There’s an OTA revolution happening right now while we pen this blog. These mega travel stores are evolving & competing fiercely for the pie. As an accommodation provider you can either join this movement or get left behind.
Online Travel Agents (OTAs) are now a marketing and distribution powerhouse, flaunting the world’s best technology and a blinding reach. These giants of the hospitality & travel sector inject a level of marketing spend (running into millions may we add!) that individual operators can only dream of. The resulting audience they have is simply spectacular – tapping into even a fraction of the right kind of people from this pool should keep most hospitality folks happy!
If you haven’t joined the bandwagon and are not yet leveraging from the OTAs’ highly sophisticated tools, not only are you losing potential revenue but also far-reaching exposure, product awareness, global distribution, potential market share and even direct bookings.
Have we got you attention now? Let’s get on with how to make money from your OTA investment.
OTAs don’t come free (not even cheap!). So when you join them, you need to become smart about making the most of them. Here are a few necessary steps that you should consider to increase your return on investment (ROI) with your current and future OTA partners.
Start with the basics, building a concrete foundation for your OTA set-up. Considering that OTAs are your virtual sales and marketing department you should ensure:
- Your content is at its best. Given this will be your first impression of your property, you need to make it special. Decorate your OTA landing page with high resolution and appealing images. Write a description as you would do for your own website. Be sure to be precise in stating your policies and procedures.
- You keep “rate plans” simple and standard across the board. Identify what is attractive to your market when creating your rate plans – does your target audience like ‘bed and breakfast’ or ‘room only’. Multiple rate plans such as ‘advance purchase’, ‘three-night stays’ or ‘early bird specials’ are a great promotional tool for optimal exposure and visibility on these channels, and create value for proposition on the consumer sites as well.
- You maintain uniformity of your room type names across the board including your website. OTAs don’t deter travellers from booking direct. In fact, exposure on OTAs can even increase direct bookings because the real value of your OTA presence is that your website becomes part of the consideration. Since room type names are part of your web content, its distribution through leading OTAs may result in organic improvement of your website’s ranking.
- To keep it competitive (with or without promotions). Let the OTAs compete with their extensive marketing budgets whilst you aim to maximise from all channels you are associated with.
Once you have the basics in place, focus on your ongoing marketing tactics on these channels. These include:
- Timing of the offers and inventory is paramount to optimise conversion. Play to the booking curve, both short- and long-term.
- Managing your distribution strategy by using the technologies and tools to attract the right bookings, at the right time. Every hotel should maximise from these tools.
- Having a presence on a variety of OTAs will increase your exposure and provide a more holistic approach to your OTA strategy.
- Making sure you display availability across all room types.
- Offering value-add services such as free wi-fi or a bottle of wine these simplest and creative ways are sure to help you stand out on OTA sites.
- Encouraging word of mouth, proven to be one of the strongest marketing tools. If you have a small number of reviews, you may want to offer guests a small incentive for completing an online customer review.
- Keeping an effective connection and communicating with your OTA partners. Use them to carve out your marketing strategy. Discuss specific goals in order to fine-tune your distribution plan and understand if your strategy is working. Bank on the initiatives that are performing well for your property and try to be innovative with the ones that aren’t performing.
When it comes to OTA’s you should be on top of the game to get the most out of it!
Munish Chetty is the founder of Vision Sales& Marketing, a boutique agency that sets small and medium sized businesses on the path to success. Munish has nearly two decades of hospitality experience, including 10 years with some of the world’s leading OTAs. More information on www.vsaml.com