Understanding OTA Commission Rates: A Guide for Hotel Managers

As a hotel manager, one of the most important factors you need to consider is the commission rates charged by online travel agencies (OTAs). These fees can greatly impact your revenue and profit margins, so it’s essential to understand them thoroughly. In this guide, we’ll explain what OTAs are and their role in the hospitality industry, as well as provide tips on how to manage OTA commission rates effectively.

First, let’s define OTAs. OTAs are third-party booking websites that enable travellers to book hotel rooms, flights, rental cars, and other travel-related services. Examples of popular OTAs include Booking.com, Expedia, and TripAdvisor. These sites allow customers to compare prices, read reviews, and make reservations quickly and easily.

OTAs have become increasingly popular in recent years, and for a good reason. They can help fill rooms that might otherwise go unsold.  However, the downside is that OTAs typically charge a commission fee for each booking made through their site. This fee can range anywhere from 10% to 30% of the booking value, depending on the OTA and the specific terms of the agreement.

Stay ahead in the hospitality game by understanding commission structures from our comprehensive guide on OTA commission rates.!

Understanding OTA Commission Rates

If you’re a hotelier or in the hospitality industry, you’ve probably heard of the term “commission rates” in relation to online travel agencies (OTAs). But what exactly are they and how do they work? Let’s dive into the basics of OTA commission rates and how to understand them.

First off, let’s define what we mean by “commission rates.” When you list your hotel on an OTA, they will charge you a percentage of the booking value as their commission fee. This fee can range from anywhere between 10% to 30% depending on the OTA and the specific deal or promotion that you’ve agreed to. So if a guest books a room for $100, and your commission rate with the OTA is 20%, you’ll pay the OTA $20 in commission.

Now that we’ve defined commission rates, let’s take a look at the common commission rate ranges among popular OTAs. Keep in mind that these ranges are just generalisations and can vary depending on the specifics of your agreement with each OTA.

Booking.com, one of the largest OTAs, typically charges a commission rate of around 15%. Expedia, another popular OTA, also charges around 15%, but may charge higher fees for certain promotions or programs. Airbnb, while not strictly a hotel OTA, charges hosts a commission rate of 3% for every booking. Agoda, which is popular in Asia, can charge up to 25% in commission.

So what factors influence commission rates, and how can you negotiate them? One major factor is the level of competition in your market. If your hotel is in a popular destination with many other properties, you may need to offer higher commission rates to stay competitive. Another factor is the seasonality of your business. For instance, during high-demand periods, OTAs may charge higher commission rates.

But negotiating commission rates is possible, especially if you have a strong relationship with the OTA or are able to offer them a particularly attractive deal. One tactic is to offer an OTA an exclusive rate or promotion that they can only offer to their customers in exchange for a lower commission rate. Another tactic is to negotiate volume discounts based on the number of bookings you receive through the OTA.

What Is The Average Commission For OTA?

The average commission rate for OTAs is around 15%, although this can vary widely depending on the OTA and your specific agreement with them. Some OTAs may offer lower commission rates to hotels that are willing to provide exclusive or higher-priced inventory, while others may charge a higher commission fee for more prominent or highly-rated properties.

It’s important to note that the commission rates may also differ based on the type of room or service being booked. For example, commission rates for a standard room booking may be lower compared to a suite or extra services like breakfast or spa treatments. It’s crucial to understand these differences and negotiate with OTAs to find the best possible terms for your hotel.

Pros and Cons of Working with OTAs

While working with OTAs can have many benefits, there are also some drawbacks that should be considered. Take a look at the pros and cons of working with OTAs.

Advantages of working with OTAs

  • Increased visibility and bookings: By listing your property on an OTA, you’ll be able to reach a wider audience of potential guests.
  • Access to marketing tools: OTAs often provide marketing tools that can help you promote your property and attract more guests.
  • Streamlined booking process: OTAs offer a streamlined booking process that can make it easier for guests to reserve your property.

Disadvantages of working with OTAs

  • High commission fees: One of the biggest drawbacks of working with OTAs is the high commission fees they charge. These fees can range from 10% to 25% of the total booking cost, which can significantly impact your profit margins.
  • Loss of control over pricing: When you list your property on an OTA, you may have to give up some control over pricing.
  • Limited guest data: When guests book through an OTA, you may not have access to all of their information, such as their email address or phone number.

As a hotel or vacation rental owner, it’s important to carefully weigh the pros and cons of working with OTAs. This will help determine whether these platforms fit your business.

