Updated April 2023 – Online Travel Agents (OTAs) can provide your tours and activities with massive exposure. To distribute tours and activities globally, you’ll need to partner with them, so here’s everything you need to know about working with OTAs, how they differ from partnering with travel agents, and the meaning of OTA in travel.

What is an OTA in travel?

Online travel agents are basically traditional travel agents, except customers self-serve, as they operate online. They are websites where consumers can conduct multiple searches, and plan and place an order for a booking.

Popular OTAs for tour operators


Top online travel agency list - Expedia

With a global presence in over 70 countries, Expedia receives over 58 million unique visitors each month, and its mobile apps are downloaded nearly 80 million times at a rate of over 200 downloads per minute. Apply to be listed on Expedia here!


Viator supplier

Unlike Expedia, Viator is wholly focused on tours and activities. It sells its products to a global consumer base at Viator.com, 60 additional consumer-facing websites, mobile websites and apps, and through its global network of affiliates. Viator’s listings are supported by more than 500,000 reviews, photos, and videos posted by travelers. It boasts 7 million visitors per month. Apply to be listed on Viator here! 

Get Your Guide

GetYourGuide focuses on listing activities based on where they are, rather than specifically what they are. This captures the market of people who decide what they want to do once they are already in a location and can put your product in front of whole new audiences who might not have even known that you exist. GetYourGuide receives an average of 2.5 million website visitors per month. Apply to be listed on GetYourGuide here!

Why work with an OTA?

In a word: exposure. This leads to more bookings and revenue. Online Travel Agents receive millions of website visitors every month from all over the world. They have cultivated a reputation for themselves as an authority on all things travel-related. People trust the recommendations they receive from OTAs, so by being listed on an OTA travel/ tour platform not only do you reach an audience of millions that you wouldn’t have otherwise reached, but they find you on a reputable source of information, which makes you look good as well.

Reach a wider audience

OTAs have revolutionized the tourism industry by providing a platform that enables tour and activity businesses to reach a wider audience. These platforms offer a one-stop shop for travelers to book everything they need for their trip, from flights and hotels to tours and activities. The OTA booking system provides a convenient and accessible way for travelers to book their desired activities and experiences.

By partnering with OTAs, tour and activity businesses can expand their reach to a global audience without the need for extensive marketing efforts. The OTA booking system provides access to a vast customer base, which may be difficult for individual businesses to reach on their own. Additionally, OTAs have a strong online presence, which means that their website is highly visible on search engines like Google, making it easier for travelers to find and book activities.

Streamline bookings

OTAs offer a user-friendly booking process, which is easy to navigate and understand. This is especially important for travelers who may not be familiar with the tour and activity business they want to book with or the destination they are visiting. OTAs provide detailed information about the tours and activities, including pricing, availability, and reviews from other travelers, making it easy for customers to compare and choose what they want.

On a similar note, OTAs allow businesses to use a central platform for booking and managing reservations. This means that businesses do not have to worry about managing bookings through multiple channels, such as phone or email. Instead, all reservations can be managed through a single platform, making it easy to keep track of bookings, manage availability, and update information.

Market your tours through an OTA

OTAs have a large customer base, which means that your tours will be visible to a much broader range of potential customers than if you were to rely solely on your own marketing efforts.

By listing your tours on an OTA travel platform, you can take advantage of the OTA’s marketing and advertising campaigns to promote your tours. This can include targeted emails, social media campaigns, and online advertising, all of which are designed to reach customers who are interested in the types of tours and activities you offer.

In addition, OTAs often have strong search engine optimization (SEO) capabilities, which means that your tours are more likely to appear at the top of search results when customers are searching for tours in your destination. This can help to increase your visibility and attract more customers to your business.

Reduce costs

As well as minimizing your marketing costs, listing your tours on an OTA platform can also help you reduce your distribution costs. OTAs typically charge a commission on each booking, but this cost is often lower than the cost of distributing your tours through other channels, such as travel agents or direct sales. This is because OTAs have already invested in the infrastructure required to market and sell tours, which means that you do not have to bear these costs.

What are the costs of working with an OTA?

