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How to use OTAs to your advantage The hoteliers have always had their grouses against the Online Travel Agents (OTA). The commission charged by the OTAs is consistently a matter of friction. The price parity agreement further adds to the agony of the hotels. Europe has even witnessed legal fights between the OTAs and hotels. The largest hotel union in France, UMIH, went to the extent of approaching the country’s competition regulator against leading OTAs for breaking European rules. Some French hotels even started online petitions against the OTAs. In early 2012, some German hotels issued a boycott call of HRS, a leading OTA in Europe. Fortunately, in India, we have been spared of boycott calls and legal battles between OTAs and hotels. But, are OTAs so bad that one should keep them at bay? Chris Anderson of the Cornell University studied the booking behaviour of hotel consumers. His study revealed that a hotel’s mere presence on an OTA portal increases direct bookings on the hotel website. Sounds contrary to what you have heard till now? Anderson tracked some 2,000 bookings made on the website of InterContinental Hotel Group and researched on how they landed on the hotel website to do the booking. Here are some key findings: 

90% of guests first conducted the search on Google, OTA or a travel site before landing on the IHG website.

The average person who booked on IHG site had spent an hour on an OTA portal.

About 75% of the guests had purchased through an OTA earlier before booking on

MakeMyTrip posted a 27.7% increase in revenues for the quarter ended Dec 31, 2013. Its revenue from selling hotel rooms and packages stood at $50.1 million for the 3rd quarter of the last financial year. (For the quarter ended Dec 31, 2012, the figure stood at $48.6 million) Expedia India witnessed 200% growth in 2012. OTAs are here to stay and they are bringing in more guests too. Your skill lies in channelising the reach and power of OTAs to increase the occupancy rates and drive more revenues. Here are 3 definite strategies which will help you get the best out of an OTA: Photos and Videos A picture speaks a thousand words; a video moves a thousand hearts.

As per Expedia, doubling a hotel’s online picture can lead to a US$3.5 increase in Average Daily Rate (ADR). The tactic of doubling the online pictures also leads to 4.5% increase in booking rates. A PhoCusWright study found out that 25% of U.S. online shoppers view professional videos during shopping. A Trip Advisor study also found out that hotels with more than 30 photographs experience 41% more user engagement than those with ten or fewer images. Upload a good number of high resolution photographs and videos. Rope in a professional photographer/ videographer to do your photos/ videos. Make sure they portray your property in the best possible light. Check the OTA portals regularly. Upload the latest pictures and photographs. If your banquet or your room had been renovated, try putting up the latest pictures. Capture the entire hotel in your photographs. Not even a single part of your property should be left out. It could be the pool or the gym or even the garden, but they have to be there online on the OTA. Apart from giving you more bookings, here are some other advantages of partnering with an OTA: 1. Brings you new guests 2. Global reach 3. Saves you from considerable ad expenses 4. Can divert traffic to your hotel’s website Be comprehensive Expedia says that giving a comprehensive description of your rooms and property ups ADR by US$ 5 and booking rate by 5%. Is your listing on OTAs exhaustive? If not, do it at the earliest. It makes a world of difference. Go into the details of your property. Does your room have a mini-bar and the ultra-modern lighting system? What about your restaurant? Do you provide airport transfers and free Wi-Fi? List down every bit of detail about your hotel. Elaborating the details gives you the benefit of SEO within the OTA portal. For instance, if a guest searches for free airport transfers or disabled access, your hotel will come on the top of searches only if you have mentioned the same in your descriptions. Reviews A study by PhoCus Wright found out that 53% of people will not book room until they read reviews. 80% read at least 6-12 reviews prior to choosing a hotel. Request your guests to review their stay in your hotel. Many people don’t review unless they are asked to. So, it pays to take that extra effort to request your guests to pen down a few lines about you.

Newness and freshness matter. So make it a practice to request your guests (when they check out or by sending an email after a couple of days of their check out) to review your property. Designate a person to respond to the reviews. The review could be downright bad or highly appreciative. But every review has to be responded to. Thanking your good reviewer makes him elated. Responding to a bad review shows that you value the feedback and care for guest experience. A study revealed that given a chance to choose between two comparable hotels, 68% will select that hotel which had management responses. Ensure all responses are polite and comprehensive. As soon as you are notified of a bad review, acknowledge the review. Most importantly, address the issue and respond to the review with the corrective measures initiated by you. The Cushman and Wakefield report of 2012 showed that the average occupancy rates of hotels in the top six cities of India is 58%. Do you also have a similar occupancy rate? If so, it is time to tap into the reach and influence of OTAs to get the cash registers ringing for you. For more info visit-

How to use otas to your advantage  
How to use otas to your advantage  

The hoteliers have always had their grouses against the Online Travel Agents (OTA). The commission charged by the OTAs is consistently a mat...