For accommodation businesses like hotels and B&Bs, there are a number of pros and cons of using online travel agents (OTAs) to sell your facilities. OTAs include online accommodation booking sites like Hotels.com and Trivago.
Advantages of online travel agents
Ultimately, OTAs give you instant access to a large number of potential customers. Possible advantages of using an online travel agent to sell your service include:
- It’s a fairly low cost way to list your property and its rooms.
- Potential reductions 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.
Disadvantages of online travel agents
However, there may be some disadvantages to using online travel agents. These include:
- Online travel agents can charge commission on every sale, which can range between 10-20 per cent of the gross cost.
- 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.
- You may still need to invest in a balanced multi-channel marketing strategy.
Although online travel agents can help you fill rooms, it is important to maximise your most profitable revenues through sales on your own website. You should continually work on your search engine optimisation tactics and other digital marketing techniques. Focus on customer retention techniques, and directly target your existing customers (including those gained through OTAs) through email and direct marketing. See grow a tourism business with digital marketing.