Partnering with resellers, including OTAs, can be a cost-effective way for tour and activity businesses to expand their reach and generate more bookings. However, there are certain costs of partnering with resellers, including OTAs. These costs include:

  • Commission: OTAs typically charge a commission on each booking, which can range from 10% to 25% of the tour price, depending on the platform and the type of tour. This commission is a cost that businesses need to factor into their pricing strategy and profit margins.
  • Listing: While it is usually free to list tours on an OTA platform, some platforms may charge a listing fee or require businesses to pay for premium placement in search results. These costs can add up, particularly for smaller businesses that are trying to manage their marketing budgets.
  • Payment processing: Some OTAs offer payment processing services, which means that businesses do not have to manage payments themselves. However, these services often come at a cost, such as a per-transaction fee or a percentage of the transaction value.
  • Contractual obligations: When partnering with OTAs, businesses may be subject to certain contractual obligations, such as minimum availability requirements, cancellation policies, and commission rates. Failing to comply with these obligations can result in penalties and additional costs.

tour pricing

Tips for tour operators partnering with an OTA

Before partnering with OTAs, there are a few things you need to be aware of in terms of the information that they will most likely expect you to provide. There is no guarantee that every tour operator will be listed, but if you can provide these things it will go a long way towards improving your chances.

Offer real-time availability to travelers

Online Travel Agents want to offer their customers real-time booking confirmation, this means you need to be able to provide bookable spots for your tours or activity in real-time as well as update your availability in real-time as it changes.

Allow last-minute bookings

Allow last-minute bookings and specify how many hours before the tour starts your customers can book. Of course, you need enough time to prepare your tour before people come, but keep your minimum notice as close to the starting time of your experience as you can. Bearing in mind that a lot of travelers book activities on quite short notice, OTAs want to be able to provide this option for all of their listed activities. As such, it is advisable that you keep your cut-off time as close to the start of the activity as you can.

Leverage tour booking software

Not only technical, but also in the customer experience. For starters, your customer booking software should have a solid API integration with the OTA. You’d want to avoid manual work as much as possible. When sharing your availability with the OTA, you want the booking information pushed into your booking software, so it automatically populates your CRM, sales reports, and manifest. This will avoid lost customers and makes it easy to keep control over your bookings, even when it’s a large volume.

Accept bookings as much as 2 years in advance

Schedule your availability for 2 years and make sure people can book 2 years in advance. It’s good practice to make sure all your availability is published across as many channels as possible, but make sure it’s also available for a long time – the earlier you fill up your tours the better. Online Travel Agents attract a lot of people who are exploring your destination. Travelers want to know what they’ll get to see and do in your destination before they book their hotels and tours. Some travelers take up to 2 years to prepare for their trips, so make sure you always have the availability to attract them to your destination. Of course, as we said, short-term availability is important as well, but it’s best to cater to as wide a range of booking behaviors as possible.

Stand out with beautiful pictures of your destination

A picture speaks a thousand words and makes your product stand out from the rest. Be aware that your product is listed next to your competitors’ and the best picture is likely to receive the booking. Having nice, high-resolution pictures and videos will help you stand out and will always make your listing look professional, no matter where it’s being promoted.

Write unique product descriptions for each OTA

It’s perfectly acceptable to have your product listed on multiple Online Travel Agents. However, you need to have different descriptions for your product on each of them. Spend some time writing a special description for your tour specifically for each OTA’s listing. This is because of curation – OTAs want unique descriptions because they are easier to get to the top of the list of search engine responses. Look at the listings already on each OTA and use this format. Don’t have any weird formatting, inconsistent symbols, special offers, or your email address in the product description when you submit it.

Make the most out of your OTA partnership

Working with OTAs is a good strategy, but can be difficult to manage on an ongoing basis without the right technology to back you. How can you ensure that you don’t overbook tours when selling on multiple channels? How can availability be constantly up to date across your various distribution channels (without doing hours of admin work)?

Rezdy’s Channel Manager software exists to do exactly that. Our Channel Manager lets you update your availability across all your distribution channels from one place. This in combination with the OTAs we integrate with offers you some formidable distribution strategy options.

Start accepting online bookings with Rezdy. Start your FREE 21-day trial or book a demo with our team of experts today.

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