By Jessica Harris — 26 May 2014
Online Travel Agents (OTAs) can provide your tours and activities with massive exposure. To distribute your and activities globally, you’ll need to partner with them, so here’s everything you need to know about working with OTAs and the meaning of 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, plan and place an order for a booking.
The list of popular OTA’s for tour operators are:
You may also know some national Online Travel Agents that are very well-known and worth partnering with. For example, in Australia, Red Balloon is a big distribution channel for tour operators.
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 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.
Each OTA will negotiate commission rates with you individually, but there are industry standards to give you a guide of what to expect.
Before partnering with OTAs, there are a few things you need to be aware of and 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.
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 updating your availability in real time as it changes.
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.
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.
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 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 their trips, so make sure you always have the availability to attract them to your destination. Of course like we said, short-term availability is important as well, but it’s best to cater for as wide a range of booking behaviours as possible.
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.
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 to write 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.
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 exists to do exactly that. Our Channel Manager lets you update your availability across all your distribution channels from the one place. This in combination with the OTAs we integrate with offers you some formidable distribution strategy options.
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