Ever booked a holiday cottage that sounded great in the small ads but turned out to be a dingy cowshed with no amenities within a five-mile radius? Sykes Cottages aims to put an end to all this, with its online cottage database where customers can access pictures and information on cottages before deciding to book.
Clive Sykes founded the company in 1991 and took it online in 1997, with what he calls a 'very crude first web site'. Since then, he has spent pounds 9,000 developing the site into a user-friendly brochure for Sykes' 300 cottages. Customers can select by region, number of bedrooms and length of stay, and even specify an open fire. The site then provides a selection of suitable locations. 'Fifty per cent of all of our business is conducted through e-commerce,' says Sykes. 'Some orders are processed entirely online, whereas other customers may use the site to make a selection and then call us.'
Sykes Cottages has doubled its growth to 30% since going online, although it has been hit by the foot-and-mouth outbreak, taking only 40% of the bookings expected at this time of year. But Sykes is optimistic. 'We're developing the site further this summer, so that availability information is updated every 10 minutes. This will benefit potential customers and the cottage owners themselves.' So when holidaymakers venture back into the countryside, they can be sure the perfect holiday cottage awaits them.