Today more than ever, e-commerce is an important tool to lead your business. The shopping lovers buy clothes on Zalando, the booklovers order books on Amazon and the travellers book their hotels on Expedia.
What about the tourism, travel and leisure industries? In that sector, digital marketplaces are called OTAs - Online Travel Agencies. Those online marketplaces impact the way customers book their travels and leisure.
In this blog post, we will explain what OTAs are and why it is a growing trend for those industries in 2022.
What are OTAs?
Online Travel Agencies are digital marketplaces that connect travel, tourism and leisure suppliers with end-consumers. OTAs are popular because they give consumers access to hundreds of offers, such as car rentals, hotels, flights, tours and activities. Users can easily compare the services offered and create packaged deals between suppliers.
On an OTA you will find products that feature a description, photographs, a price and reviews. Visitors can book their activities directly on those OTAs without any contact to the providers. The cost of reaching the OTA's audience is a commission of the sales price. The providers need to update each OTA with their offers, often manually.
OTAs have become an important tool for the optimisation of organisers’ revenues. With their growing traffic, they represent an unprecedented opportunity in terms of market reach and visibility for the owner. The digital revolution we are living now has an enormous influence on customers’ buying behaviour and more than ever, it is a great opportunity that organisers have to take to grow their revenue.
What are the best OTAs?
There are as many OTA platforms as industry types. The ones you should appear on depend on your products and services.
OTAs used by hotels include Booking, Expedia, Hotels, Airbnb and many more. OTAs used by airlines include Expedia, Priceline, Skyscanner and others.
In the leisure industry, if you are a museum, the OTA Musement will be the best for your service. For tour buses CitySightSeeing would be recommended.
Do you have service for local people and want to be selective? Get Local is the marketplace for you! If, on the opposite, you want international visibility for your products/services, you have Expedia or Viator.
Why do tourists use OTAs?
There are many reasons why tourists use OTAs. First, when planning a visit to a destination they look for activities, flights, hotels and more online. With little knowledge, OTAs provide a large set of reliable choices - whether related to flights, hotels, cars, leisure and cultural activities or packages. They are the perfect tools to plan a trip and discover the best local activities.
Another reason is the price transparency. It’s very easy to compare prices of similar products on OTAs. With such a wide offering, visitors can have a good overview of the cost of local attractions. Plus, they can opt for discounted activities which easily stand out.
Here you can see the top sightseeing tours in London on GetYourGuide.
Last but not least, OTAs provide reviews. When visitors have a good experience with a product, they write a review and the next customers have a truthful description of the service/product. There is no better element to make a final decision than the stories of happy customers. Products available on OTAs create a sense of trust within the tourism industry.
Do not mix up metasearch and OTAs
Metasearch engines and OTAs aren’t the same. Metasearch engines like TripAdvisor are search tools that send requests to other search engines. The consumer can find meta search engines that compare prices on everything from electronics to airfare.
Sales on OTAs are exploding
According to a Phocuswright survey in 2017, europeans, americans, australian and chinese travellers already booked more hotel rooms on OTAs than on hotels’ websites and on metasearch engines. This enormous difference between sales on OTAs and hotels’ websites show a huge opportunity to catch more customers for the event and leisure industries.
4 ways OTAs will grow your revenue
1. OTAs increase your online reach
OTAs are well-known marketplaces that have a lot of visitors thanks to their own marketing efforts and popularity. Hence, they help you reach a much larger audience than you could on your own. Also, the OTAs are translated in several languages, which allows a huge international visibility. For example, Booking.com is translated in more than 40 languages! How many languages do you have on your own website? However, even if you gain visibility with OTAs, you shouldn’t stop creating content for yourself. In the long run, your social media and your website remain important and you shouldn’t neglect them.
Most clients do not go to physical travel agencies anymore, but stay at home and book their experiences directly from their computer, on their own. The recent pandemic emphasised that behaviour all over the world. Selling on OTAs gives you a better chance to reach those customers in time.
2. OTAs do the marketing for you
OTAs allow you to sell your products and experiences on their platforms in exchange for commissions. Those commissions vary according to the OTAs between 12% - 25%.
Knowing that, you could ask yourself why you would pay an OTA, while you have your own website to sell on and your social media to reach your audience. The answer is simple enough; although you pay them a fee, in the long-term you will spend much less money on marketing, because the OTAs help you gain incredible visibility. You reduce your margin on some sales, but you will gain a bigger audience than ever.
You pay the OTAs because they help you gain customers that you wouldn’t have reached without them. Sounds pretty fair to me.
OTAs spend millions of dollars attracting consumers from around the world to their marketplaces. Their massive investment in a lot of marketing channels such as social media or tv advertising helps you engage hard-to-reach travelers you couldn’t afford to reach otherwise.
Let’s check out an example. Laurianne, the manager of a museum, is opening a new exhibition. In order to get more visibility, she decided to use Musement and Expedia as distribution channels. With Musement, which is specialised for museums, she gets an important visibility with museum lovers, while on Expedia, she will reach a wider audience. With her online sales being taken care of, Laurianne can now focus on offering new experiences. Thanks to those OTAs, she is now reaching new customers, tourists aged between 20 and 25 years old.
3. OTAs strengthen your reputation
Some OTAs include reviews and recommendations from visitors. Shared comments from your customers can be beneficial to you, as it is a new kind of marketing called C2C, customer-to-customer. It means that your own customers do a marketing job for you and promote your products on their own.
It is important to carefully follow those review sections as comments can be either positive or negative. You don’t want bad press and a bad reputation on OTAs, which would dramatically reduce your sales. Anytime you receive a comment, bad or good, you should reply to it. It shows that you are close to your clients and that you take care of them.
4. OTAs offer mobile-friendly booking experiences
Last but not least, OTAs are optimised for smartphones and tablets. Remember that nowadays more and more people book their leisure activities on digital platforms. Travellers also tend to prefer e-tickets to paper tickets.
How to manage your product sales on many OTAs?
What happens usually is that organisers create accounts on every OTA individually and manually create their products. This process takes time and energy and is very repetitive.
You have to manage your bookings on each account individually, remember all the passwords and make sure the pictures, the prices and other important information are right and updated.
In order to make OTAs 100 % useful to you, the best solution is to centralise them.
Centralise all your OTAs with Smeetz
Smeetz is a centralised ticketing software which can help you manage all of your bookings and availability in real-time. We collaborate with amusement parks, museums, theatres, visitor attractions and much more.
Once you have chosen your OTAs, Smeetz will centralise all your offers in one place: your Smeetz account. You create your products only once and they are directly pushed to your OTAs. Sounds marvelous right? You can even integrate your inventories and staff to have a complete overview of your business in one place.
You will be able to make any change that you want at any time for any OTAs from one account. The channel manager makes it easy to monitor and make changes to your offers simultaneously on all channels. All bookings and availability are automatically synchronised in real time.