Industry Update
Opinion Article31 October 2018

OTAs VS. Direct Bookings

By Jingming Li, Master student, Major in Hotel & Restaurant Management

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The debate over OTAs vs. direct bookings is often a common one with many hoteliers. The growing popularity travelers using online travel agencies make OTAs became a part of booking strategies in hospitality industry. OTAs offer multiple choices of hotels and make it easy for travelers to find valuable packages. Hotel home website is also important because it directly demonstrate the hotel's characteristics, including business goals, culture, and future missions.

To promote services, hotels need more online exposure. OTAs would be a good choice to attract more customers to view hotel property details. Hotels update their contents, images and videos on OTAs to attract target groups. Customers often leave more reviews on OTAs and they read others ratings to decide whether they are going to stay in this hotel or not as well. Form this aspect, hotels can take advantages from these online reviews to evaluate themselves and also build reputation. OTAs allow bookers to check out reviews and get an idea of the hotel's services. While a considerable number of guests go through the reviews before booking their stay, positive reviews will make hotels more visible through better rankings on the OTAs. OTAs have more accessibilities for global customers, while foreign customers may not able to book directly from hotel home website because of internet limitation or language problems. OTAs do bring more customers to the hotel and let more people know about different hotels. When travelers search for a specific area, OTAs provide them different choices of hotels instead of just one hotel brand. However, the increasing online travel agencies give people dozens of confusing booking sources, sometimes offer irrelevant products that may not worth for target customers.

Now hotels put more effort on developing their direct booking websites. Hoteliers want customers to know about their online presence, which should be more convenient and cost-effective rather than the OTAs. Hotels prefer customers to book directly to avoid high fees to PTAs for every booking made through the agency's platform. Meanwhile, direct booking allow hotels to use loyalty programs and target repeat customers with special offers and packages. By using direct booking system, it is easier for hotels to make use of guest data available to enhance guest experience levels for every visitor. Meanwhile, direct websites is the digital front door of hotels. Engaging contents like photographs and fun videos give customers more vision of your hotel. Maintain updates on hotel websites to make unforgettable first impression to customers.

The benefits of direct booking are many. But, the power and influence of OTAs cannot be ignored. It is significant to create perfect balance between OTAs and direct bookings to keep regular flow of customers. Hotels must know how to partner with OTAs to create synergy and have a great service strategy. Establishing a smart management system is easy to connect with multiple OTAs and provide flexible management methods on both OTAS and direct bookings. But to the end, for both booking sources, the purpose is to increase occupancy and make profits for your hotel property.

Jingming Li

Jingming Li, from China. Now studying in the Conard N Hilton College in University of Houston as a Master student. Major in Hotel & Restaurant Management, emphasis on lodging and human resource.

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