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Case study: Wharf House

The Wharf House's award-winning (AA Rosette) restaurant opened up in 2004 with the aim that once profitable, this would enable David Penny, the property's visionary Commercial Director to open up seven guest bedrooms. This goal was achieved in just a few short years and now this successful restaurant with rooms has gone from strength to strength, scooping up numerous accolades (AA 4 Star Gold Accommodation and Green Tourism Gold Star Award) and rave reviews.

"We were very skeptical about freetobook at first to be honest. We undertook two weeks of proper testing and hard, critical analysis across a number of competitive booking software systems to prove that freetobook did what it promised - facilitate direct bookings on our own website for free. Furthermore, its flexibility and ease of use made it the right choice. We used just the basic (and free) online booking software for two years before then signing up for a number of channel manager connections to the OTAs."

"Freetobook's constant evolution is an essential part of its winning formula. Also being able to speak to real people, the freetobook team at the end of the phone is essential for other small businesses like ours."

The Wharf House is a member of the Wye Valley and Forest of Dean Tourism Association, a disparate group of motivated local businesses all claiming their livelihood in whole or in part from the tourism industry in the area.

"The majority of our bookings are coming to us via the OTAs. I maintain that for independent property owners, our competitors aren't just the OTA's but also the corporate hotel chains which is why freetobook's TOGETHER is so important. Small property owners SHOULD be working with other local businesses."

"Actually it's also a smart move to use the information and data that the OTA's have for the general public to build up a profile of your local area. One really useful tool that has launched which we used to great effect is the local occupancy rate. It's there to incentivize bookings, if folk are thinking about a stay they will check out a few options. If they return to find the local occupancy is rising its more likely they will book then and there. During busy periods for our local area with major events nearby, we review these figures on a daily basis and 'tweak' our nightly rates for that week accordingly. It's a numbers game and we always want to provide value for money."

David warns other freetobookers to be wary of the OTA's grip on the customer emails or 'cloaked' emails, "We all need to ensure we take control of the relationship with our guests, to make sure we get that email address and the follow up re-marketing directly to them our special offers and packages."

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