Tell us a little bit about the group?
The Fort William Accommodation Marketing Group (FWAMG) was formed approximately three years ago by a small group of eight local B&Bs who recognised that working together was the only way forward for small independent businesses in a very competitive market. The group now has 26 members and continues to grow as other local guest houses and B&Bs recognise the benefits of the co-operative approach and join us.
How and why did the group decide to try Together?
FWAMG initially developed a group "listings" site. The site was successful in attracting interest and enquiries from guests but was unable to provide immediate feedback to enquiries. It also required a separate method of notifying availability between members and of passing referrals on receipt of email and telephone enquiries members could not accommodate. We therefore looked to develop an online group availability solution which would dramatically improve our service to guests and would resolve our internal issues at the same time. As a number of the group already used freetobook it was natural for us to explore the possibilities of the "Together" solution first.
"Together" was an almost perfect match for our needs for a number of reasons
1) By taking members availability directly from members existing online booking facilities it sidestepped any need to maintain separate (and possibly out of date) information.
2) By linking all group availability through a single search form members are able to ensure business is passed quickly and efficiently directly to establishments that definitely have the accommodation needed to meet guest needs.
3) Being able to see availability easily within the group encourages more members to "make the effort" to check thus helping guests to save time and frustration and to increase business retention within the group.
4) By adding the group search facility to our own website we transformed our group site with almost no cost into a fully functional mini OTA site giving potential guests the ability to research our area, check availability and book online based on facilities, availability, price, reviews etc - all in the one place and in one simple session.
5) By using the optional freetobook Channel manager even those members who still feel the need to use other distribution channels can do so without potentially dangerous duplication of availability. Freetobook takes care of it automatically.
6) Fixed cost maintenance and support of the "Together" solution means that we know in advance the cost of maintaining our market advantage and can keep our members annual costs to an absolute minimum – and as the group grows our individual costs actually go down!
With all the advantages of the solution it was a simple task to draw up a business case for the approval of the membership.