Online travel agency (OTA) is an online or mobile app-based marketplace where travelers can search and book travel products including hotels, flights, car rentals, tours and activities. OTAs are third parties reselling services that are provided by travel suppliers such as airlines, hotels, car rental companies, cruise lines and tour operators. OTAs often manage the entire booking process for consumers and may offer a variety of services such as real-time customer support, search engine optimization, payment processing and more.
Many travelers use OTAs to compare prices and availability, especially when planning trips that require multiple locations or dates. Some OTAs also host independent reviews to help users evaluate travel products. Compared to direct bookings with hotels, OTA bookings usually have lower rates, according to a study by Piper Jaffray.
The online travel industry is growing rapidly and expanding into new markets around the world. The success of an OTA depends on a number of factors including product, technology, partnerships and marketing. OTAs must continually evolve their product offerings and adjust their strategies to stay competitive. They also need to maintain strong relationships with travel suppliers and partners and adhere to consumer protection laws.
Some OTAs focus on one particular market or product, such as hotel rooms, airfare or car rentals. Others, like Expedia and Orbitz, are global giants that provide a wide range of travel products and services. Still, some OTAs specialize in particular destinations or categories of travel, such as cruises, ski holidays, or luxury vacations.
As the OTA industry grows, customers’ expectations for service and convenience are changing. Some travelers expect a personalized experience from their OTA, much the way they would get from a human agent. In response, some OTAs have invested in hiring agents who can answer questions and provide advice to customers.
In addition, some OTAs are using artificial intelligence to improve the customer experience. For example, some are using AI to predict what type of trip a potential customer might want and make recommendations based on their past behavior. The goal is to increase conversions and reduce abandoned carts.
Whether you’re selling accommodations, tours or activities, working with an OTA is a great way to reach more travelers globally and engage them when they’re researching, planning and booking their next trip. However, not all OTAs are created equal and choosing the right partner is crucial to your business’s success.
To ensure your listing is found by travelers, choose an OTA that specializes in your niche. For example, if you’re selling local tours and experiences in a specific destination, list with a tour-specific OTA such as Viator or GetYourGuide. This will give travelers confidence that they’re booking with a trusted source. In addition, many OTAs have regionally-based account teams who can share their expertise and insights on best practices for your business. In addition to boosting sales, this can also improve your brand’s reputation by driving more referrals.