Holiday Cottages On-line Booking System
Our on-line holiday cottages booking system is very flexible and can be configured to suit your individual preferences.
Please refer to the questions on the right. These should provide the answers to most questions you may have, but please contact us if there is anything else you want to ask. We'll be happy to help.
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Frequently Asked Questions
The Booking System
- Why should I choose Cottage Owner ahead of other booking systems?
We are established specialists in creating websites for holiday cottages. We have been providing booking and payment systems for holiday cottages for over twelve years, mainly in the UK, but also overseas. In that time, we have gained vast experience in this market. All we have learned over these years has culminated in this all new booking system.
- How much commission do you charge for bookings?
We don't charge commission. We simply ask you to pay a reasonable flat-rate fee, charged quarterly, with no limit placed on the number of on-line (or telephone) bookings you can take each quarter.
- Why should I offer on-line bookings for my holiday cottages?
As technology advances, consumers inevitably expect higher levels of service. Recent surveys have concluded that consumers now expect to be able to book on-line. This is especially true in the upper end of the holiday cottage market. What was once the exception is now increasingly coming to be regarded as the norm.
Consumers appreciate the convenience of being able to book on-line instantly. If they are browsing the web at 11.30 pm, they want to get the job done then. They don't want to have to send an enquiry email, then wait for an answer, or to have to wait until the next day to phone. If they have reduced their shortlist of possible accommodation to two or three, the one that offers on-line booking will always be the one that gets the sale. Without on-line bookings, you are placing your business at a significant disadvantage compared with others, including your competitors, that do.
Another consideration is that the provision of on-line booking in your website portrays a more professional image to potential guests. It demonstrates that you are keeping abreast of technology. This early good impression encourages guests to believe that the other aspects of their holiday will also be delivered professionally.
- I like to vet my guests by chatting on the phone first before I take their booking. Will on-line bookings
mean that this personal approach will be lost?
This apprehension is common among owners. What we can say is that, without exception, all of our existing owners who expressed this view found that their fears were groundless. They found that the very significant reduction in their administration time achieved by on-line bookings, combined with the functions in the back-office, vastly outweighed any perceived loss of direct guest contact at the booking stage. Moreover, those who liked to chat with guests on the phone quickly realised that this option was still available on receipt of the booking request.
- Can I define what bookings I am willing to accept?
Yes, you can specify whether booking dates are offered strictly or flexibly. 'Strictly' means that you can set the system to accept only weeks, three-night weekends or four-night midweek breaks, or any combination or multiple of these. Permitted arrival dates can be set on a per week basis. This allows you, for example, to accept full weeks only in high season, usually commencing on either Fridays or Saturdays, together with Monday-to-Friday midweek and Friday-to-Monday weekend short breaks in low season. You can also opt to allow, say, three-night midweek short breaks. If you select the 'flexible' option, you can still set permitted arrival days on a per week basis, but the guest is allowed to request any duration. Most owners adopt the 'strict' approach, as this is well-proven, accords with the expectations of most guests, and maximises income by preventing unnecessary voids. However, some owners prefer to allow any duration, knowing that they can then opt to negotiate a compromise, failing which they can either accept or decline the booking request. Our booking system accommodates both viewpoints.
- Do you differentiate between weekend and midweek short break prices?
Short break prices for weekend and midweek short breaks are entered separately, so you can price these differently if you wish. Many owners price a four-night midweek break at the same price (or less) as a three-night weekend break, on the basis that midweek breaks are less popular and, therefore, harder to fill, but you are free to set your pricing according to what suits you best.
- What happens if I don't want to offer short breaks?
Short breaks are only offered where pricing for these is available, so if you don't want to offer short breaks in any particular week, regardless of the season, you just need to set the short break prices for that week to zero.
- Must I accept all on-line bookings?
No, all booking requests are stated to be subject to written confirmation. You can, therefore, decline any booking request.
- What must I do to ensure that the availability shown in my website is always accurate and up-to-date?
Nothing, as availability is updated automatically by bookings and synchronised in real time.
- Does the system generate automated emails?
Yes, automated emails are sent to both the owner and the guest whenever a booking request is made. The back office also includes a flexible, template-based email system that you can customise to suit your own business. This can be used for sending booking confirmations, balance reminders, etc, with all of the necessary content generated automatically for you, including booking details, payment details, the due dates for payment of balances and payment methods.
- Can I take a booking by telephone?
