When it’s time to book your holiday there are a few methods available to you. Each has its pros and cons, so it’s about educating yourself on what is right for you.
The travel industry is made up of three core market segments.
- meetings, incentives, conferences, and events (MICE)
Within the Leisure travel industry, there are three key booking methods:
- Direct with the supplier
- Online Travel Agents (OTA)
- Travel Agency
What is an Online Travel Agent?
Online Travel Agents (OTA) are a virtual travel agency business with an online presence. They don’t have retail stores that you can visit in person, instead, the consumer engages with them via their website and mobile application. Some OTAs also correspond with you via email or online messaging services.
OTAs spend time ensuring your user experience is frictionless, fast, and efficient. Their website and mobile application are designed for the optimal customer experience. Expect a smooth search process, quick and relevant results.
Travel suppliers (airlines, accommodation, car rental, tours, etc) can also choose to sell their content via an OTA which helps them to distribute their service offering to a wider audience. This is an advantage to OTAs because they can consolidate a range of travel suppliers in one place, providing filter and search parameters to help you find the perfect travel experience for you.
What are the benefits of booking with Online Travel Agents?
OTAs are well known for their wide range of travel content and online promotions. Due to their extensive range of travel content and large market share of website traffic, OTAs like Booking.com and Expedia work with travel suppliers on exclusive deals and promotions to attract your business. This works for the consumer as it’s a one-stop-shop for travel supplier promotions.
Things to consider before using an OTA
OTAs are not travel agents. They don’t own the travel content or operate the services/experiences they are selling to you. They act as distributors of travel content on behalf of the supplier. The arrangement between the OTA and the travel supplier is contractual whereby the two parties will agree on a commission per sale to the OTA and on occasion other incentives to promote one travel supplier over another. Since you aren’t dealing with a travel consultant or someone who’s purely focused to match you with the right travel experience, this is something to be aware of. The promotion offered or the top hotel results will often be strategically promoted to you during the shopping experience to convert the sale as quickly as possible whilst potentially achieving a greater commission for the OTA.
Terms and conditions of an OTA may also be more restrictive than if you booked with the travel supplier directly. Whilst this will always vary, it’s important you read all the information before booking.
If you wish to engage with a specialist when planning and booking your holiday, an OTA would not be the right choice for you. Their business model is not based on personalised service and expertise. If you do choose to book with an OTA, post-sales support will often be via an online request form or messaging service, so be patient.
An OTA does a good job at making the planning and booking process quick and efficient. For those that are loyalty members of an OTA, your preferred form of payment and contact details will most likely be saved, making the online search, selection, and booking experience seamless. A large range of travel supplier content is provided, however, make sure the results promoted to you are exactly what you want. Check the terms and conditions to avoid any nasty surprises.
Post-sales support with OTAs can be their downfall. If you need to change or cancel your booking just be aware of their terms and conditions before committing as it may not be as easy as the booking process.