Ways To Sell—An Introduction to OTAs for Tour and Transport Operators


July 8, 2021

4 min read
Reading Time: 4 minutes

In the third part of the Ways to Sell series, we explore how tour, activity and transport operators can showcase and resell their products through third parties like Online Travel Agencies (OTAs), dubbed the world’s largest marketplaces.

If you’ve missed out on our previous posts, head over to the Ways to Sell Introduction and Ways to Sell through Agents posts to get up to speed on the various sales channels, you can leverage with a booking management system.

Online Travel Agencies (OTAs) first emerged on the travel scene as a reseller for flights, hotel stays and rental cars online.

Within the past decade, OTAs have expanded their reach to the tours and activities sector and have redefined the tourism landscape by opening doors for operators to resell on a global platform.

Before diving into the nitty-gritty, what is an OTA?

An online travel agency (OTA) is a web-based marketplace specializing in selling travel products to consumers.

OTAs like Tripadvisor, Viator, Get Your Guide and Klook have made it easier for operators to expand their distribution channels to reach their target customers and bring in a lot of business from guests from around the world.

With deep pockets and sizable advertising budgets, OTAs are considered a trusted source for attracting a large number of monthly visitors and booked guests.

As travellers begin their trip planning, OTAs are often the first stop with the most visibility in organic search and paid ad results. They’re a go-to channel, housing a wide range of travel products, including flights, hotels, tours, activities and transport, all under one roof.

For travellers, it’s simply easier to research and book tours and transport from one aggregated view. And for last-minute, in-destination travellers, the value comes from being able to book top recommendations in a few clicks while on the go.

In the next section, we dive into the various factors that make OTAs an effective distribution channel for getting your products seen and booked.

Why tour and transport operators work with and sell through OTAs

Online Travel Agencies for tour operators

✅ Online aggregation: Millions of travellers flock to OTAs because of its aggregated list of top experiences. Finding accommodations to booking in-destination tours and activities, OTAs have become a one-stop-shop for tech-savvy travellers, as it helps simplify the trip planning experience.

When previewing travel options, they’re able to dive into reviews and compare the prices between top, curated products without having to toggle between websites. 

Having experiences sold on these marketplaces will definitely provide suppliers with an edge in a highly competitive and saturated market while also offering travellers a convenient way to shop.

✅ International guests & niche audiences: Travel operators can tap into OTAs’ massive audience and partner network to reach niche markets as well as target global and regional guests that may have previously been beyond their reach.

With some OTA advertising firepower, tour and transport suppliers can also benefit from greater visibility on OTA listings and exposure via paid ad search.

✅ Real-time product sync & channel management: Managing multiple sales channels and keeping tabs on all your inventory, availability and pricing can be headache-inducing. Here’s where an OTA channel manager can help.

For example, Zaui Channel Manager helps operators automate bookings via API connectivity by enabling suppliers to define the rules with their OTAs based on their partner agreement (i.e. what is available, when, how much, commission rates).

Zaui’s OTA Channel Manager updates the system whenever a booking is made through the OTAs to help mitigate the risk of overbooking. Operators do not need to spend time decoding the OTA bookings or payout.

✅ Trust and reputation: OTAs are reputable among travellers for providing highly reviewed and quality tours and activities recommendations. Working with OTAs will help tour and transport suppliers build their brand reputation among enthusiastic travellers. Suppliers will also get a chance to collect reviews from their guests via the OTA, allowing them to stand out as popular and trusted in-destination operators.

Guests also have great confidence and trust in booking through OTAs as they consider the payment methods secure and reliable. OTAs also offer local currency transactions and guests’ preferred languages, making the payment and booking process convenient and seamless.

To top it all off, operators can take their minds off payment processing and currency exchange complexities that come with international bookings. OTAs will adapt to any payment processing methods, and they will take care of payment transactions, as well as payouts.

OTA for operators

Final Take

While it’s always preferred to sell direct bookings, if you’re looking to branch out your distribution and sales strategy, be sure to consider the following:

  • Not all OTAs are created equal! As a prospective supplier, do the research, understand the reseller agreements to select the right OTA or mix of OTAs for your business.
  • Review your current pricing and how it would work with OTA’S hefty commissions, cancellations and payouts.
  • Establish rates and commissions that work for your business and profit margins. 
  • Assess your strategy and customer targets. Are you looking to get your brand name out there? Reach more guests or travellers in specific regions?
  • Consider OTAs that display your branded products as part of your strategy to have them rebook with you directly down the road.
  • Once you’ve got things rolling, review your reports regularly, and adapt your strategy accordingly.

Understanding each OTA, its agreement, and pricing strategy is key to making the most out of these relationships.

Stay tuned for our follow-up piece on the most popular OTAs to help you select the right OTA(s) for your tour or transport business.

If you’re an existing Zaui customer, connect with our Customer Success team to make the best use of Zaui’s resell channels.

Interested in exploring the different types of selling opportunities available on Zaui? Connect with Zaui experts today to schedule a demo today.

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