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How To Avoid Catastrophe When Using OTAs

Online travel agents (OTAs), or booking sites, are invaluable sales channels for hotels. Use them correctly and you get more advertising and the right kind of exposure for your hotel. Use them incorrectly and you’ll create more work for your front desk and struggle with double bookings. Here are our tips on how you can make the most of your OTAs and avoid disgruntled guests at check in.

Ever wondered about OTA commission rates? Explore our comprehensive guide on Airbnb, Expedia, and Booking.com commissions and more!

How to Get the Most Out of Your OTA Listings

1. Use more than one booking channel

While it may be tempting to rely on a single booking site for your hotel, savvy hoteliers can reap numerous benefits by using multiple channels. By diversifying your distribution strategy, you not only increase your sales revenue but also broaden your reach to a more diverse range of potential customers. Remember, by spreading your presence across various platforms, you ensure a steady flow of bookings and keep your business operations running seamlessly. It’s all about maximising your opportunities and staying ahead in the competitive hospitality industry.

2. Use channel management

One of the biggest obstacles that prevents hoteliers from using more booking channels is the risk of double bookings. Avoid this by keeping your front desk up to date with a channel management tool. Traditionally, managing your bookings was done manually, but the speed of internet bookings now makes that almost impossible. By integrating a channel manager with your hotel management software you’ll never have to greet double-booked guests at check in again. (Pro-tip: Preno offers a hotel channel manager as an add-on to its PMS!)

3. Use OTAs for niche markets

Just like boutique stores, some online agents cater to niche markets. These booking sites can reach guests who are more receptive to what makes your property special, and therefore reach guests who become happier returning customers. Figure out what type of market you’re targeting, such as young travellers or wealthy older guests, then use OTAs to target those niches.

4. Factor in your commissions

Online booking agents can sometimes hitch up the commissions they charge for their services. For hotels who don’t adjust their rates accordingly, profit margins suffer and the quality of service may decline. Set your rates to cover the expense of commission (in addition to the service you’re providing) to ensure your hotel still profits.

5. Use OTAs to monitor your guest reviews

Guests who have made reservations through popular platforms such as Booking.com and Expedia are actively browsing through the reviews of your hotel or property. Word-of-mouth recommendations serve as powerful and cost-effective advertising. Although you cannot delete any reviews, consistently monitoring and analyzing them will provide you with indispensable insights into the quality of your services.

6. Respond to guest reviews

Hoteliers should always reply to their reviews, both the good and the bad. This makes you look attentive and is an opportunity to show the public how you resolve complaints. You can also minimise chances of bad online reviews by requesting feedback from your guests at the end of their stay. You can do this in person and add a personal touch to your service, or you can do so with a feedback box and anonymous cards. Get their feedback while they’re still in the property and they won’t feel the need to say negative words online.

7. Use guest loyalty schemes

Guests who have used booking platforms typically anticipate that they have secured the finest room available. However, as a hotelier, you may have already allocated your premium rooms to loyal customers who booked directly through your website. To navigate this potential discrepancy, consider leveraging the “loyalty” feature provided by your booking platform. By doing so, you not only showcase your establishment but also encourage returning patrons who value your services to engage with your business repeatedly, fostering loyalty and enhancing customer retention.

8. Expand your presence

Don’t limit your distribution to just online booking agents! Take advantage of social media platforms and other digital channels to increase awareness about your property and engage with potential guests. Use these outlets as a way to show off the uniqueness of your hotel, its services and promotions in order to bring in more bookings organically. A strong online presence will also help establish credibility and attract more direct bookings, reducing your reliance on OTAs.

Remember – be smart when using OTAs

In today’s digitally-driven world, hotels need to have a holistic approach when it comes to marketing and distribution. While OTAs can be powerful tools for increasing visibility and bookings, they should be used strategically. By diversifying your distribution channels, leveraging technology and staying on top of guest reviews, hoteliers can avoid common pitfalls and make the most out of their OTA listings. Keep these tips in mind and you’ll be well on your way to maximising profitability while also providing exceptional experiences for your guests.

