We are very happy to announce that in June 2017 we signed up our first international Together Group in Kingston, NY, USA, through our Together Programme
The group consists of 6 high-quality lodgings which aim to provide "unique accommodation, lovingly prepared food and personalised hospitality", as stated on their website.
We managed to catch up with the owner of one of the properties in the group. Here is what Larry from Rondout Inn told us about the whole process from the idea to the setup and the future aspirations for this new Together Group.
Larry, can you tell us more about the idea of organising a Together Group and how did you bring up the Boutique Inns together?
A few friends recently established short-term lodging (Inns or B&Bs). So, when we were full and had a booking request, we would call around to see who had availability. I had been using freetobook for about 1 year and have been quite pleased. I was particularly happy with prompt and clear responses to questions and problems. I was the only one among my few friends using freetobook. However, when I learned about your Get Together Programme, I thought it could be a benefit to the group. I am saying this because if I was not confident and comfortable with the people at freetobook, I would not have moved forward with this project.
We are about a 2-hour drive from New York City. Over the last few years the region we live in, Hudson River Valley, has become an important tourist destination, with Kingston being one of the more significant cities along the Hudson River. With Kingston becoming a more important destination, I thought the timing was right to benefit from our own OTA site.
I started with a couple of friends who liked the idea, and they agreed to work with me on the project. We then reached out to a few more B&Bs and now have a small group of 6. Being that we do call ourselves Boutique Inns, we have established standards including on-site inspections to qualify as a Boutique Inn. We do plan on increasing our numbers, but in a selective way.
That is a very interesting story. Can you tell us more about the setup process? Did you encounter any difficulties and how did you deal with them?
At first, it took me a while to get my head around how it actually works. I didn't understand the reason for 2 separate URLs etc. I appreciated Iain's patience in explaining everything to me. But frankly, the biggest difficulty was convincing people to convert to freetobook. Especially, when they are happy with their current reservation system. Some people would not switch because it was just too much hassle, others would not switch because there were some features that freetobook did not offer, such as being able to book the entire Inn which would block out all rooms and vice versa. Also, some wanted better connectivity to other channels.
We also ran into a few technical difficulties, however, Iain was able to resolve them.
Though overall for a project like this, I felt, in spite of a few hitches, it went rather smoothly and quickly. I also owe this to having a great team to work with. Nancy, owner of Gallery Inn was our webmaster. Tamara, the owner of Forsyth B&B, took care of our logo development and will be working on our marketing. BC, co-owner of Rondout Inn did much of the copy for our website.
Lastly, we know that you have just started, but can you share with us any future aspirations for the group?
Our more immediate aspiration is to build traffic for our website. We will be reaching out to various businesses and organisations to establish linkages. We will also be working on Social Media marketing with Instagram and Facebook. At the same time, we will be seeking out more "Boutique" properties that we can bring into our group.
After we get all the kinks worked out and things are running well we may consider expanding to other villages and towns along the Hudson. However, we need to determine if the financial model makes sense. The Kingston model was not designed for profit, but to support and build our local community.
Thank you, Larry. We wish you great success and quick growth in numbers. If you want to find out more about other Together Groups check our case studies under "Better Together".