By Taz Bareham — 10 Oct 2014
With more people booking online than ever before, online travel agencies (OTAs) have become a necessary distribution channel for tour and activity businesses.
Here’s what you need to know about working with them.
First things first – what is an OTA in travel?. An online travel agency can be utilized by a traveler in order to book everything they need for their trip in one place. This can include making hotel reservations, flight reservations and in-destination reservations like tours, attractions, activities.
Click here and here for examples of the world’s top OTAs for tours and activities.
By working with an OTA, your business gains exposure to an otherwise untouched audience.
Although the commission can be costly, this makes it worth it. People from overseas going to a country for the first time are more likely to use OTAs, because OTAs have a standard for the suppliers they list on their site.
OTAs like Expedia use dynamic packaging so that customers can build their own package of transport, accommodation, and activities. Your tour or activity can be included in this convenient online shopping process.
Some people like to book directly on your branded website after discovering it through an OTA.
This is because “supplier sites are viewed as being more trustworthy and accurate and are believed to have the most current up to date pricing and inventory” (Forrester Research).
While the above quote was used in reference to accommodation providers, we believe the same is true for tours and activities.
To ensure a successful, long-lasting business relationship, you must offer the same pricing & availability across the board.
All of your agents – whether or not they are OTAs – need to be offered the same rates and availability. You don’t want to upset anyone by favoring one over the other.
Note: this includes all promotions you run, as well as bookings on your website! They will not be motivated to work with you if you offer a cheaper price when customers book directly with you.
You can use other strategies to increase direct bookings. For example, create a specific package for honeymooners which includes meals and shuttle transport.
Because OTAs list your tour or activity price alongside your competitors, it can be tempting to drop your prices in an effort to compete. Don’t do this! Instead, justify your pricing by adding in more high-value perks.
As we previously explained, you are likely to see a boost in direct bookings after working with an OTA because some consumers will choose to book directly with you.
To make sure you are prepared for this, make sure you allow them to instantly check your availability, book and pay for your tour or activity in a few clicks. Online booking software like Rezdy integrates seamlessly with your website so that people don’t even have to leave your website to make a booking.
To sell your tours well, your OTAs will need you to build your profile with stunning images and descriptions, as well as actively monitor and respond to your reviews.
Another major plus point is to have online booking software that is integrated with your OTA, so that your OTA has access to your live inventory. This means that there’s no need to play phone tag, or to allocate X number of seats to your OTA before knowing if those seats can be filled.
Instead, the OTA’s customer can check your availability, book and pay directly from the OTA’s website. You not only maximise your revenue but avoid overbooking this way. There’s less work for you, the OTA, and their customer, so everyone wins.
Rezdy’s booking software integrates with Viator, the world’s number one OTA for tours and activities. We’re also integrating with more and more channels to make distribution that much easier for our customers.
Why not take a free trial to see how it works?
You can also keep reading about distribution strategies by downloading our ebook: