are more likely to be making that sale.

Content is king

Your website must convey relevant content to your visitors about your accommodation and site, but also things to do and what’s going around you, where you fit in the world. Your content is the single most important element in increasing customers. SEO (search engine optimization) plays a huge part in people finding you online. You’ll want to include keywords that are relevant to your business and industry in your page titles, meta tags, headings and in your website’s content. If you’re not a good content writer, it’s important to find one, you’ll thank them for what they can do for you. Don’t forget to also include beautiful, professional photos of your site and give them alt tags.

If you haven’t already, make sure you have Google Analytics tracking on your website. This is a sure way of knowing your pages are being read, how long visitors to your site are browsing for and which are your most popular pages. Another cool tool is https://www.crazyegg.com/.

Build a community

Your business will benefit if you build a community, so visitors feel they have the chance to become part of your gang. Start with the obvious networks you know and are active on – the most common being Facebook and Twitter. Include Facebook “Like” from your business Facebook page or a Twitter follow button will allow visitors to connect with you through other media. It’s also wise to create and maintain a blog as a way of talking directly to your fans, developing the level of trust and to increase content. The use of reviews and testimonials also increases your desirability.


Essential information pages you will need on your website

About Us: Don’t be shy! Who are you? Where do you come from? What makes you tick? What are your hopes and dreams? Making your guests feel something will influence their decision to stay with you.

The Accommodation: Make this visual as well as providing a list of what’s included. If you have a structured building, try and get a floor plan as well as high quality images. If there’s something quirky about it, point it out. It isn’t enough to say it’s a bell tent or pod. Why will they love it? Show them some great photography and content.

The Experience: The customer is looking for something a little different. Be creative, but be real. Tell them more about yourselves, the local area, the farm on which they’re staying, the people involved, the animals they might find there. Will they be feeding goats called Greta and Bob before breakfast? Bring your story to life.

Location: This is a little more than just your address details. Are you in the middle of a farm, are you 20 miles from the nearest shop? As well as being really informative, this helps on the SEO front. A little pin on a map and your full address is super helpful!

FAQs: Glamping is great. You can rock up with little ‘stuff’ and relax. Give your guest a list of FAQs so they know what to expect on your site. Tell your customer what’s including in their stay, what they do and don’t need to bring. We went glamping last year, it was a fantastic place, everything was provided, kitchen utensils, bed linen, tea and coffee. But no toilet roll!

Availability and Pricing: Always display your availability and pricing on your website. If you provide this information via your booking management system it will be delivered in real time and the customer will have the opportunity to book there and then, that pitch, for that price. No disappointment.

Book Now : Implement a Book Now button, a super quick way to let the customer react to your offering. You can attach this to your booking system by a simple web address straight to the booking form. Easily added to most social media channels too!

Contact: Even today, there are still plenty of people who would prefer to call you to make a booking. Make your telephone number easy to find!


Pre-arrival communication sets expectations and improves the guest experience

The guest experience has already started, they have found you online and made a booking. Now don’t disappoint. It’s really important to keep up that momentum of communication.

Acknowledge their booking, thank them, say you’re looking forward to seeing them. Confirm dates and times. Make yourself available for further questions. You won’t regret going the extra mile. A good PMS (property management system) or online booking system [such as Anytime!] will take the pain out of regular communications and automate the process for you once you have set up the template communications you want to fire out.

Be helpful. Again, put yourself in the shoes of your guests. What they should bring? What do you provide on site? Remind them of some of your facilities, your farm shop hours, how to check-in.

Make sure that you personalise the pre-arrival communications that you send out. The right information at the right time, empowers your guests and helps them prepare for their stay. This timely communication staves off any fears, simplifies the pre-arrival process, and improves the holiday experience. You’ll benefit by decreasing no-shows and increasing engagement and satisfaction.

Setting the tone

  1. Keep it cool and choose words carefully
  2. Choose appropriate greetings and closing
  3. Write in an active voice
  4. Order the information
  5. Stylised fonts, capitals and bold

Supporting articles on setting the tone…





Understanding and communicating with your guests to build relationships and loyalty

Less transactional, more personal
In order to build relationships and create memorable stays for your customers, you must move beyond thinking of customer service as a transactional thing. It’s so important to personalise your customer service. Transactional customer service can be friendly and welcoming, but it’s worth going that bit further to try to gain a personal or emotional connection with your customers. This is what ultimately builds loyalty. Personalised customer service shows your guests that you recognise them, that you are listening to them, understanding them and that you care about them.

When you physically see your guests, be genuine, be nice, smile, put them first. Stop chatting to your colleague or typing or sharpening your pencils! First impressions really do matter.

