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Tips to increase direct bookings to your campsite or glamping site

Tips to increase direct bookings to your campsite or glamping site

Do you want to take more direct online bookings and cut down on the commission you’re giving away?

 

Online travel agencies (OTAs) can be very useful for upping your occupancy in the shoulder months. They can take the sweat out of your marketing efforts, dressing you up in their shop windows and showing you off to thousands of potential visitors without you having to put in too much effort. But with that, you give away fistfuls of cash every time you take a booking from them.

 

While Anytime connects campsites, glamping sites and holiday cottages to a whole host of industry-relevant OTAs and portal sites to give you the choice of where you want to sell your offerings, you may want to concentrate on taking more direct online bookings.

 

Tips

 

  1. We’ve just said that OTAs eat up a chunk of commission every time they push a booking your way, but listing with them can increase the number of people who visit your website direct after hearing about you through them. So, list with them. But you don’t need to put every pitch, pod, room or property up (wink).
  2. Make your website really appealing. It doesn’t need to be expensive or pages and pages long. You just need to succinctly tell potential visitors what you have on offer, why you’re different from the rest and show them some gorgeous (but truthful) photography – it’s always worth investing in a professional photographer as quality images really do sell the dream.
  3. Two little words: Book Now. Make sure you have a prominent Book Now button on every page of your website, it’s the most powerful call to action you have. Don’t make people dig around trying to find it, they’ll turn away and you’ll lose business. Install one of these and your direct online bookings will sky rocket.
  4. Use videos. Footage from your smartphone will do. Talk to camera about what someone can expect from a holiday with you, give them a little tour. Better still, ask a departing guest to leave you a quick video testimonial about their experience. You can offer them a free night on their next stay for their trouble – but the extra business it will push your way will more than make up for the giveaway. Instant video reviews result in more direct online bookings.
  5. Your accommodation is your bread and butter, no question, but today’s discerning guest expects more. Whether it’s a free box of eggs for your camper to cook over a campfire or a personalised welcome hamper on arrival at their glamping pod – think of the little extras that might encourage more direct return business or recommendation to friends. Customer loyalty can only mean good things for you!
  6. Build up a community on social media and email marketing. Share your news and anything anecdotal you might find about the space you occupy. It’s fun to do once you get into it, you’ll find your style and followers help to create a buzz around your business. Encourage your visitors to post their holiday pics and say nice things about you. It works. Engaging with your existing customers is a powerful tool on your road to increasing direct online bookings.
  7. Improving your customer experience includes improving their booking journey. Ignore this at your peril. You need a good online booking and management system at the heart of your business. Your booking process must be responsive to any size mobile device (ours is). It must be intuitive (tick). It must be able to calculate all those extras like dogs and awning hire (check). It must be able to take live payments (like ours) and send out confirmations automatically (yep).

We do have loads more tips but if you’re ready to act on at least tip number 7, contact us now!

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.

The Tegstove by Tegology: a stove with serious charge

The Tegstove by Tegology: a stove with serious charge

We met Spencer of Tegology at The Glamping Show this year and were immediately bowled over by his nifty bit of thinking that is set to change how campers think about stoves forever.

Is it one of the coolest things we’ve seen for a while on the camping scene? Yes. Is it a stove? Yes. Is it a charger? Well, yes. It is so clever. No wonder Peter Jones couldn’t say no when Spencer presented it to him in The Dragon’s Den.

The cool bit 

The reason the Tegstove is so achingly cool is because it does the things you’ve always wanted one stove to do and more. It is compact, it is extremely stable, it controls the heat over a wider cooking area (no burnt bits in the middle!) and it stores energy so you can use it to charge your mobile devices. It ticks every box plus a box you didn’t even realise was there.

Who would’ve thought you could go completely wild camping, cook up a huge pan of chilli without it falling over or burning, and have the facility to remain in touch with the outside world at the same time? Great if you need to quickly post up that pic of the elusive Bigfoot. Or do something serious like catch up with the news or an important email. Or show your friends at home how fabulous you look beside your campfire in your grown-up onesie. You’ll wonder how you ever got by without it.

The science bit

Standard camping stoves will often use a mix of Butane, Propane and Isobutane to create a gas that works in cold climates. This is an unstable and expensive method. Tegstove uses widely available, cost-effective, clean-burning butane gas.

Butane is better gas – it comes in lighter cylinders, it can be stored inside, it’s cheaper, less volatile and readily available.

However, it gets cold fast and the pressure reduces – but Tegstove has harnessed this to create a greater difference in temperature between the hot and cold plates. The result? A strong controlled flame and stable production of electricity using a Thermoelectric Generator (TEG).

