What is OTA marketing?

OTA marketing is the process of taking advantage of an incredible number of potential guests, via online travel agencies (OTAs) which are a valuable source of bookings for most hotels. As a small, independent hotelier you should be doing all you can to capitalise on this audience and increase the online reach of your hotel.

As an independent hotelier who operates an intimate and quaint property, it might sometimes feel like it’s you against the corporate world of travel industry giants. Their marketing budget is larger than yours, they have professionals dedicated to raising brand awareness, and they are the sites that travellers think of when they want to plan a trip.

The key is to stop thinking about OTAs as the competition but instead as a valuable partner in attracting motivated travellers to your property.

Why is an OTA marketing strategy important?

Online travel agencies, or OTAs, are one of the most vital components of your distribution strategy. These wildly-popular and well-known distributors will be able to outspend any independent hotel on marketing and search engine optimisation (SEO). You should develop a distribution strategy that utilises OTAs as a valuable distribution partner.

There are many benefits to working with OTAs, including:

  • OTAs attract travellers from all over the globe. The most motivated travel segments will often turn to OTAs to find out more about the best deals and even to book their upcoming trips.
  • OTAs spend big money on marketing. They are always at the top of the search engine results page (SERP), and they hire the top experts in the marketing field to ensure that they get the best return on their investment when it comes to advertising and promotion. When your bed and breakfast partners with an OTA, your property reaps the benefits of these hefty investments.

It’s true that it can be frustrating to pay commission fees to OTAs, but it’s a necessary cost to creating a powerful distribution strategy. While the commission may initially dip into your profit margins, you can make it more worth your while to partner with OTAs. By using these tips to optimise your property on the various OTA profiles, you can be sure that your property earns a priority spot on the OTA sites.

Benefits of effective OTA marketing and management

Why put the effort into OTA management and OTA optimisation? Here are three major reasons:

1. Get found online

Improve your overall reach to travellers from across the globe through OTAs. Even if your hotel has implemented the best SEO strategy, it likely won’t push your rankings above OTAs.

OTAs are a powerful force in the travel industry, and they are widely recognised by consumers as a reliable source during the research phase of their booking journey.
Through an OTA partnership, you can reach far more travellers than you would on your own.

2. Reach niche audiences

You can use OTAs to gain access to niche travel audiences that you would not otherwise discover on your own.

Special interest groups are likely to use OTAs because they can search for available properties that are offering great deals during the times that they want to travel.

While these groups may not know how to search for your small hotel on their own, they may discover your property through their OTA search.

3. Benefit from direct comparisons

OTAs place your hotel right next to those of your competitors – and that needn’t be a bad thing. When your OTA marketing strategy involves optimising your presence on OTAs by adding stunning photos, cultivating good reviews, and generally putting your hotel in the best possible light, the inherent comparison of OTAs can work in your favour, by showing your hotel to be the pick of any bunch.

Remember, however, to not become solely dependent on OTAs. These bookings cost you a significant amount in commissions. Direct bookings, via an online booking engine, allow you to maximise your profit per customer.

OTA marketing tips for your small hotel

What does an OTA strategy for hotels look like? To gain an understanding of the boxes you should tick when developing yours, here are ten of the most effective OTA hotel management tips.

1. Complete your OTA profile in its entirety

OTAs know that the travellers who are browsing their site are looking for relevant, accurate information that will help them finalise their decision about an upcoming trip. You need to include a complete biography as well as your current rates and availability to rank high on the OTA search results. To try and pull some direct bookings from OTAs, add your own website to your profile in hopes that travellers will click the link to book directly through you.

2. Have an optimised website 

Your website needs to have relevant and accurate content, as well as plenty of high-resolution photographs.

Make it simple and easy for guests to book a room on your website. Also, make sure that you use responsive web design that gives mobile users the opportunity to browse and book from their preferred devices.

3. Be able to accept online bookings

Use a booking engine to accept direct bookings from your own website. Your booking engine should have online payment capability as well as provide a seamless process for your guests.

4. Network with OTA marketing managers

When you reach out to the marketing managers who work at the major OTAs, you will be able to build a productive professional relationship that can increase the success of your OTA partnership. When a marketing manager is familiar with your brand, they will be more likely to promote your property on the site.

5. Pack your profile with high-resolution images

Guests are highly motivated by visual elements, so you will want to give your best first impression by using vivid, high-resolution images of your small hotel on your OTA profile.

6. Use SEO on your OTA marketing profile

To rank hotels on their search results, OTAs use an algorithm that is similar to Google and other search engines. The algorithm is frequently updated and tweaked, so it’s critical that you employ the best and most current SEO strategies on your OTA profile. This gives you the best chance of remaining at the top of their results.

7. Take advantage of metasearch engines

Use metasearch engines to drive traffic to your website. Sites such as Trivago and Kayak provide travellers with valuable information about many different hotels in one convenient spot.

By partnering with metasearch engines, you can broadcast your rates and availability in order to direct guests to your site to complete their booking.

8. Re-engage with past guests

Reduce your cost of acquisition by booking past guests. You can design promotions that offer guests a discount if they book a subsequent stay at your small hotel within a specific period of time, such as 6 months or 1 year.

9. Incentivise referrals

Develop referral programs to encourage your guests to recommend your property.

When you use past guests to acquire new ones, you increase your revenue per customer significantly.

A referral program can reward both the past guest as well as their family members and friends, and can be quite effective when it comes to improving your brand recognition.

10. Have a presence on relevant niche OTAs

The bigger the OTA, the bigger the audience – it’s why most hotels will want to list on the likes of Booking.com and Expedia. But that doesn’t mean you should overlook smaller OTAs, particularly those that are relevant to your target audience.

While niche OTAs might attract fewer visitors than bigger players, each visitor can be far more relevant, and therefore far more likely to book with you. They may even be willing to pay a premium, given you are presumably the type of accommodation they’re looking for. The comparative lack of competition means you can also stand out more on these platforms.

Browse niche OTAs and pick a couple that you feel align with your target audience, then ensure your OTA hotel management aligns with the best practices above.

OTA marketing made easier with Little Hotelier 

Managing your booking channels can be a complex and time-consuming task. Every OTA has its own portal through which you’re supposed to manage and enhance your profile, and as soon as a booking is made through one channel you need to update availability on all others. But our OTA hotel management software offers a better way.

Little Hotelier’s channel manager centralises and automates all this booking channel chaos. It condenses channel management into a single portal with a single login, allowing you to update all listings in mere clicks. It also automatically updates availability as bookings are made, allowing you to kiss double-bookings goodbye.

  • Connect to 450+ OTAs: No matter who you list with, you can be confident that Little Hotelier will connect. Enjoy access to a market-leading 450+ OTA integrations, including a wealth of niche platforms.
  • No more double bookings: With all your booking sources channelling back to a single calendar, availability is instantly updated across all listings as soon as a new reservation is made.
  • Instantly update your listings: Whether room, rates, availability or a tweak to your amenities list, you can update information across all listings in a click.

By Dean Elphick

Dean is the Senior Content Marketing Specialist of Little Hotelier, the all-in-one software solution purpose-built to make the lives of small accommodation providers easier. Dean has made writing and creating content his passion for the entirety of his professional life, which includes more than six years at Little Hotelier. Through content, Dean aims to provide education, inspiration, assistance, and, ultimately, value for small accommodation businesses looking to improve the way they run their operations (and live their life).