Online Travel Agencies (OTAs) including booking.com, Expedia, and TripAdvisor offer travelers an easy-to-search database of travel providers with an opportunity to book travel arrangements directly from their websites. OTAs also invest highly in advertising and often pay to be shown at the top in search engines.
The biggest benefit of Online Travel Agencies is for the end user who gets to utilize the one-stop-shop for comparing different hotels based on their prices, features, and user ratings. Since their introduction in the mid-90s, OTAs have continually increased in terms of market share, with their current share at 40% of the online booking market in Europe.
As a hotel owner, the success of Online Travel Agencies provides you with an opportunity in the form of additional revenue and promotions on new markets. To be successful in a highly challenging and constantly evolving environment, hotel companies need to utilize them effectively.
In the beginning, when OTAs were first introduced, their model was considered a win-win situation for all parties involved. As they purchased a bulk number of rooms and excess inventory, they helped hotels to generate revenue even during off-seasons. At the same time, OTAs profited from reselling rooms at a profit for their digital service.
Although the hotels had to pay commissions on bookings, they received value from these Online Travel Agencies in the form of investment in the digital advertising domain. This increased their exposure and reach across various channels.
OTAs gained massive popularity with the availability of the internet on mobile devices. Travel websites such as booking.com and Expedia used technological marketing innovations to great effect. Leading travel agencies were able to consolidate the fragmented hotel offers, which created a mixture of opportunities and challenges for the hotels.
Even though OTA websites such as Priceline serve as an important resource for hotels to generate revenue and reach new markets, they have also created a greater challenge for hotel owners in the form of significant commissions for online promotion and increasing customer loyalty.
Evidently, the major risk for hoteliers has been with some of the following: pricing, location, reviews, and ratings. These have become the biggest factors for customers to choose a hotel. To overcome these challenges, hotels need to emphasize technology and strengthen their alternative distribution channels.
OTAs offer a great chance for hotels to expand their consumer audience. According to a recent survey by booking.com, almost 3/4 of guests looking for a hotel found the right establishment through Online Travel Agencies. This is why it is essential to capture the attention of your consumers regardless of which particular travel website they use for booking.
Furthermore, the choice of web page your customers use hardly makes a difference when your hotel is well represented. By delivering high-quality visuals of your property, you allow your guests to have an in-depth look into their destination.
Similarly, when a client is searching for a hotel, it is important for your business to stand out of the sea of competitors. Most people have a tendency to look at pictures and videos, instead of reading a lot of text. If you use spectacular visuals of your facility on different travel websites, you have a high chance of increasing your bookings. Additionally, if you want to add details about your room types and the different food options you provide, make sure you couple that with a load of appetizing and inviting images.
Your guests love personalized services. They want to be recognized upon arrival and seek a seamless experience, which is unique to their requirements and interests. By receiving offers and services relevant to their unique preferences, customers will prefer your hotel over your competitors. And if you can deliver highly personalized and tailor-made options to your customers, then you are going to increase your bookings in no time.
To build a strong relationship with your guests, you can use OTAs to your advantage. As most travel website accounts are linked with social media profiles of users, you can know the personal details of your guests including age, location, date of birth, interests, and hobbies. This data can be used to offer, for example, hand-written welcome or even birthday cards.
Even though personalization of hotel services is not a new concept, it still creates new opportunities to enhance guest experiences every day. By including personalized guest services as part of your operational plan, you can not only differentiate your guest experience but also create deeper connections and greater guest loyalty.