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CASE STUDY – The Fusion Group of Companies

Hotel and property entrepreneur Alex McKie says the hotel business has always been “in my blood”. Now Group Managing Director & CEO of The Fusion Group, Alex started out washing up pots and pans, working his way up through the ranks of hotel management to become Business Development Manager for the hotel and leisure resort Crieff Hydro for five years before launching out with own business venture. The Fusion Group, which celebrates its 15th anniversary this month, boasts a diverse portfolio of owned and managed hotels, corporate events companies besides many commercial property interests.

The Fusion Group has grown organically over the years, it has a staff of fifteen employees and facilitates between £8-£10 million in hotel transactions annually. A number of the properties in the Fusion Group’s portfolio, small to mid-sized hotels, have simply outsourced their reservations to Alex and his team. Many hoteliers are looking for better ways to find efficiencies; to help with sluggish sales or in some cases to help them prep the business for sale so they might finally retire.

2020 was a very challenging year for the industry overall, but The Fusion Group has seen incredible growth; expanding from 112 rooms or units (including cottages, apartments and lodges as well as hotel rooms) to over 600 units. Alex launched the commercial property agency, Drysdale & Company (buying/selling hotel and accommodation businesses) in early January of this year.

The Old Churches House Hotel

“I first started using freetobook’s software for one of my own properties, The Old Churches House Hotel in Dunblane, back in 2017. Ever since it’s has been my software of choice and we currently use freetobook, the online booking diary, channel managers, FabPay and Messaging, across all of our own accommodation units and those we manage. We have ten properties already ‘on boarded’ with freetobook and another couple being lined up.

Bothies, Logierait lodges, Royal Gardens

“Freetobook is very simple and intuitive to use on the user side and for customers. That’s not to say I don’t recognise the complexity of the technology. We use the freetobook diary to manage all the online bookings and have integrated this with the payment system FabPay and Messaging. With FabPay, we automate everything from processing the advance deposit to taking the rest of the payment on the morning of the guest’s arrival. The Messaging feature then also means we can provide contactless checking in details and make sure they are completely satisfied on arrival without the need for physical contact – something we all need to consider providing in this day and age. This can also help the hoteliers we work with to manage staffing levels and eliminate the need for someone to be at reception for most of the day.

Alex recalls an interesting turn of events which started off with his offer to purchase a property but resulted in a profitable partnership and the owners (quite literally) sailing off into the sunset. “I initially put in an offer to buy this 32-room hotel but the figure wasn’t what the owners were looking for in order for them to retire comfortably. Their asking price was, in my opinion, over-priced based on their occupancy levels and projections. At the end of our initial conversation, I offered to help them if I could and a couple of months later I did indeed get a call from them to take up this offer.

“So, we took over the reservations side of the hotel; moving them over from a manual diary to freetobook’s online booking system, adding in the Expedia channel manager and doing some off-line promotion. In the two years that followed, we more than doubled the hotel’s rooms revenue and the owners accepted a timely purchase at their original asking price. They bought a boat – their retirement dream – and are currently living on it just off the coast of Croatia.”

So what lies ahead for the next 12 months?

“Given what’s happened in the last 12 months it’s difficult to predict, but one thing for sure is that there will be further opportunities across the sector for all businesses within the group. The possibilities are endless as someone once said.”

To contact Alex directly; Email alex@drysdaleandcompany.co.uk

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