Booking engines ‘hitting income of county’s guest house owners’

Guest house owner Lisa Sharpstone is concerned at the impact major websites are having on the viabil

Guest house owner Lisa Sharpstone is concerned at the impact major websites are having on the viability of smaller guest houses in rural areas. - Credit: Sarah Lucy brown

Tourism bosses are urging guest house owners to join a Suffolk-based website to help their businesses – in the face of increasing competition from “booking engines”.

National websites that offer last minute booking opportunities have become popular with many bed and breakfast owners, but discounted rates and the commission charged mean the accommodation providers can find themselves out of pocket even though their rooms are occupied.

That leaves them relying on prospective guests to find their business websites in order to book rooms for short stays or holidays.

Guest house owner Lisa Sharpstone, who runs the seven-bedroom Home from Home guest house in Waterloo Avenue, Leiston, said she was very concerned about the impact of booking engine websites on the viability of smaller guest houses in rural areas.

She said: “They charge 17.5% of the full booking they make for a guest house and for a small independent that can be quite a chunk of your income. We are not marketing experts and so these sites appear a good idea, but they don’t give a fair deal. If you market yourself, you have to rely on people looking around and finding your website.”


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Amanda Bond, brand manager for Visit Suffolk, said: “Booking engines make it increasingly difficult for smaller accommodation providers to be competitive and, by default, is forcing businesses to up their game through point of differentiation, adding value and being smarter about their presence online.

“This poses a challenge for many small and medium-sized enterprises in Suffolk who have limited marketing budgets and resources.

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“Research undertaken by Visit Suffolk recently identified that visitors to www.VisitSuffolk.com were more likely to have visited our county recently, which is a clear indicator we are influencing the holiday booking process and converting enquiries into bookings.”

Website development plans for next year include a listing service which she said would provdie good value for money for small accommodation providers, along with constantly refreshed content.

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