What is an OTA booking? 

An OTA booking refers to a reservation made through an Online Travel Agency (OTA). These are websites or apps that provide end-to-end travel booking services, enabling users to compare and book accommodations, flights, car rentals, and other travel-related services from multiple providers all in one place. Examples of OTAs include popular platforms such as:

  • Expedia
  • Booking.com
  • Airbnb

While hotels might not be able to survive without OTA connection, you want to be securing as many direct bookings as possible to avoid commission fees. One way to do this is to first understand customer behaviour.

So what defines travellers who book on OTAs rather than direct and why do they choose to do so?

At the moment, OTA bookings are far outweighing direct hotel website bookings across the world. Data has revealed that in developed markets, between 61-75% of customers used an OTA to shop for accommodation, but only 15-44% visited a hotel website. In emerging markets like China, 90% of online shoppers used OTAs.

How is OTA hotel booking different from direct booking?

Every time a hotel receives a booking from an OTA, the OTA typically takes a commission, reducing the total revenue earned from that sale by the hotel. Direct booking, done directly via the hotel’s website or booking engine, doesn’t have that slice of commission taken out, and the hotel is always able to have control of the guest relationship.

Why do travellers choose to book with OTAs?

The report also produced the top 10 reasons travellers book with OTAs and the list provides some positivity for accommodation providers. Three of the most prominent reasons were:

  1. The website is easy to use (47%)
  2. I trust the brand (34%)
  3. Online travel agents typically have the best prices (30%)

What defines OTA bookers?

In general terms, an OTA customer might simply be described as someone who searches for the best value, best experience, and has little lasting brand loyalty. While this may be true, OTA giant, Expedia, has unearthed some deeper insights to reveal three key characteristics of people who go for OTA bookings:

1. OTA bookers are tech savvy

Around 40% of traffic to Expedia flows in via mobile devices and a quarter of room nights are booked on mobile. In China, the amount of people searching Expedia on mobile jumps to 60%. Consumers are constantly connected to some form of device, be it mobile, laptop, desktop, or tablet and purchasing habits are starting to reflect this.

2. OTA bookers value convenience

The rising cost of living means that consumers like to have options so they can secure the best deal. OTAs give travellers the ability to easily compare a wide range of options in one place. On OTAs, they can also book flights which makes it all the more convenient.

3. OTA bookers are young

Over a third of OTA customers are between 25-39, with 82% of 25-34 year-olds travelling for leisure. Leisure is also the main reason for travel in 18-24 year-olds, at 76%.

What can small hotels do to win back an OTA booking?

The best thing about the data is that hotels can easily combat these direct booking barriers. Here are the five solutions:

1. Improve your hotel website

If customers are avoiding direct bookings because of your website, it’s easy to get them back on board with some close attention to key principles of user experience. Without spending money on a web designer, you can use a website builder to quickly set up your website for functionality, mobile optimisation, aesthetic appeal, and make it Google search friendly. With the right provider, all of this can be done almost instantly and can be updated at any time.

2. Build brand awareness

Hotels need to work hard to build brand awareness and consumer trust by establishing a very strong online presence. This means being very active and engaging on social media to establish a relationship with customers, and paying close attention to your management of online reviews to ensure your reputation stays strong. Again, your website and content need to be trustworthy and authentic to make sure visitors enjoy a good experience.

3. Offer better prices or unique packages 

While you can’t dramatically undercut the OTAs and start a price war, you can add some incentives to encourage travellers to book directly. Packages are a great way to give customers more for their money and are something you can offer exclusively via your website. There are also many ways to drive up guest loyalty, such as hotel programs and promotions.

4. Provide exceptional guest experience

In the world of hospitality, nothing beats an unforgettable guest experience. The quality of service that guests receive during their stay plays a significant role in their decision to book directly. 

To offer this exceptional guest experience, aim to make every interaction personal and memorable. From the moment a guest arrives until they check out, make sure they feel valued and attended to. You can enhance their stay with little touches like personal greetings, customised room settings, and swift response to their needs. The aim is to leave a lasting positive impression that outshines the convenience of OTA bookings. 

The better the guest experience, the higher the chances of your guests not just returning, but also opting for direct bookings in the future.

5. Collect guest feedback

Collecting guest feedback is a powerful tool for improving your hotel’s services, and it sends a clear message to your guests: their opinions matter to you. Create an easy and approachable feedback system, whether that’s an email survey post-stay or a simple form at check-out. 

Pay close attention to the feedback you receive, both positive and negative. Positive feedback lets you know what you’re doing right and should continue, while negative feedback offers insights into where and how you can improve. 

By understanding your guests’ needs and expectations better, you can make targeted improvements that enhance your guests’ overall experience, making them more likely to book with you in the future.

Win back OTA bookings with the help of Little Hotelier

Are you ready to regain control and win back your customers from OTAs? Little Hotelier is here to help. Our intuitive booking engine offers small hotel owners the ability to streamline operations, deliver memorable guest experiences, and harness data insights. Here’s how:

  • Gain an edge with seamless integration. Say goodbye to overbookings and inconsistencies. Little Hotelier synchronises your inventory and rates across all channels, keeping everything aligned and up-to-date.
  • Empower your strategy with powerful analytics. Knowledge is power. Little Hotelier’s in-depth analytics provides you with crucial insights into booking trends and guest behaviour. Tailor your offerings and strategies based on data-driven decisions.
  • Enhance guest experience with personalisation. Make every guest feel valued. With Little Hotelier, guest insights mean that you can personalise traveller’s experiences to leave a lasting impression. The more satisfied your guests are, the more likely they are to book directly with you.

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).