Let’s face it, having your tour or activity listed on an OTA is not nearly enough to drive more revenue. OTAs can introduce new customers to your tour business, but standing out from the crowd can be a daunting challenge, especially if there are many competitors in your area. Nevertheless, as Theodore Roosevelt eloquently said, “Nothing in the world is worth having or worth doing unless it means effort, pain, difficulty.”
Having a solid presence on the leading OTAs can bring valuable benefits, from increasing your online visibility to generating more bookings during the low season. In this article, I will share eight OTA marketing strategies that you can use to boost sales and improve your brand awareness. If you’re willing to put in the effort, you’ll get excellent results in no time.
What do OTAs do?
Even though OTA stands for Online Travel Agency, OTAs are not very similar to their retail counterparts. While traditional travel agencies are focused on organizing tailored trip arrangements for their clients, OTAs are more akin to enormous digital catalogs that aggregate offers from thousands of different suppliers, empowering users to compare many options on the fly. They also let travelers share their experiences by writing reviews: a fantastic tool that helps visitors make more informed decisions. During the last ten years, OTAs have become increasingly popular in industries such as hotel bookings, flights, and more recently, in the “tours & activities” industry.
Why should you partner with OTAs?
The answer is pretty straightforward: OTAs will give you access to more potential customers. Have you tried searching on Google for tours and activities in a certain destination? Rest assured that the first results will be pages from the biggest OTAs.
Online travel agencies are marketing powerhouses that attract millions of tourists each month. There are no better allies if you’re looking for ways to grow your presence on the internet, and we all know how hard this can be. With OTAs, you’ll get more bookings and, at the same time, you’ll be able to save on your advertising budget. Sounds too good to be true, right?
What you need to keep in mind
Unfortunately, the gift of visibility comes with strings attached. Using OTAs isn’t free; quite the contrary! You’ll usually have to pay commissions that range between 20% and 30% of the price of your tickets. The exact amount depends on multiple factors, such as the policies adopted by each platform, your sales volume, and the kind of experiences you offer. These fees can quickly erode your profit margins if you’re not careful. For this reason, you should focus on getting most of your bookings through direct channels (e.g., your official website, via email, on-premise, etc.).
Online travel agencies can come in handy to score some last-minute reservations and for filling up capacity that otherwise would be wasted. Similarly, they can lend you a hand if you have trouble gaining momentum during the low season, but depending too much on them could be a fatal business decision. However, thanks to my OTA marketing strategies, you’ll learn how to increase your visibility on these platforms and take advantage of them to get more direct bookings. The first step is relatively painless: you simply need to understand who your customers are.
How to increase your visibility & sell more with OTAs
Understand your audience to choose the right OTA(s)
When it comes to planning a marketing strategy, you need to have a deep understanding of your target audience. Knowing who your customers are, their needs, and where they come from is paramount for choosing the right OTA(s). Each online travel agency boasts unique characteristics and attracts different kinds of travelers. For example, Civitatis is extremely popular in Spanish-speaking countries, while people in the United States prefer Viator.
When you have found an OTA that can be a good fit for your activity, it’s time to dig up the dirt. Ask your colleagues if they had any bad experiences with that particular agency, double-check its policies, and verify if it offers some proper customer support. Before choosing a particular agency as your partner, you must be 100% sure it’s the right one.
Find the perfect OTA mix
As we have seen, different OTAs attract different kinds of people. Therefore, collaborating with multiple travel agencies is a wise idea if you want to broaden the horizons of your business. It’s a win-win situation: you’ll amplify your visibility on search engines and reach more demographics at the same time. In general, it’s a good practice to diversify your distribution strategy. Relying too much on one channel can harm your growth and hamper the company’s future development. If you want to gain exposure, never put all your eggs in one basket.
Choose OTAs that support your booking system
While choosing your distribution partners, you must check if they support your booking system. Trust me on this: manually updating your availabilities, especially if you decide to collaborate with multiple OTAs, is a recipe for disaster. You’ll have to waste plenty of time on such a menial task, and even if you’re laser-focused on it, mistakes can be made.