Think outside of the box to treat your best customers

Give your loyal customers plenty of reasons to stay with you and no reasons to leave. Push your business to continually find ways to make your customers’ holidays better. Look after your best customers, and they will tell everyone about you. Put a hand-written note in their accommodation, randomly surprise them with an upgrade or a bottle of champagne in their welcome pack. It’s okay to think outside of the box and do things like this. Glampers are a discerning crowd and will shout from the roof-tops if they feel spoilt by you.

In an era when a tweet or a bad tripadvisor review can tarnish your brand and sales, you have to focus more on the customer experience. Wowing the customer will bring you brand loyalty and word of mouth referrals, without doubt. By treating your customers well, you will be amazed at how willing they are to support your business.

Have virtual conversations with your customer base

Give your customers the chance to opt in to receiving communications from you. Look at segmenting your customer base and offering them something, a discount to something, or information that relates specifically to them. Families, walkers, cyclists, pet-lovers, first-time campers, you can engage with them on a more individual level with tailored content. The more it comes across as a conversation the better.

Use social media too – on your Facebook or Twitter page, post updates no matter how big or small or anecdotal — this will make your customers feel like they know you. They will have a behind-the-scenes look into your world and you will make them feel something. Feeling is influencing.

Reward repeat customers – it’s a no brainer. Keep thanking them for coming back. And remember to say thank you in some way to guests who refer their friends’ business on to you too!

Encourage reviews

If you like what you hear from your guests, ask them if it’s okay to share that snippet with your other visitors, if it’s okay to give them 5 seconds of fame on Twitter or Facebook. If you are engaging, warm, and full of good humour, you’ll be amazed at how forthcoming your visitors become with the things they like about you! Feed the fan base and grow that feeling of community.

We hope you find the tips in this blog helpful. If you have any questions, please come back to us on sales@anytimebooking.co.uk

Glamping: Looking for A New Life in the Country?

Glamping: Looking for A New Life in the Country?

Some simple tips to get you started

Anytime Booking is a PMS (property management software) company helping glamping businesses all over the UK and Europe to get established and to sell their holidays online. Here are some of our top tips for success!

Choose your land wisely and get planning permission from the beginning

With tourism development and farm diversification on the rise, there is a lot of help out there from planning departments. Talk to a planning consultant with experience of establishing glamping sites. If your location is within a 1-3 hour drive from a major city you will be able to capitalise on short-breaks from the rat-race.

Make good provision for private space

Glamping is very much at the top end of the hospitality industry so plan for decent sized plots, protected al fresco cooking and dining, heating, and quality showers and toilets – ensuite if possible!

Know your customers and your competition

It is important to identify who you want your main customer to be. This decision may influence your location, the extra activities your site will offer and even the type and size of your glamping structures. It is often wise to choose between catering for families or couples. By the same token, keep an eye on your competition and try to beat them in what you can offer.

Pay attention to the detail

Glamping is about high-end finishes and luxurious notes. Be generous with your budgeting; things will always cost more than you think. Have a business plan with projected rates and occupancy levels. Track your spend versus revenue. Don’t forget to factor in your accommodation and public liability insurance.

It’s ok to start small and grow

Give your business the chance to develop over time. You can always add new safari tents, pods or shepherd’s huts after a few seasons if you have the space. This way you can remain in complete control and can make decisions based on proven track record.

Get connected!

To maximise your conversion rate for enquiries, build a responsive website to showcase your business complete with high-quality photography and friendly, approachable writing. Introduce WiFi to your site if you can; while some visitors want true escapism, most do not! WiFi accessibility can be a defining factor in whether a guest books a holiday.

Invest in an online booking system with a PMS (property management software)

Every holiday-maker these days expects to be able to book online, whether direct through your website or via an OTA channel (online travel agent, such as TripAdvisor and the Glamping Hub). Befriend technology and make it easy for people to buy a holiday with you!

A good cloud-based PMS like Anytime Booking should be a central hub to your business and will enable it to run smartly and successfully. From bookings, availability, and reception desk features to task lists, financials, reporting, communications, e-marketing – we will help you do it all.

Sign up today to get started!

Top reasons for using Anytime Booking

Top reasons for using Anytime Booking

Simply put, with us on side, you will be more efficient and sell more holidays online

  1. Convert your web traffic into sales and keep ahead of the competition
  2. Cloud-based software accessible anywhere, Anytime
  3. Unlimited bookings, no commission
  4. Decrease your costs by saving time and money on administration
  5. Speed up your cash-flow with secure, stress-free online transactions
  6. Increase your exposure using Anytime Channel Management
  7. Show your browsing customers live availability
  8. Seamless integration into your website and branding
  9. Clever reporting, statistics and revenue tracking
  10. Enhance your CRM (customer relationship management)
  11. Fully supported software, with dedicated email and telephone support