Guide To OTAs For Small Hotels

It wasn’t that long ago that online shopping was seen as a curiosity, reserved for a few select types of products. Today, however, virtually anything that can be purchased is readily available online — including a vacation.

The old method of booking a trip, whether done through a travel agent’s office or on your own with a phone book, was time-consuming and left travelers with a lot of unanswered questions about whether they truly got the best deal. Just as Amazon and other online retailers have all but replaced department and specialty stores for many consumers, the emergence of online travel agencies (OTAs) has taken over for the old-school methods of finding and reserving a hotel room and other amenities.

Of course, there are many good reasons for this. Sites such as Tripadvisor and Expedia make it possible for anyone to find and compare a wide range of available rooms almost instantly, wherever they are. All a shopper needs to do is enter the destination, the dates of the trip and the desired price range. Then, the lucky vacationer is immediately presented with tons of options to choose from.

Although many of the options will naturally be from major chains, smaller operators also have a chance to get noticed through the OTA platforms. Of course, they will need to be savvy if they want to make the most of this opportunity. Read on to learn more about small hotels and OTAs, how they can work together, and strategies for success.

Making OTAs Work for You

If you’re a hotelier, the benefits of OTAs for small hotels are likely obvious: OTAs connect you with a world of potential guests without requiring you to do much work. They boost the presence of your brand and put you on more-or-less even footing with the Hiltons and Marriotts of the world. They also give you a platform to showcase your property and make sure a vacationer sees you — even if they’ve never heard of you before.

However, like any tool, OTAs are only as good as the user. To help you get more out of these convenient platforms, here are some tips you should consider making part of your OTA marketing strategy:

  • **Look for last-minute options:** Not to say that your only bet is to go after the big chains’ scraps, but smaller hotels and inns can really benefit when a vacationer is looking for a last-minute booking. If the bigger name brand properties are booked, having options for travelers scrambling for a room can work to your advantage. You’ll fill a vacancy and you’ll likely be able to charge a higher room rate.

    In fact, we recommend to our clients that they strategically hold off on listing with OTAs until closer to the travel date. This prevents you from paying commission fees when you could have had a direct booking,and enables you to make a little extra revenue. When choosing OTAs, make sure they offer users the ability to book under a short timeframe, so you don’t miss out on these opportunities!

  • Don’t neglect your own website: Although you may be tempted to use OTAs as your main source of online bookings, resist it. Vacationers might find you through a big-name travel site, but they may prefer to book their trip with you directly. In this regard, you can really understand how OTA expenses are really marketing expenses. Think about the number of eyes you could get on your property listing that wouldn’t likely make it to your direct site first.

Make sure your website is up-to-date and fully equipped to accept reservations and take payments. The easiest way to do this is to work with a reputable property management system that offers a user-friendly online booking engine.

  • Consider your audience: To optimize your reach through these online platforms, you should be strategic in your approach. For example, if you’re in a location that attracts a lot of international visitors — such as Las Vegas or Orlando — having visibility on OTA sites can really boost your reservations. Because they make it so easy to find options, many travelers that are unfamiliar with the area they're visiting will use them to help kick off,and ultimately narrow down, their searches.
  • Provide as much information as possible: When filling out your profile on each OTA, make sure you provide all the necessary information. This means more than uploading a few photos and adding contact info. You want to make sure that your availability and rate details are always current, so you can rank high in a user’s search results. Although this can be a tedious and time-consuming process to handle on your own, tools like our channel manager can automate this process and give you peace of mind.

Many of these sites will give you a profile score, so keep an eye on that and try to get it as high as you can for the best visibility.

ThinkReservations Can Help

As a leader in providing hotel management software to independent properties across the United States, Canada, and Mexico, ThinkReservations offers the solutions you need to get more out of OTAs. Specifically, our channel manager gives you more control over your OTA relationships, which is the key to having sustainable success with these partners.

With real-time synchronization, you can automatically and instantly update your latest rate and availability information across all platforms, saving you time and helping you bring in more guests. Our software also allows you to choose the OTA partners you work with and customize your policies and other crucial details. To learn more about how it works and what we can do for you, schedule a demo today!

We look forward to helping you discover new ways to grow your business!

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