Tips for Managing OTA Commission Fees

With the right strategies in place, you can optimise your revenue while working with OTAs. Here are some tips for managing OTA commission fees:

Offer Exclusive Deals or Packages

Offer exclusive deals or packages that are only available through their platform. Just be sure to factor in the commission fee when setting the price for the deal.

Negotiate Commission Rates

Don’t be afraid to negotiate commission rates with OTAs. Depending on your hotel’s size and performance, you may be able to secure lower commission rates.

Use Channel Management Software

Use a channel management software that can manage all of your inventory from one central location. For there, you can adjust your pricing across multiple OTAs, and allow you to factor in varying commission rates when you set your prices.

Monitor OTA Performance

Be sure to monitor the performance of each OTA you work with. This can help you identify which channels are bringing in the most revenue and adjust your strategies accordingly.

How To Avoid Overbooking or Underbooking

As a hotel owner or manager, keeping track of your inventory is critical to avoid overbooking or underbooking your rooms. This can be a complex task, especially when you’re managing multiple channels. Let’s explore some practical tips on how to monitor and manage your hotel’s inventory to prevent booking errors and ensure a smooth guest experience.

Implement a property management system

By implementing a property management software (PMS) with a channel manager, you’re able to manage your hotel operations from within a single dashboard. This system should allow you to manage your inventory across all your channels, including your website, online travel agencies (OTAs), and other third-party booking platforms. You’ll also be able to track your occupancy rates, bookings, and cancellations in real-time.

Employ room blocking strategies

Room blocking strategies can help you manage your inventory and allocate the correct number of rooms to each channel. For example, you may choose to block off a certain percentage of your rooms for direct bookings or exclusive deals on OTAs.

Use a channel manager

With a channel manager, you can update your room availability, rates, and other details across all channels in real-time, eliminating the need to manually update each channel. A channel manager is often included in a property management system package and may be something you should consider if you’re working with multiple OTAs.

Set up booking restrictions

To further prevent overbooking or underbooking, set up booking restrictions for your inventory. For example, you can set a minimum length of stay or a maximum occupancy for certain room types.  This will help ensure that you don’t book more rooms than you have available.

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Exploring Direct Booking Strategies

So, what exactly is a direct booking strategy? Simply put, it’s a way for hotels and other travel businesses to encourage customers to book directly with them, rather than going through a third-party booking site. There are a number of different strategies that can be used to accomplish this, and each has its own unique advantages and disadvantages.

One common strategy is to offer exclusive discounts or perks to customers who book directly with the hotel. For example, a hotel might offer a free breakfast or a room upgrade to customers who book directly through their website.

Another popular direct booking strategy is to offer a price match guarantee. This means that if a customer finds a lower price for the same room on a third-party booking site, the hotel will match that price.

Finally, some hotels are experimenting with loyalty programs that offer exclusive perks and benefits to customers who book directly with the hotel. These programs can include things like free upgrades, early check-in or late check-out, and access to exclusive amenities like a hotel lounge or spa.

One of the biggest benefits of a direct booking strategy is that it allows hotels to build a direct relationship with their customers. When customers book directly with the hotel, they are more likely to feel a sense of connection and loyalty to the brand. Another advantage of a direct booking strategy is that it can help hotels to save money on commissions paid to third-party booking sites.

So, how can hotels create a successful direct booking strategy? Here are a few tips:

  • Identify your target audience: Who are your ideal customers, and what motivates them to book directly with your hotel? Understanding your target audience is the first step to creating a successful direct booking strategy.
  • Offer exclusive benefits: Whether it’s a discount, a free breakfast, or a room upgrade, offering exclusive benefits to customers who book directly with your hotel is a great way to incentivise direct bookings.
  • Make booking easy: Your website should be user-friendly and easy to navigate, with a clear call-to-action for customers to book directly with your hotel.
  • Promote your direct booking strategy: Use social media, email marketing, and other channels to promote your direct booking strategy and encourage customers to book directly with your hotel.

Direct booking strategies can offer a number of benefits to both travellers and hotels. So why not give it a try and see what a direct booking strategy can do for your hotel?

The Impact of Dynamic Pricing

To start with, let’s define what we mean by dynamic pricing. Dynamic pricing is a pricing strategy that allows businesses to adjust prices based on market demand, competitor prices, or other factors in real-time. In the hotel industry, this means that hotel rates can change from day to day, or even within the same day. This is based on factors like occupancy rates, seasonal trends, and events in the local area.

So, how does dynamic pricing affect OTA bookings? First, hotels that use dynamic pricing may be able to charge higher rates during peak travel periods, which can increase the amount of commission they pay to OTAs. On the other hand, if a hotel’s dynamic pricing strategy results in lower rates during slower periods, this could lead to more bookings through OTAs.

