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Online travel agencies, or OTAs, originated as a way to sell off excess inventory when demand was slow. Today, OTAs drive the majority of global, online bookings.
The biggest OTAs have developed trusted brands which consumers recognise instantly. They now have the ability to compare travel options alongside each other in terms of price, time and location.
Choosing the right OTA for your business model can be confusing, as there are now so many, with differing commission levels and target markets. In this article I will guide you through what to look for in an OTA and how to find the ones which are aligned with your business model.
The largest Online Travel Agency Portals (OTA)
Three major companies currently control the OTA market worldwide; Expedia, alongside Travelocity and Priceline. Together they control around 95% of online bookings in the United States. Priceline owns Booking.com, which currently leads the OTA market by far.
Consumers and Hoteliers can both benefit from the resources and reach of these major players. But, while it’s clear that these sites are keys players for online distribution, how do you work out how to effectively market your property through them?
Small hotels and Bed and Breakfat's have been proven to show great success when combining a solid direct booking strategy with a priority focus on OTAs.
Understanding Travellers Behaviour
Consider the following steps when choosing your OTA:
Be clear on what type of traveller you’re marketing to and where they are based. Once you’re clear on that, select those hotel booking sites which will help you to attract that target market.
Here are some insights on today’s traveller infographic which you may find helpful:
Today’s traveller chooses multiple types of accommodation:
13% Apartment Rentals
32% of today’s travellers will only view hotels with ‘excellent’ review scores, while 88% will discard hotels with poor review scores. Here’s what affects their choice in order of importance:
1. Nightly price
2. Review scores
3. Hotel class
4. Image of hotel
5. Hotel brand
See the full infographic "Online Booking Trends: Understanding Traveler Behavior" on trustyou.com website.
Travellers increasingly turn to hotel booking sites when choosing accommodation. You’ll find that some OTAs can reach specific markets that prove difficult to access direct, for example, Hoteliers.com is effective in reaching business travellers and Hostelworld is superb in marketing to backpackers.
Best third-party Distribution Platforms per Category of Accommodation
Following is a guideline on which online travel agencies work, based on your property type:
What are the best OTA Portals for Independent Hotels?
What is it?
Not part of a large hotel group, independent hotels can range from 10-100 rooms.
Families, solo travellers and couples looking for charm and a more personalised approach. These travellers want to immerse themselves in local culture.
Which Online Travel Agencies?
Low commission, niche OTAs are ideal, but limited use of major OTAs could also benefit this market.
OTAs really are key to assisting with online distribution for any accommodation provider, whether you’re a hotel, hostel, vacation rental or self-catering apartment. They operate at an incredible scale, spending billions on advertising, with massive global teams working to ensure conversions. With such a hefty marketing budget, the reach of an OTA can be vast, giving you access to markets which you couldn’t reach yourself.
Using an OTA which fits your business can also create what’s known as ‘The Billboard Effect’, whereby your establishment becomes more well-known and searched online due to its appearance on an OTA website.
Third party distribution platforms can help to get you seen: being listed on OTAs will bring you more Direct Bookings through your own website.
Article written by Benjamin Verot
With years of experience in assisting hoteliers manage operations or opening up innovative hotels across the world, Benjamin has been a trusted name in the hospitality industry, and is well known for his knowledge and expertise in European markets.