Useful Info on OTAs (Online Travel Agents):
Over the last few years the number of online travel search, comparison and booking agents entering the arena has increased extensively. With high-profile agents entering this market too, the space that was intended to simplify searching and booking accommodation & travel is becoming increasingly crowded and tricky to navigate. Using an Online Travel Agency has a lot of advantages and opened up the potential for exploiting the internet and technology to provide a user-friendly service that once was nothing but a dream to achieve.
- It’s a fairly low cost way to list your property and its rooms.
- Potential reduction in your online marketing spend, as OTAs will invest in marketing and advertising to attract potential international customers
- A reduction in your website costs, as OTAs are keen to provide a positive online experience for customers through good website design and functionality.
- Online travel sites are popular with customers who like to compare accommodation costs and the services offered by individual providers.
- Impartial reviews on online travel sites may give new customers the confidence to book.
- Online travel agents can charge a sale-based commision.
- There may be restrictive terms and conditions imposed by OTAs such as guest cancellation and automatic room reselling policies.
- You may need to find a way of managing room availability across a range of OTAs, your own website, front desk and telephone sales. This can be time consuming and labour intensive. There are software options to help you manage this.
- Using OTAs does not reduce the need to have your own website with booking engine
Is it actually providing value for what i would spend?
Let’s do the math together and you get to decide!
- 1. Exposure and Visibility
There is no doubt that listings with OTAs increase the visibility of your business. The OTAs provide a platform for smaller operators to become visible to an enormous new market. Even with a beautiful, functional, SEO optimised website you would be hard pushed to reach the wider market through your own efforts alone. Listing with the OTA’s enables you to reach beyond “those already in the know”, to reach customers at a global scale. And it really doesn’t get much bigger than that.
- 2. Ease of use:
One of the main reasons that customers’ use of OTAs is immensely growing is because they offer a huge choice whilst at the same time simplifying things for them; allowing them to compare relevant flight and accommodation side by side. For many customers price will be an important component of this comparison, but it will not be the only factor.
For some providers this comparison will be quite threatening, but when taken as an opportunity to stand out and highlight the things that make your accommodation or flight special, it can be a great shop and highlight the things that make your choices special, it can be a great shop window for your business. While there is an assumption that hotels listed on these sites are solely competing on price.
Consumers are also looking for best value: Quality, location and service are all important influencing factors. Encouraging past guests to vouch for you in these areas can be a real deal clincher, which brings us onto our 3rd major pro.
- 3. Peer validation and recommendation:
OTAs enable customers to see peer reviews and get a feel for the hotel from a customer perspective, giving them confidence to book. With 37% of hotel guests saying that they visit a review website before booking a hotel, and 53% saying that the opinions of others influences their choice of hotel it is clear that consumers are looking for validation of their choices before making their booking. You can use the reviews to develop your product and service further, and to respond to customers directly about any issues OTAs make it easy for guests, past and future to book with confidence.
- Additional Spend:
While OTAs are indisputably good at getting people through the door, once they are they there they are wholly your responsibility. That means you have all opportunities to encourage ancillary spend and create a great customer experience; generating more non-room related revenue. Data from Mintel/Hotstats shows that average revenues for food & beverage account for anywhere between 20% and 34% of total revenue, while ‘other’ spend accounts for between 8% and 22%, depending on location within the UK. This emphatically highlights that a significant proportion of revenue comes from ancillary spend and that being creative in how you package up your OTA offers and then present yourself to your guests once they have arrived could significantly improve the profitability of guests coming through these channels.