Hotels can manage dynamic pricing to minimise the impact on OTA commission rates. One strategy is to use revenue management software, such as a booking engine, that allows hotels to track market demand and adjust rates accordingly. This can help hotels optimise pricing to maximise revenue while minimising the commission paid to OTAs.

Another strategy is to negotiate commission rates with OTAs. Hotels can work with their OTA partners to establish commission rates that are fair and sustainable for both parties. This can help ensure that hotels are not paying too much in commission, even during peak travel periods.

Calculating Your OTA True Cost

Before we dive into the calculations, it’s important to identify all of the costs associated with using an OTA. Here are some common costs to keep in mind:

  • Booking fees: Many OTAs charge booking fees, which can range from a few dollars to a percentage of the total booking cost.
  • Credit card fees: Some OTAs charge a fee for using certain types of credit cards.
  • Hidden fees: Some OTAs may not disclose all fees upfront, such as resort fees or mandatory taxes that are not included in the initial price.
  • Loyalty program rewards: OTAs may offer rewards or loyalty programs that can offset some of the costs.
  • Time and effort: Using an OTA can be time-consuming, so it’s important to factor in the value of your time and effort.

Now that we’ve identified the costs associated with using an OTA, let’s look at an example of how to calculate your true cost.

One of the primary costs associated with using an OTA is the commission fee charged for every booking made through the platform. This commission can range from 10% to 30% of the total booking value, depending on the OTA and the type of property. So if a guest books a room for $100 on an OTA that charges a 20% commission fee, the hotel would only receive $80 of that booking.

Hotels also need to consider the cost of using OTA’s payment processing services. Some OTAs process payments on behalf of hotels and charge a fee for this service. This fee is usually a percentage of the booking value or a flat fee per transaction.

Another cost that hotels need to consider is the cost of acquiring new guests through the OTA. This includes marketing and promotional costs that the OTA may charge to promote the hotel on their platform. Some OTAs may offer different marketing packages that include features like higher placement on search results or email marketing campaigns to promote the hotel’s rooms. These packages can come at a cost, and hotels need to evaluate their effectiveness before committing to them.

As you can see, the true cost of using an OTA can add up quickly. While OTAs can be a great resource for gaining guests, it’s important to factor in all of the costs before relying on them too heavily for your revenue.

Reducing Dependency on OTAs

While OTAs can be a great way to attract new guests, they often charge a hefty commission fee. This fee can range from 10% to 30% or more, which can eat into your profits and make it difficult to reinvest in your hotel. Additionally, relying too heavily on OTAs can make it difficult to build a loyal customer base. When guests book through an OTA, they may not even be aware of your hotel’s brand, which makes it harder to create a lasting relationship.

When you rely on OTAs to fill your rooms, you’re essentially letting them dictate your pricing and availability. This can make it difficult to optimise your revenue and maximise your profits.

Strategies for reducing dependency on OTAs

  • Invest in your own website: Your hotel’s website should be the centerpiece of your digital strategy. Make sure it’s easy to navigate, visually appealing, and optimised for search engines.
  • Offer direct booking incentives: Encourage guests to book directly with you by offering incentives like free upgrades, early check-in, or late check-out.
  • Leverage social media: Use social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter to connect with potential guests and promote your hotel.
  • Develop a loyalty program: Reward guests for booking directly with you by developing a loyalty program. Offer perks like free nights, discounted rates, or exclusive access to amenities.
  • Partner with local businesses: Partner with local businesses like restaurants, attractions, and transportation providers to offer guests a complete experience.

While OTAs can be a valuable tool for getting your hotel in front of potential guests, reducing your dependency on them can help you take back control of your revenue management strategy. It will also help you build a loyal customer base and maximise your profits.

Using OTAs can be a great way to gain exposure and attract new guests, but they can also come with hefty commission fees. To ensure that you’re getting the most out of your OTA partnerships, hotels should carefully evaluate their true cost before relying on them too heavily for their revenue. Additionally, hotels should look into strategies for reducing dependency on OTAs, such as investing in their own website, offering direct booking incentives, leveraging social media, developing a loyalty program, and partnering with local businesses. Doing so can help hotels take back control of their revenue management strategy and maximise their profits.

If you appreciated the insights shared about OTAs and their role in enhancing your hotel’s performance, you’ll be interested in:

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About the author

Kendra, the Marketing Content Manager at Preno, brings her expertise in Marketing and Communications to help hoteliers stay ahead of the curve. With a deep passion for the industry, she is committed to providing valuable insights and strategies for success.

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