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Case study: Lamlash Bay Hotel, Island of Arran:

Three years ago Liz and husband Ian Kirsop bought the neglected Lamlash Bay Hotel on the island of Arran.

After three months working on the major repairs and renovations, they opened their doors to guests offering up only two fully finished bedrooms. As the work progressed throughout the property, more and more of the 10 rooms were readied for paying guests.

Flash forward to April 2012 and the Lamlash Bay Hotel now employs around six staff in the winter growing to a team of 12 in the summer months. All of the hotel employees live on the island of Arran and are part of the local community, which contributes to a richer and more rewarding experience for their guests according to co-owner Liz. "Our guests tell us it's a home away from home as our staff are so knowledgeable about the island" she says.

Formerly the Marketing and Sponsorship Manager for West Sound Radio, Liz finds the venture of running a 10-bedroom establishment a challenging but thoroughly rewarding one. Now in their third year of running Lamlash Bay Hotel, they are enjoying the fruits of their renovation labour and repeat bookings are stronger than ever.

On re-opening the property for business, most of the hotel customers were walkins but now online booking accounts for the vast majority of this business. After trying out a number of room booking systems over the last couple of years and growing disenchanted by the high commission fees, Lamlash owners Liz and Ian discovered freetobook, which takes no commission for bookings that come directly through the hotel's website.

In just three months since signing up, Liz calculates a saving of around £2,000-£3,000 on commission she would normally have paid to sites including Visit Scotland's booking system (which also charged a monthly fee).

"Overall the biggest impact for us, over and above the savings on commissions paid, is the system's ease of use. All of the staff were quickly and comfortably able to use it. We realize that the software is actually very sophisticated and we have only scratched the surface in terms of what this might do for us to market our rooms more effectively."

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