Online travel agency, or OTAs, are websites or platforms that allow travelers to purchase and manage their vacation plans, flights, hotel rooms, rental cars and other services in one place. They offer a variety of options and a simplified process, making them popular among consumers. They also generate a significant portion of sales for airlines, hotels and other service providers.
The largest OTAs include Expedia, Orbitz and Travelocity. They use their large audience to leverage deals from suppliers and promote them to potential customers. They often offer package deals that bundle the cost of a flight, hotel and rental car for a reduced price than purchasing the components separately. OTAs are also known for offering a more streamlined experience, which includes the ability to book travel through mobile apps.
There are hundreds of online travel agencies, ranging from the large, global OTAs to local and niche ones. They are used by both the general public for leisure vacations and by organizations and companies for business travel.
While there are many benefits to listing with OTAs, it’s important to remember that they can be expensive and may not result in a high volume of bookings. For this reason, hotels should focus on gaining more bookings through their own website, which does not incur a commission fee to an OTA.
Most OTAs have regionally based account teams that can support their partners with market knowledge and advice on tactics that drive success. They can also help with the translation of content and marketing messages into local languages. This is especially important for businesses that have a global audience, like hotels.
Many of the larger OTAs have partnerships with local and niche tour operators, which allows them to offer more travel options for their customers. For example, GetYourGuide has partnered with over 130 tours around the world and offers their availability through a wide range of OTAs. This allows them to reach more travelers and maximize revenue.
OTAs are also known for their flash sale and last-minute deals, which can be very attractive to customers. However, it’s important to note that OTAs do not own the products they sell, so they cannot make any guarantees about the quality of the products or services they provide. This is something that can be very concerning to some travelers, especially if they are planning an extended stay and are not able to monitor their bookings closely.
Despite the drawbacks, OTAs are essential tools for the hotel industry because they offer a massive reach to a potential customer base that can’t be reached with other channels. By listing with OTAs, hotels can increase their exposure and maintain occupancy rates. However, they should be careful not to rely on them too much, as it can be difficult to compete with their lofty advertising budgets. This is why it’s crucial for hotels to have a well-designed and functional website that provides an excellent user experience.