Avoiding Disaster with OTAs

1. Keep track of your inventory

With multiple booking channels, it’s easy to lose track of your available rooms and end up overbooking. This can lead to disgruntled guests and damaged reputation for your hotel. Make sure to regularly update your inventory across all channels to avoid such disasters.

2. Be aware of cancellation policies

Be aware of the cancellation policies set by different OTAs. Some may have stricter policies than others, which can affect your revenue if you’re not prepared for cancellations. It’s important to understand and negotiate these policies before signing up with an OTA.

3. Monitor your rates

OTAs often offer discounts and promotions on their platforms, which can affect your own rates and revenue. Keep an eye on these rate changes and make sure they align with your pricing strategy to avoid any discrepancies.

4. Use data for decision making

Take advantage of the data provided by OTAs to analyze booking trends, guest preferences, and other valuable insights. This can help you make more informed decisions when it comes to managing your distribution channels and setting rates.

5. Maintain a good relationship with OTAs

It’s important to maintain a good relationship with OTAs, as they can bring in a significant amount of business for your hotel. Keep communication open and work together to ensure mutual success. This can also lead to potential opportunities for better commissions and deals in the future.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why should I use more than one booking channel?

Using multiple booking channels will not only increase your sales, but it also gives you exposure to a larger variety of customers. It’s important to diversify your revenue streams and avoid relying on just one source for bookings.

How can I prevent double bookings when using multiple booking channels?

The best way to prevent double bookings is by regularly updating your inventory and having a reliable channel manager like Preno in place. This will ensure that all channels are synced and any changes made on one platform reflect on the others.

Can I negotiate better deals with OTAs?

Yes, it’s possible to negotiate better commissions and deals with OTAs. It’s important to build a good relationship with them and demonstrate the value your property can bring to their platform. This can lead to potential opportunities for better rates and terms.

What to do if you receive a negative review from an OTA?

First, take the time to understand the guest’s concerns and address them promptly. Offer solutions or compensation if necessary. Then, respond professionally and politely to the review, showcasing your commitment to resolving issues and providing excellent customer service. This can help mitigate the negative impact of the review and show potential guests that you take their feedback seriously. It’s important to regularly monitor all guest reviews and respond within a timely manner. Aim for responding within 24 hours, but make sure to take the time to craft a thoughtful and helpful response, rather than rushing with a generic reply. Overall, responding to reviews can improve your online reputation and attract more potential guests.

How do OTAs impact hotels?

Online travel agencies (OTAs) impact hotels in various ways. They can boost efficiency by helping hotels build better relationships with guests and equipping hoteliers with valuable data. However, hotels often pay hefty commissions to OTAs for each booking, which can significantly impact their profit margins.

Why would a client book through OTAs?

Clients may choose to book through OTAs for several reasons, including the convenience of making travel plans more cost-effective and easier. Additionally, OTAs handle the marketing and advertising side of a hotel’s inventory, saving clients time and resources.

How to market OTA?

To effectively market through OTAs, hotels can leverage the platforms’ marketing and advertising capabilities to showcase their offerings to a broader audience. Using OTA platforms also provides hotels with valuable data and analytics that can be used to optimise their business strategy.

What is OTA management?

OTA management involves managing the relationship between hotels and online travel agencies. This includes strategies for optimising revenue, analysing booking trends, and understanding the impact of OTA reservations on hotel websites. Effective OTA management can help hotels avoid common pitfalls and maximise their profitability while maintaining a positive online reputation.

Overall, it’s important for hoteliers to carefully consider the pros and cons of using OTAs and to have a solid strategy in place for managing these distribution channels. With proper attention and effort, OTAs can be valuable tools for boosting business and providing exceptional experiences for guests. So be sure to continuously monitor and adapt your OTA strategy to ensure success for both you and your valued guests.

If you’d like to learn more about managing your hotel’s revenue with OTAs, you’ll want to also read these:

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About the author

Amelia is Preno’s CEO and Co-Founder. As a former hotelier, she enjoys writing about the latest hotel industry news and trends.

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