A online travel agency, also known as an OTA (Online Travel Agent), is a company that sells travel-related services over the internet. These services may include flights, hotels, vacation packages, rental cars and activities. OTAs are third-party agents that resell these travel products, and they usually charge a commission fee for their service.
Many travelers have come to rely on OTAs to help them plan their trips and make bookings. This is largely because OTAs can often offer better deals than airlines and hotels. In addition, OTAs allow customers to easily compare prices and options across multiple providers in one place, making it easier for travelers to find the best deals.
Having said that, online travel agencies still have some work to do when it comes to improving customer service. A recent study commissioned by Travelport found that travelers, particularly younger ones, don’t like having to jump between different websites in order to comparison-shop and find the best deals. And, they don’t like having to wait to receive recommendations and personalized service from travel agents.
With so much competition out there, OTAs must continually update their offerings to attract customers and keep them coming back. Fortunately, the internet makes it relatively easy for OTAs to expand their offerings and add new products and services. But, it is important to consider the risks of expanding too quickly before starting an OTA.
For example, if an OTA starts offering tours and activities, it’s important that they have the inventory to support it. This means developing a robust portfolio that includes hundreds or even thousands of destinations. Otherwise, they risk running out of products that people want to book.
Additionally, OTAs must be careful to avoid price games that could upset their customers. For instance, some travelers are frustrated by the way that some airlines, hotels and car rental companies quote an initial low price, then start adding on mandatory fees and taxes. Luckily, OTAs tend to be less likely to play these games than their competitors.
For hotel owners, OTAs can be an essential marketing and distribution channel. They can drive users to your website, where they might then convert on a direct booking. Plus, OTAs can serve as a billboard for your hotel, driving awareness of your property to potential guests who might not have heard of you otherwise.
For these reasons, hotel owners should carefully analyze the benefits of listing on OTAs against the costs associated with doing so. In general, if you can find an OTA that’s worth listing on, you should do it. Just be sure to keep in mind the risks of expanding too quickly, so you don’t run out of things that your customers want to buy. Also, be sure to monitor your OTA performance and optimize your listing to improve your conversion rates. And, don’t forget that if you have a great product, word-of-mouth referrals can be just as effective as OTA listings when it comes to getting your property in front of more guests.