Ismo Mäkinen, Managing Director of Kultahippu Hotel & Apartments, has been working in hospitality for over 45 years. Born and raised in Finland, he has spent the better part of the last decade in Lapland, Finland’s wildest and northernmost region which borders Russia and the North Sea. This part of the world is known for its natural phenomena – the Midnight sun and the Aurora Borealis – and is popular for salmon fishing, skiing and horseback riding which attract guests to Kultahippu Hotel & Apartments. Lapland is also famed for its gold – hence the name of Ismo’s hotel, Kultahippu, or gold nugget. Ismo has been Managing Director of this family-owned lodge for close to a decade. The hotel has 72 rooms and apartments, plus an on-site sauna, sun terrace, restaurant and nightclub. Ismo needed a website that gave him control over his content, functioned across multiple devices, and helped him easily sell rooms and analyse results. Discover how he found a website and direct bookings solution that gave him what he needed, and increased direct bookings by 14%.
The need for a modern and mobile-friendly website
A few years into his role as Managing Director at Kultahippu Hotel & Apartments, Ismo was at the breaking point with their property website. “We could do nothing by ourselves,” he says. “We had to do everything via the advertisement agency which built our website.” Not only could Ismo not do basic tasks like change photos or update content, the website had slow loading times which resulted in a poor user experience. This was costing him bookings. Overall, the old website was too expensive – and only becoming more so. Ismo knew there was a crucial need for his website to function across multiple devices. “When people started to use more mobile devices, the scale of change toward mobile was terrible in Finland,” he says. “I think the last offer to create a mobile-friendly website was around €20,000.” Upgrading his current website to work on mobile wasn’t cost effective, so Ismo started looking for other options.
How WebDirect met Ismo’s website needs
Ismo began exploring new options for an optimised property website and contacted IT companies to ask for their solutions. He quickly found that of all the companies he contacted, the costs of a new fast-loading website that worked on mobile and gave him control over his content were unreasonable. During his research for an all-in-one product that took care of all his website needs, Ismo attended a Booking.com meeting where he learned about WebDirect by BookingSuite. Ismo was intrigued and attracted by the complete solution. “With WebDirect everything was in the same package.” The next step was convincing the owner of Kultahippu Hotel & Apartments who wasn’t keen on taking on monthly payments. “I explained there were good things with this system, such as the ease of changing pictures and how fast it loaded. These were problems for us in the past.” Plus, going with WebDirect meant their website would be operating entirely on Booking.com’s platform. “That was the biggest reason to change solutions,” he says, since it ensured the website would load so much faster and made information updates easy. Finally, the price also fit their budget – “[BookingSuite] offered us a very reasonable price and it was very easy for us to take it.”
First impressions and ease of use
“When I used it the first time I felt this is the tool that I need – what I’d been waiting for for a long time,” Ismo says. Within a few days of switching to WebDirect, Ismo saw an immediate improvement in speed and ease of use. “The main thing I noticed after I made the decision to move to a new website was that it was also very easy for guests to use and very fast loading.” Ismo was also pleased that it was so easy for him to update the site himself. “You can change the look of the page in two clicks,” he says. In his busy schedule of managing the hotel and overseeing renovations, Ismo appreciated how little time the new site demanded. “You can update the website daily if you want – it only takes a minute.”
Experiencing success through numbers
The numbers speak for themselves. Since switching to WebDirect, Kultahippu Hotel & Apartments have increased their direct bookings by 14%. That’s a 600% increase in bookings from their old website. “Some weeks we sell three times more than the former website did in a year,” Ismo says. “The website is a way to earn money without additional human work.” WebDirect also offers Ismo the mobile solution he was looking for. “We can see that 30% of all bookings are made by mobile device,” he says. “I had zero mobile bookings on the old website.”
Engaging with guests online
Additionally, engagement showed improvement. With the old website the property received only 10 to 20 messages in a month, he says. “Today we get over 30 online messages per week. We also get contacted more by phone.” This is a result of the old website’s messaging system being painfully slow, as well as the way Ismo’s new website sells the hotel’s many services and contact information in an attractive, intriguing way. Kultahippu Hotel & Apartments offers guests a sauna, nightclub, restaurant, bicycle rental, and more – and with the new website Ismo can highlight all the hotel services in one place by updating daily menus and events. As he says, “I think a really important thing to a seller is that the website keeps their customers engaged. A good website is interesting to guests and they can see more and more of the features and attractions we can offer from our hotel. Everything is in the same place and very easy to find.”
Time-saving reporting and supportive services
Reporting is also a huge improvement. “With the old website the reports are only numbers and not easy to understand or read,” Ismo says. Now he can get quick breakdowns of his ROI, quickly access his calendar and plan for the months ahead. This frees him up to focus on his business. “I have more time to spend with real things,” Ismo says, “the real work with the guests.” Lastly, there’s the human touch. As Ismo explains, “The support is very good – if I need help I can get it very easily.” He likes that he receives support in his own native language. Since technical words can sometimes be difficult to understand in English, having Finnish support makes everything more accessible. This also applies to the website being available in multiple languages, reaching more guests around the world.
An optimised property website ensures future business growth
Ismo took charge of the future of his business, finding a mobile-friendly, cost-effective solution for his property website. Looking to the future, he’s excited about how he can grow the business at Kultahippu Hotel & Apartments even more using their new website.