With a dozen or more local and global competitors to contend with, it’s hard for an accommodation booking site to stand out from the crowd – but Cape Town-based sleeping-out.co.za has found a way.
“Establishments who participate in our Free Accommodation programme put 10% of the value of each booking into a fund – and every tenth guest gets their full accommodation fee refunded,” says Sleeping-Out CEO Ric Hutton. “We’ve given away about one and a half million rands so far.”
Unlike many rival sites, Sleeping-Out doesn’t charge a listing fee – instead, establishments pay a commission on actual bookings.
Hutton says this business model, which is unique to South Africa, benefits establishments because there is no initial outlay and no risk. Sleeping-Out provides matching protection to guests via a deposit guarantee.
“If the establishment goes out of business – and with 9,000 places in our database it does happen – we will refund the full value of any bookings made through our site that can’t be honoured.”
Sleeping-Out works closely with payment services provider PayGate to ensure the system runs smoothly. “Standard Bank recommended them to us ten years ago when we started out, and it’s been a good partnership ever since,” says Hutton.
Hutton says PayGate’s ability to handle direct payments as well as credit cards is a bonus.
“Not every guest has a credit card, but that shouldn’t disqualify them from the benefits of booking online. With the SID payment system which PayGate have added, people can make direct payments via their banks and we get instant confirmation, the same as with a credit card.
“Without that, accepting payment via bank transfer is a risk for the establishment – it takes two or three days to get a confirmation during which they hold the room, and if the transaction falls through they may have to turn away better business in the meantime.”
PayGate has also helped to enable the Free Accommodation refund programme and facilitates interactions between Sleeping Out and its bankers, says Hutton.
“The site is simple to use, but there is some complex programming behind the scenes to make that simplicity happen. PayGate have been extremely helpful all the way through.”