The ordering bit (because we know you’ll want to)

Go to the Tegology website and preorder your kit. It will be delivered in April 2017 just in time for the next camping season! Then sit back and wait smugly, knowing just how much this gadget will impress your friends and fellow campers.

Congratulations to Spencer and the Tegology team! You’ve made big fans out of us here at Anytime Booking, you’re onto a big winner!

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!

The Glamping Show: be there or be a square tent-peg

The Glamping Show: be there or be a square tent-peg

Anytime Booking is a huge fan of The Glamping Show (www.theglampingshow.com). Now in its second year, it is being held at Stoneleigh Park on 22nd-24th September and is poised to be bigger and better than last year. Glamping is steaming ahead as one of the fastest growing holiday market sectors in the UK and around the world; the UK slice is set to be worth 1.8 billion by 2017. It is refreshing to see a dedicated trade show for the industry when there is more demand than ever for expertise in one place to quench this insatiable thirst for all things glamping.

Register free to attend this amazing event! Find us on stand 136!

Make sure you don’t miss out – register here to get the very latest news, advice, equipment and gadgetry in the industry!

So why is glamping such a success?

Provenance and authentic experiences are more important to the holidaymaker than ever. Novel and nostalgic, glamping is the perfect soul-remedy for the pressures of modern life. The very spirit of being in the great outdoors, watching the sunlight stream through the trees, listening to crickets, enjoying a campfire and eating produce from the surrounding landscape is very much there, but all with a certain style.

Imagine the world slowing down. Exchange your orange squash for hand-pressed lemonade. Trade old tin saucepans for an enticing dutch oven swinging over a fire-pit. Swap your roll mats and sleeping bags for a kingsize bed with cotton sheets, torch light for fairy lights and damp zip-up canvas for majestic safari tent or a perfectly formed pod with ensuite. Having some luxuries around you doesn’t mean you are any less close to nature. And you might even find you enjoy it more.

Glamping sets a different kind of scene for holidays, weddings, hen and stag parties, birthday celebrations, reunions and festivals. Hotels and holiday chains are increasingly bringing glamping facilities into their offerings to enjoy a slice of the action. Haven Holidays, a mainstay of the family holiday in Britain, is a case in point – they have launched new holiday experiences in super-tents, yurts, geodomes and safari tents. The very message in a chain like Haven investing in glamping is that the future of this slice of the holiday market is secure and bright.

Make sure you know your guests

Glamping is the thoughtful end of the holiday market, where all the frills and spills have been thought about and lovingly provided. If you are a glampsite owner, or are seriously considering becoming one, this does put you under pressure to know your customers deeper though. Some customers want to feel the mud squelching between their toes, but they just don’t want to carry all their stuff with them, so it’s a choice of convenience. Others expect sheer luxury and if there is no fluffy robe hanging on the back of their ensuite door, they won’t be back. Know which end of the glamping market you’re going after and set the scene.

This end of the holiday market has really moved on in the past couple of years. You can no longer simply stick up a few unusually shaped tents and cross fingers that this will turn into a good little business. Glamping presents so many more accommodation choices now but it has also become much more than the physical structure you’re staying in, it’s about the holistic experience. As such, the high service level you provide, the little extras and the adventure need to be reflected in the holiday proposition from outset to finish. You need to tell a story that in effect then sells itself.

Look to technology to keep you ahead

If you are a holiday business of any kind, the actual technology does not need to be a barrier to your visibility on the web. We recommend that the hub of any successful glampsite should be a well designed website with flawless photography and a flexible online booking management system plugged into it. Entice your customers in from the very beginning, show them what’s different about you, and make it easy for them to book a holiday online with you.

This is where Anytime Booking can step in to help you manage your business while enhancing your customer service and, in turn, your guest experience.

Our system will drive direct bookings to your website and link with the OTAs (online travel agents) of your choice to increase your occupancy and revenue. We can help you delve deeper to manage the relationships you have with your customers. The powerful CRM enables you to retain all the information you need about your customers to communicate with them time and again.

We also support all the aspects of a busy reception desk, including taking payments. For complete ease, you can even use our own payment gateway, Anytime Payments, which talks to your existing merchant provider.

So come and find us at The Glamping Show on stand 136, we love to talk! 

We will show you how Anytime Booking’s powerful functionality and flexibility will help you manage and grow your flourishing glamping business.

It’s more pertinent than ever to get ahead because according to VisitEngland, TripAdvisor and just about any travel expert going, the glamping phenomenon is no longer a trend, it is a bona fide holiday choice, it’s getting competitive out there and it’s here to stay. Have a happy Show!