Yes, you can add a booking manually via the back-office. To avoid the risk of a double-booking, we recommend that any such bookings are entered directly into the back-office while the guest is on the telephone. Otherwise, if you delay, someone else might book the same holiday on-line. Manual bookings are free of all restrictions, allowing you to accept any booking even if it conflicts with the rules you have set for on-line bookings.
- What support is there for special offers?
The booking system includes support for discounts on a per week basis. Discounts can be either a percentage reduction or a fixed sum reduction. The full and discounted prices are both flagged to users.
- How are holidays such as Christmas and New Year accommodated?
We understand that Christmas and New Year weeks often fall on odd dates. Because you can specify permitted arrival days for each week separately, all you need to do is specify whichever arrival dates are appropriate for the festive weeks.
- What provision is made for pets?
Pets can be permitted or not permitted on a per cottage basis, with an option to make a surcharge to cover additional cleaning.
- Must I provide full terms and conditions?
If you accept a booking request, this creates a contract between the owner and the guest. Therefore, the terms of the contract must be provided within the website at a stage prior to the completion of the booking process. A statement that the guest has read, understood and agreed to the booking conditions must be ticked by the guest before the booking request can be processed. We provide a standard set of conditions that you can tedit to suit your own business.
- What guest payment options are accommodated?
The booking system supports four payment options: on-line card payments, telephone card payments, cheques and bank transfers. You can select the ones that apply to you. On-line card payments require a SagePay account (see below).
- Who are SagePay?
SagePay is the UK's leading card processing intermediary. They can provide both on-line and telephone card payments for one low monthly payment of around £20.00. Their system works with any existing business bank account. Individual transaction fees will be charged by your own bank. Their payment gateway is integrated with our booking system, providing you with the means of taking payment of both deposits and balances on-line and by telephone. Please refer to www.sagepay.com for further details.
- Can I operate the booking system without offering on-line card payments?
Yes, we have lots of owners who operate our booking system successfully without on-line card payments. Some can offer card payments by telephone, but there are many others who accept only cheques. Some owners worry initially that this might cause lots of incomplete bookings, but their universal experience is that this happens only very rarely. We believe the reason for this is that guests completing the booking process, and seeing the week they have just booked update in real time, invariably regard the booking as 'a done deal' in their own minds and are quick to follow this up with a cheque in the post.
The Back Office
- What functions are provided in the back office?
Our back office includes the following main functions:
- Easy and quick data entry for prices and permitted arrival dates.
- A full-screen annual calendar booking chart for each property.
- Drill-down details of all bookings.
- Search for bookings by reference or email address.
- Edit owner details.
- Add, edit and suspend cottages.
- Reports on arrivals and departures within dates you set.
- Reports on payments paid and unpaid within dates you set, with overdue payments flagged in red.
- Reconciliation of payments with bookings.
- Ability to set discounts for individual cottages / weeks.
- Ability to add telephone bookings.
- A flexible, template-based email system that you can customise to suit your own business, designed for sending booking confirmations, balance reminders, etc.
- Mailing list and automated mailshot facility for marketing, special offers, late availability and repeat bookings.
- Editable booking conditions.
- Export booking details for use in external marketing databases.
- Editable owner preferences.
- Are any additional functions provided if I am using SagePay for on-line payments?
Yes, SagePay is integrated into the back office. If SagePay is active, all on-line payments are matched automatically with bookings, plus the main details of all successful on-line payments are captured and displayed in a separate on-line payments report.
- What method is used to embed the booking manager into my own website?
We provide a one-line script that you can simply copy and paste into a suitable page within your website.
- Is Cottage Manager optimised for mobiles?
Yes, our booking manager is coded using responsive design for mobile optimsation. For this to be effective, it must, of course, be embedded into a mobile optimised website.
- What space is needed in my own website to accommodate the embedded booking manager?
For a fixed width, non-mobile-optimised website, a minimum width of 600 pixels is recommended. The minimum height is 750 pixels. Ideally, the page background should be white to match the white background of the booking manager.
- Can I change the colour scheme to suit my website?
Yes, we offer a choice of main colour. If one of these does not suit your website, we can add a custom main colour on request.
- What instructions do you provide?
Our back office has been designed to be as simple and intuitive as possible. However, we also provide a detailed instruction manual in PDF format within the back office.
- What support do you provide?
We provide ongoing support at no extra cost. You can usually contact us by telephone during normal office hours or by email at any time.
- If I have an idea for a new feature, will you provide it?
We operate a policy of continual development. If we think a suggested new feature has merit and is practical for us to provide, we will consider adding it, especially if the same feature is proposed by a number of owners.