If you’re looking for a booking system that can be integrated with all the major OTAs and resellers, check out Regiondo. We’ve established solid partnerships with Viator, GetYourGuide, Klook, and other online travel agencies to help you get all the visibility you want and need. For more information, book a free demo with one of our consultants.
Work on your photos and descriptions
OTAs can provide you with a lot of visibility, but remember that they do the same for your competitors as well. You’re jostling with hundreds of other providers to reach the same customers, and standing out is not easy. The harsh truth is that in such a crowded environment, the first impression is the last impression.
That’s why you need to take care of our listings with meticulous attention to detail. For this purpose, eye-catching photography is an absolute must: after all, a picture is worth a thousand words. I suggest posting tons of photos of people enjoying your tours and activities so the readers can easily see themselves in their shoes.
Similarly, the description plays a crucial role in intriguing a potential customer. As marketers know, data don’t resonate with human beings because our decisions are mainly driven by emotions. Instead of focusing too much on the characteristics of the experience you’re offering, describe the incredible memories your visitors will be able to share after participating.
Build brand awareness the right way
Even if you’re getting more visibility, catching the full attention of the visitors is one hell of a problem. The sad truth is that people look at tours and activities on OTAs like they’re groceries in a supermarket. In other words, they don’t care who the provider is; they’re just interested in finding something fun to do while on vacation. If tourists perceive your experiences as a commodity, they’ll base their decisions solely on the cost. Competing on price is a slippery slope, and engaging in a race to the bottom with your competitors could be catastrophic. Increasing brand awareness should be your top priority if you want to keep the prices steady without losing sales. A smart way to do it is to print your logo on some shirts and give them to your staff. This way, your logo will be clearly visible in all the photos taken by your customers.
Take care of your online reputation
OTAs rank their experiences using complex algorithms that take into account a multitude of different factors. One key element is your online reputation, which means that the more positive reviews you have, the more visibility you’ll get in return. Ideally, you should encourage your guests to leave reviews and take the time to answer their feedback. The reality is that reaching out to them one by one would be a humongous time sink. Luckily, with Regiondo you can enable automatic feedback requests after each booking. In addition, you can direct customers to your TripAdvisor listing using our connection with TripAdvisor Review Express.
Improve the booking experience on your website
I’ve already mentioned it multiple times: the point of partnering with OTAs is to get more visibility. When people are interested in your offer, there’s a huge chance they’ll decide to visit your official website to get more information. This is the perfect opportunity to convince them to book some of your tours and activities, possibly by using your direct channels.
First, you must give a clear structure to your website so that visitors can find the necessary information without hassle. That’s easier said than done, but don’t worry: you can find some valuable tips in this guide.
Second, you need to make it easy for users to book your activities online. Undoubtedly, allowing people to book a tour with a few clicks is one of the reasons why OTAs are so successful.
Regiondo’s booking widget can be integrated into every website without any effort on your side; our onboarding team will take care of it in no time. With this amazing feature, you can offer your customers the same smooth booking experience provided by OTAs without paying their commissions!
Use a channel manager
Managing multiple sales channels requires plenty of attention, especially when dealing with big OTAs. Regiondo’s channel manager allows you to push your offers through more than 230 online travel agencies and resellers without needing to manage each listing individually. It’s a convenient tool to show your availability on every platform in real time, helping you avoid double-bookings. Regiondo will also keep track of your bookings through each channel, so you know where your offers perform best.
Getting the most out of OTAs is possible — with the right tools
OTAs are a valuable partner for every provider of tours and activities. They’ll give you access to more potential customers and broaden the reach of your business. Of course, using OTAs isn’t free. You will often pay high fees (up to 30%), significantly reducing your profit margins. I’m confident that my OTA marketing strategies will help you to get better results, but if you want to achieve significant improvements, you need to invest in the right tools.
With Regiondo, you can get up to 35% more bookings, and thanks to our channel manager, you can manage your reservations and distribute your offers on over 230 OTAs with just one click. For more information, book a free demo with one of our consultants.