You probably have mixed feelings about Online Travel Agencies (OTAs) like Expedia and Booking.com. On the one hand, they bring in a significant number of bookings and offer beneficial exposure. On the other hand, they take a 15-30% cut of revenue.
The truth is, despite the steep commissions, OTAs are a critical part of a property’s digital marketing strategy that shouldn’t be neglected. While we adamantly encourage pursuing direct bookings, it is important to invest time and energy into your OTA presence too, as part of a holistic approach to online marketing. Here’s how to make the most of your OTA profiles to attract more guests to your property.
Ensure profile information is complete >> When setting up your property’s profile, take care to complete all available fields. This includes everything from location and contact information to descriptions of rooms, facilities, and policies, and plenty of high-quality property images (more on that below). Not only does this ensure your listing is included when travelers apply search filters but it also demonstrates credibility. An incomplete profile appears unprofessional and potential guests are more likely to overlook your property entirely.
Use attention-grabbing images >> There is a lot of competition on OTAs. Travel consumers have to scroll through multitudes of options when looking to make a booking, and it’s easy to get lost in the noise. Ensure your property stands out by including a collection of professionally captured images. They should be vivid and diverse; include photos of the lobby, facilities, rooms, and views so travelers can imagine their entire stay with you.
Keep your profile information up to date >> There’s no easier way to lose credibility than having out of date information online. Your OTA profile is something that requires regular (but easy!) maintenance. Set up monthly or seasonal alarms in your marketing calendar as a reminder to check and update your online profiles, ensuring information is accurate and relevant, and consistent across all sites. This includes your photo gallery. New images will keep your property’s profile fresh and exciting.
Make sure you stay up to date with the latest profile features offered by your OTA, for example, new search filters. Since covid, OTA listings began to include cleaning and safety practices—ensure you complete such options as they become available in order to stay relevant.
Highlight special offers >> People browse OTAs so they can weigh their options. They’re looking for a reason to choose one property over all others, so make sure to give them that reason. Include special offers and promotions on OTA platforms to help snag bookings.
Connect your OTA channels with your property management system >> Direct integration between your PMS and OTA channels ensures that your rates and availability are always up to date online, including special offers. Applicable rate changes and overrides made in your PMS are automatically reflected on your OTA channels. Reservations made through your OTA partners are automatically sent to your PMS, and availability is automatically adjusted across all connected channels. OTA integration makes managing your OTA inventory easier and faster so you can catch more bookings.
Manage reviews >> Online reviews have a huge impact on sales. Approximately 80% of travelers read reviews before making a hotel booking. It is therefore critical for properties to both encourage feedback from guests (more reviews inspires more consumer confidence) and respond to reviews promptly.
You don’t need to reply to every review; choose to respond to those that require an explanation or apology, as well as a few positive reviews to offer appreciation for the guest’s kind words and to let them know you hope to welcome them back again soon.
Follow OTA recommendations >> Just as there are tips and tricks to optimize your property website’s ranking on search engines, there are measures you can take to improve your ranking on OTAs. Every OTA uses a different algorithm and most offer suggestions on how to climb their ranks. Heed your OTA market manager’s advice and stay informed. As an OTA tweaks their internal ranking system, you should adjust your optimization strategies accordingly.
While every hotel dreams of sales dominated by direct bookings, OTAs are (and will remain) an integral part of a property’s success. Fortunately, you don’t need to choose one over the other. Improving your OTA profile can actually help boost direct bookings by increasing exposure for your property and bringing you opportunities to nurture loyal, returning guests.
Editor’s note: This post was originally published September 2017 and updated August 2022.