Freedom – a lesson in marketing

Running a small business is not an easy task. We make a comfortable living, but operating a hostel will not make you rich and you have to work hard for the money which you do make. It is a labour of love, but as it is also our livelihood it’s essential that we maximise our bookings through good marketing and advertising. We’ve been learning on the job since May of last year!

The best place to find out about us is on our own website or our Facebook page. Both link to our booking system where you can read our reviews, check our availability, rates and offers and then book directly with us, without paying any booking fees to us or anyone else.

How else can you find out about us? As members of the Scottish Independent Hostels group and the Scottish Youth Hostel Association, we are listed on their websites and in their annual printed guides. Word of mouth recommendations, referrals from other accommodation providers and our big HOSTEL sign visible from the A82 are also reasons given by our guests, particularly during the summer, who call in looking for a bed. And we mustn’t forget our loyal and valued band of regular guests who come to us again and again and need no advertising to bring them here.

Is that all? No, when we moved to Invergarry last year the hostel was already being advertised on an international hostel-booking site. Their pitch is that by extensive advertising they will increase your guest numbers. They take a cut of the price as commission. If they can generate more bookings than you could by yourself then paying the commission makes sense.

After monitoring a rapidly increasing number of bookings made this way we realised that most were being made for guests to stay at peak times, when we think we would have filled our beds and rooms anyway. It seems we were actually competing with our own website during our busy periods and losing money in the form of commission.

So we have taken the decision to end our contract with the booking site and Saddle Mountain Hostel no longer appears on it or any of the other sites it feeds.

If you want to stay with us you will have to book directly with us.

All of the money you pay will go to us and this in turn will help us to invest in improving the business. As any of our regulars will tell you, we have been working through a programme of improving our facilities ever since we took over the hostel. We are not finished by any means, and have some big plans which will be taking shape this autumn (keep an eye on our blog for more details).

We are a small hostel and subscribe to the philosophy that you should think global but act local. It is always better to buy direct from the producer when you can rather than from a broker. Buying direct will give you, our guests, better access to any offers we have and by checking our own website you will be up to date with the latest news about the hostel. Time will tell if we are right, but hopefully you will back our approach and book with us directly in future.

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