What is an OTA (Online Travel Agency)?

Online travel agencies or OTAs, which are actively used by millions of people today, are also of great importance to the tourism industry. Let's take a closer look at what OTAs are and their impact.

What is an OTA in travel?

Online travel agencies, known as OTAs in tourism, are the most popular method of hiring travel services today. Through online travel agencies, individuals can access a wide range of services for their travels. Some of these services include hotel reservations, airline tickets, car rental services, and tours.

The ability of individuals to make all their travel plans in the comfort of their homes and access affordable prices increases the popularity of OTAs in tourism.

A short history of OTAs

In 1999, 15 million people in the US alone booked through an online travel agency. This is proof that the impact of the internet on the hospitality industry started very early. The hospitality industry is one of the first industries to discover the advantages of the digital world.

It was between 2003 and 2004 that this effect started to attract worldwide attention and reached a very serious volume. The growth that continued until then accelerated even more after 2004, and as a result, it reached a position that has reached today and has a volume of billions of dollars.

What does an online travel agency do?

The main task of online travel agencies is to bring people together with the vacation of their dreams. To do this, they offer various services. These services are mainly as follows:

  1. Reservation Services: The main service of OTAs in tourism is reservations. These reservations include various functions such as rooms and houses from various properties, air ticket reservations, tours, and car rentals.
  2. Vacation Recommendations: Many OTAs recommend affordable or highly rated properties where users can stay.
  3. Price Comparison: One of the first things many users look for when searching for vacation accommodation is the price. Most OTAs offer the option to compare the prices of their chosen property.
  4. Reviews and Ratings: One of the best ways to choose an accommodation is to look at reviews and ratings. Guests can discover the negative and positive things about the property through the reviews on the OTA.

What is the difference between an OTA and a travel agency?

Even though OTA and travel agencies serve the same purpose and offer similar services they have some key differences. 

Their most prominent dissimilarity is that with OTA everything is self-service meanwhile at a travel agency you work with a travel agent. They both have their pros, when you are booking through an OTA you can do it whenever you want wherever you want. Travel agencies have set working hours though they also show an online presence.

When you are booking through an OTA you get plenty of options but comparing the prices and types of accommodations is your duty. On the other hand, a travel agency helps you throughout the planning and can offer you a customized trip.

What are the duties of a travel agency?

The most important element of the tourism industry is to provide the best service and hospitality to future guests. Therefore, the primary task of a travel agency is providing information and guidance.

It is one of their duties to choose the most suitable plan for guests for their dream vacations and tours. They can also create special packages for some of their clients. These packages include accommodation, flights, and, if necessary, assistance in arranging visas and travel documents. Another service they offer is insurance for any problems that may befall their guests during the trip.

How does OTA drive high traffic in tourism?

One of the most important points about OTAs in tourism is that they serve a very large number of visitors. Under normal circumstances, you would need to spend a very serious marketing budget to present your property to such a large audience, whereas with OTAs you only pay when the sale is made. It is a more advantageous method than paying large amounts before the sale.

Guests say “OTA first”

The internet is changing consumers’ habits. Thanks to the opportunities it offers, customers now prefer to see many alternatives together and make their final decisions accordingly, no matter what they are going to buy online.

OTAs have a great advantage in responding to these needs of hotel guests thanks to the large number of properties they have. For this reason, online travel agencies are the first place most internet users visit when they are deciding which property to stay at. They choose the most suitable property for them from the wide catalog of OTAs.

OTAs have become a part of the research

Nowadays, many guests visit OTAs to evaluate their options, even if they are booking through the hotel’s own website. That’s why they see OTAs as part of their accommodation research. According to research, 82% of internet users staying for vacation and 81% of internet users staying for business visit online travel agencies as well as hotel websites.

OTAs have become one of the most important booking sources for many properties today. Therefore, it is not easy to give it up. On the other hand, working with an OTA is just one of the things you need to do for sales. You should also have a website and make sure that your potential guests can find the necessary information about your property on your website. You should also be able to offer your guests the option to book directly online, which will increase your profitability.

Instead of using dozens of software to do all of these, you can choose HotelRunner, which is integrated with more than 150 sales channels and is specially designed to increase the sales of your property.

Sign up today and experience firsthand the innovative infrastructure we offer for the hospitality industry. We’re here to assist you every step of the way!

Cihan Coşkuntuncel

Director of Sales and Business Development

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