How to Compete with OTAs
If you’re in the hotel business and have been paying attention for the last few years, OTAs or Online Travel Agents is a familiar term.
OTAs are travel websites that sell a variety of travel services and products including flights, car rentals excursions and hotels. An OTA website gives consumers a one-stop shop for travel products.
Since their launch in the mid-90s, OTAs have increasingly grown in popularity among U.S. consumers. They now account for almost 40% of the digital travel booking market in the U.S., according to research from Phocuswright.
A large part of their success comes from the increase in mobile hotel booking. Through the years, many OTAs have put an increased effort into making sure a consumer’s web experience is just as easy on their mobile device as it is from a desktop or laptop.
OTAs and hoteliers have a bit of a love-hate relationship. While it’s true that hotel brands can benefit from the business they get from OTAs, it comes at a higher price than a direct booking due to commissions. Often consumers are faced with so much competition from competitors before a potential guest ever reaches their brand’s web destination. A positive in the relationship is that OTAs spend significantly more money on advertising and marketing campaigns compared to the hotel brands which ultimately adds to your hotel’s overall return.
The Hotel vs. OTA battle over bookings continues.
But there’s hope for hotel owners discouraged by the success of OTAs.
Hotel brands like Marriott and Hilton have reported increases in their direct bookings, largely due to successful loyalty campaigns like Hilton’s “Stop Clicking Around.” In this campaign, Hilton emphasizes that the only way to find the true lowest rate for their brands is at Hilton.com, and by signing up for their HHonors incentive program. Marriott also guarantees best rates for its Marriott Bonvoy members at Marriott.com
Some other ways, hotel owners can compete with OTAs, include:
Offer Last Minute Deals via Mobile
We mentioned that OTAs have a lot of success because of their responsive design. And it’s true. U.S. consumers are glued to their phones. So why not serve up some great same-day booking deals to their device. Capture those last-minute getaway travelers, or those who have unexpected emergencies they need to travel for. Push notifications to well-established past guest can mean the difference between keeping or losing a reservation.
Maximize Your Uniqueness
Have postal service on site? A free happy hour? Or a dry cleaning pick up service? Talk about it. OTAs only provide a glimpse into what a particular hotel offers. Beef up your website with descriptive and informative information about the property, including what there is to do nearby, and why they should book directly instead of shooting off to an OTA.
Go After the Business Traveler
Consider it low hanging fruit. Business travelers are more likely to book direct. Often business travelers don’t have time to comparison shop. And most business travelers value consistency when it comes to the amenities and service. Providing transportation, making check in and check out easy, along with offering up other incentives are great ways to attract corporate travelers.