The Art Of Converting OTA Guests Into Direct Bookers
By Stuart Butler Chief Operating Officer, Fuel Travel | October 27, 2019
Let me start by saying that Online Travel Agency websites get a bad rap. They actually play an important role within the hospitality ecosystem. I don't buy in to the sensational narrative that demonizes OTAs as a parasite that erodes the profitability of hotels. Especially the notion that the duopoly of Booking Holdings and Expedia Group is too restrictive. They are only as restrictive as your distribution strategy allows them to be.
Having worked with hundreds of independent hotels for almost two decades, I have come to appreciate the value that OTAs provide and also learned to recognize the mistakes that far too many properties make when dealing with these behemoths. For the majority of my clients, the property is in control and dictates the terms of the relationship. Unfortunately, the same can't always be said for the industry at large.
The truth is that OTAs, when used correctly, are invaluable as a part of a broader distribution strategy and they should be an essential part of your marketing mix, regardless of your property size, location or category.
Unfortunately, the negative sentiment that has begun to surface over the last few years is resonating with a lot of people because they are feeling the pain caused by an over-reliance on OTAs.The reality is that this is typically a self-inflicted problem caused by a lack of focus or a foolish strategy.
When you lean on OTAs too much, they appear to be too powerful because you begin to fear what would happen if you lost the business that they generate. And, to be frank, it would hurt if you were to completely turn away from OTAs because they can help you find guests that would be unattainable otherwise.
Because of their size and authority, OTAs tend to dominate organic search results for broad keywords in any given destination. This means that OTAs are reaching an audience at the very top of the travel research funnel. It's unrealistic to think that every independent property can accomplish the same visibility, so this is a prime example of how OTAs can help a property reach an audience that it may miss out on through individual marketing efforts.