How to Screen Potential Online Travel Agencies (OTAs)

Small accommodation providers can benefit greatly from online travel agencies (OTAs), using them to attract global guests.

But with a limited number of rooms to sell, you need to make sure you partner with the right agencies. How can you make sure you’re establishing the most effective partnerships?

Here’s what to look for in your OTAs, so that you can make sure you’re getting the most value (and bookings) out of the relationship.

1. The right kind of reach

Does the OTA in question have a customer base that matches with your idea of the perfect guest? Or do they have reach into a market that you simply can’t break into on your own?

Before choosing an OTA, it’s important to define what kind of guest you want, instead of just accepting anyone and everyone. Then, you need to consider whether this OTA can give you that guest.

The OTA should be able to describe what demographic and geographic reach they have. You may want to consider offering special rates for certain countries to sweeten the deal.

For example, if you want to tap into the Chinese leisure travel market, then find an OTA that has access into that niche. Try Ctrip, eLong, or LY.com. However, if you want to get more business travelers, it may be best to go through a meeting planner.

2. A good track record

Your property should also fit into the OTA’s overall product/service mix.

How many inns, bed and breakfasts, hostels, and guesthouses do they have as a part of their product mix?

Ask them what they like about your property, and what experience they have in selling similar types of rooms.

The OTA you choose should have a good track record in working with small accommodation providers like yourself.

3. Sufficient resources

Obviously, the OTA you choose should be established in the markets that you’re trying to reach, meaning they have the right resources to service both you and your guests.

Find out how large the business is, and what systems they use to keep everything running smoothly.

If you have a hotel booking engine, how will you sync up inventory? If you have a channel manager, will the OTA be able to integrate with it so that everything is synced automatically?

If this isn’t possible, then you may be stuck processing bookings manually. If you have a solution like Little Hotelier in place, your availability is updated automatically.

Make it official

Once you’ve decided on an OTA, it’s time to make the partnership official by putting it in writing. Make sure you decide on…

  • Which products they’ll be selling (eg. all rooms except your luxury suite)
  • What they need from you to sell better (eg. high quality photographs of the room, bathroom, courtyard, and common area – and room descriptions)
  • How online bookings will be managed (eg. through your channel manager, or by manually updating a portal they give you access to)
  • How you will service guests (eg. is airport pickup included?)
  • How you will work together to deal with issues (eg. customer complaints)
  • How reporting will be managed (eg. through your front desk system’s channel report)

For more tips on how to work with OTAs effectively, download our ebook:

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