Dene Guest House ditches pen and paper, grows direct bookings

A short walk away from the Royal Botanic Garden in Edinburgh, Scotland, is the charming and quaint Dene Guest House. Its 13 rooms are available in many sizes, and mix modern design with traditional.

With freebies that include breakfast and wifi, the pet-friendly property is a holder of a TripAdvisor Certificate of Excellence, proving the benefits of providing guests exceptional customer service and value for money, as well as cleanliness and a great location.

Manager Simone Korber is responsible for running the business, working every day from 7.30am to 8.00pm. It’s a job that demands a lot from Simone on any given day, no less one that involves struggling with technology.

Like so many other operators of a small accommodation business, Simone managed reservations manually and forewent greater visibility online as a result. While the setup was sustainable for a while, Simone came to the realisation in 2015 that the risks to her business had become too big.

An uphill battle

Dene Guest House faced a lot of competition that year, as tourists from all over the world flocked into Edinburgh. To Simone, it was an uphill battle to continue managing reservations manually.

“We only had our Booking.com listing and a physical reservations book to manage bookings. Correspondence with guests was time-consuming; email drafts had to be customised for each reservation, and it was a hassle to follow up and ask for arrival times. We did not take any other OTA on as we could not keep them updated fast enough,” says Simone, who feared that the guesthouse’s marketing had become too reliant on one distribution channel.

“Only being with one OTA can be dangerous. If there is downtime, or they suddenly decide to up their commission, or they make significant changes to their terms and conditions, you wouldn’t have much room to negotiate.”

The additional worry of overbookings forced Simone to seek help in technology. One system seemed perfect. Aptly called Little Hotelier, the system claimed to be an all-in-one business solution for bed & breakfasts, guesthouses and small hotels, but Simone wasn’t convinced.

“I still considered Little Hotelier as being too fancy for a small guesthouse,” she says. Yet, as a sole live-in manager, saving time was top of mind for Simone and in April that year she made the decision to install Little Hotelier at Dene Guest House.

A new way of doing business

Little Hotelier provided Simone a newfound ability to display different rates on her property’s website and manage the guesthouse from one place. The system also allowed her to send guests both pre- and post-departure emails which clearly stated any amounts owing and paid.

“As we do take prepayments – and naturally guests seldom read the terms and conditions – there was always a bit of confusion over what was paid,” says Simone.

Little Hotelier enabled Simone to manage direct bookings more easily, through a templated website specially designed for search engine optimisation and conversions, and extend the property’s reach across three new marketing channels.

“We noticed a great pickup on direct bookings, nearly outperforming Booking.com on commission some months. We definitely saved money and the monthly fee is well-recovered,” says Simone. “We connected Expedia, HRS and Agoda. Adding new channels is free of charge.”

Importantly, Little Hotelier gave Simone a reason to put manual distribution efforts behind her.

Says Simone: “In the beginning I printed all the reservations, to at least hold something physically in my hand. But in less than a month, I started to print less, and eventually ditched the pencil and book altogether.”

Small accommodation providers can visit www.littlehotelier.com to see how Little Hotelier works and trial the system at no charge.

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