Deciding whether or not to partner up with an online travel agent (OTA) is one of the key considerations for modern hotels, whether you’re a boutique brand or a fast growing chain with global ambitions. This decision will impact many operational areas, from booking and revenue right through to marketing. It’s especially significant when formulating your digital marketing plan, and it’s one which is worthy of serious brainstorming. Here are a few of the key pros and cons to consider when making your decision about whether or not you should partner with an online travel agent to drive more reservations through online channels.
Boosting Your Visibility
There’s no doubt that partnering with an OTA can pay dividends for your hotel in the long-term. One of the most immediate and obvious points in its favor is amplification and reach. An OTA expands the sheer breadth of potential customers available to you simply as a result of being able to access the partner agent’s (often vast) database of prospects seeking a great new place to stay. Even the most stunningly crafted, SEO-optimized website cannot be relied upon as your sole marketing activity when you’re hoping to generate large volumes of reservations. Getting listed with a travel agent online is therefore great for giving your initial reach a lift by tapping into someone else’s already established network.
Ease of Use
Partnering with an OTA is a relatively simple option and a generally low-cost way of advertising your hotel and the rooms you have available. Online travel agents tend to place a high premium on ensuring they are easy to use for customers – however they may impose restrictive terms and conditions when listing (such as cancellation and room reselling policies) so ensure you know what you’re signing up for at the outset.
Cost and Comparison
Online travel sites are popular with customers who prefer to compare costs before making a booking, so whilst there are many benefits of an OTA, there is also the threat of comparison with competitors who could undercut you. This means that when accommodation is merely competing over price, as opposed to other more individualistic aspects of your hotel (best showcased through your own website), you could lose out on bookings if your hotel isn’t seen as the ‘cheapest’ option.
When partnering with an OTA, you should still be focused on boosting your revenue through your own hotel reservation system to provide the maximum profits for your business alongside your OTA.
Managing Your Online Presence
The review functionality offered by most OTAs will be crucial in ensuring you successfully manage your online reputation. Positive reviews could further boost customer confidence, leading to more bookings – but depending on how much traction your efforts with an online travel agent create, you may find you need to implement a central way of managing your room availability across all of your different web portals, and carefully consider your hotel distribution system.