There were 327 entrants apparently, competing in three different categories: agency, owner operated, self-catering portal; also four regional winners from Scotland, England, Wales and Ireland, and one overall winner. The scoring criteria was content, navigation, design and functionality.
I think the idea was generated by SuperControl who provide an online booking service for a growing number of self-caterers (including us since 2009); however they were not involved in the judging process. It comes from the assumption (clear intention, no doubt as in SuperControl’s case) that more and more self-caterers will incorporate online booking.
Apparently according to a Mintel report (no source provided!) 7/10 holidays were booked online last year.To digress for a moment, I can’t help feeling that this is slightly misleading. If one is booking a package holiday, or a special offer bargain short break where the emphasis is on speed, on bagging the bargain offer… ‘Book now!” “Offer closes at midnight!!” – the priority is on speed; you know what you want, or you don’t really care as long as there’s sun, a bed and a beach or to spend as little as possible. However, when you’re looking for holiday accommodation of a superior quality it’s not about speed, but about careful choice. You may mull for weeks over the perfect spot for your family get-together, that perfect romantic cottage for two. We have many honeymoon couples who don’t take their choice of venue lightly.
We certainly have had more online than ‘admin’ bookings over the last three years, but not significantly so. Herein may lie the weakness of my argument and maybe why we didn’t even make the short list!
Is it because our website is not clear, because the design is faulty or unattractive, or difficult to navigate? We’d appreciate some honest responses, if anyone is kind enough!
However, a surprising number of guests do like to have a chat first, just for reassurance. They may go on and book online as had been their intention, but often will ask us to do it for them while we’re chatting. It’s all about building a two-way trustful relationship.
To return to the competition, it is disappointing not even to make the short list and even more disappointing that we will never know why as I think it is only the short-listed entries that get feedback. I have had a quick look at the winners‘ websites and will try to see what we could learn from them. One thing strikes me, is that they are quite all big outfits, not small and more personal ones like ours whose needs may be slightly different.
Our website is constantly evolving as John, Jeremy Brough our web designer, and I try to think how we can improve its usefulness and fun all the time. But one thing remains constant: our website is for you our guests. It is a unique online relationship with you, just as we feel we have with you when you stay here ‘on the ground’! It’s for us, not necessarily to win competitions!