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Case study: Unigar Cottages


Here’s how Stewart Wood went from cattle to cottages and why online booking is such a crucial function of his business.

5 min read, Case Study
Skara Brae, part of the Heart of Neolithic Orkney World Heritage Site by the Bay of Skaill, Orkney


Unigar Cottages




Here’s how one cattle farmer used online booking software to start one of Orkney’s most successful and sought after accommodation offerings.

As a fourth generation cattle farmer in Orkney’s small community of Quoyloo, online booking systems weren’t always at the forefront of Stewart Wood’s mind. However, ever the entrepreneur, Stewart always kept a keen look out for ways to diversify his business. It wasn’t long after taking advantage of a funding opportunity that he was opening the doors to Unigar Cottages, three environmentally friendly self-catering cottages situated in amongst the stunning landscape of Neolithic Orkney.

Stewart soon realised that there was a big gap in his newly-found market – only 15% of Orkney’s accommodation providers offered online booking. Keen to capitalise on this opportunity, Unigar Cottages soon were available to book online. The introduction of this feature to the businesses website resulted in a fully booked calendar for that current season and bookings for the following year appearing much earlier than expected. Based on his own research and speaking to fellow Orkney businesses, Stewart chose Freetobook as his booking tool with payments being handled by BACS or cheques. There are many other easy-to-use booking systems that will integrate with your business needs such as Supercontrol and Beds24.

Despite these various options, a large percentage of Scottish businesses in the tourism sector don’t offer online booking – a shortcoming that in today’s market will put off many potential customers. If like Stewart you have concerns that booking over the internet means that you compromise on ‘the personal touch’, there are ways around this. Stewart countered this by sending out thank you emails soon after each booking was made. He was also keen to emphasise the increased efficiency the new booking system added to his day-to-day; “We used to always take bookings through the phone to provide the personal touch, but it just took too much time and is a much less efficient process than online booking. March and April are busy times on the farm and can be very stressful, but with the online booking system, there is no chance of taking double bookings by mistake.”

Another benefit of online booking is that it doesn’t require expensive card machines, a common deterrent for those looking to keep things simple. Along with Freetobook, Stewart uses a payment processor called Stripe. As with other online transactions, customers’ payment details are taken via a simple payment form without any plastic changing hands.

In a matter of just a year after setting up the online booking system around 80% of the business’ bookings had come through their website. In 2017, all bookings were made online – so it’s plain to see just how big an impact this simple addition has made on the success of Stewart’s business.

Implementing online booking into his offering not only saved Stewart precious time, but also proved to keep the books healthy too. Could your business benefit from doing the same? If you’re keen to find out more why not search for other articles on online booking over on our topic library or find a relevant event that you can attend?

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