April 28, 2022

What is an Online Travel Agency (OTA)? Benefits and Challenges

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By

Karl Scarlett

An online travel agency gives you access to more bookings

OTAs or Online Travel Agencies are third-party websites. These websites serve as a distribution and marketing channel for hotels and vacation rental managers. OTAs offer multiple benefits to vacation rental managers. They specialize in renting temporary housing to travelers.

By choosing the best distribution channels or OTAs, rental managers can get the maximum revenue out of their property. 

OTAs offer travel-related services and products. These services include:

  • car rentals
  • airline tickets
  • cruises
  • accommodations

Who are the Major Online Travel Agency (OTA) Players?

Popular OTAs include:

Airbnb has become the biggest name in the OTA industry. The company operates in more than 220 countries. Airbnb dominates the market with thousands of listings. You can find everything from treehouses to beach rentals and castles. Expedia or Vrbo is the second biggest rental website in America. Vrbo operates in 190 countries and lists over 2million properties.  Despite airbnb's dominance, it is not always the right solution for every listing. Given the demographic that they attract, consideration should be made whether that alliance with who you are hoping to target.

How Do Online Travel Agencies Work?

The process is simple. An online travel agency serves vendors in the travel industry. Such as managers and rental owners. They can list and promote their properties through popular OTAs. 

The channels generate profits by earning a commission on every sale. In addition, pricing and OTA rates vary between platforms. Rates range from roughly 3% to 25%.

Why Does a Rental Need to List on Multiple OTAs?

Vacation rental managers list properties on several online travel agencies to get more bookings. That’s because listing only on one channel limits your audience. 

Hence, channel managers improve their reach by listing on as many channels as possible. The key is to find the right channel mix.

How to List Your Rentals on OTAs?

Each online travel agency comes with unique guidelines. But most channels offer a simple sign-up process. You need to provide your property details and create a listing description through this process. Also, there are options to upload rental photos. You can also set your price and add the amenities you will offer.

But some obstacles may arise when listing your rentals on OTAs. Let’s find out more about these challenges.

Accurate Pricing

Pricing decisions are one of the biggest challenges for hosts. Follow this rule when figuring out the best pricing for your rental.  We suggest that you aim to find a the delicate balance but tend to lean toward ‘Fewer bookings at increased rates are much better than more bookings at lower rates.’

Here are a few other things to consider when choosing your pricing strategy.

  • The different client demographics for each OTA. Many Airbnb users range between 25 and 34 years old. These guests book the rental for more than four nights.
  • The location of your property has a huge impact on pricing. The holiday season or any events will also affect the price of your rental. 
  • The different commission rates and fees per website.

Which Online Travel Agency to List On

There are many vacation-rental listing sites. Unfortunately, there is not one universal right answer. There are several factors for you to consider when deciding the best one for your property. 

Some of the factors to consider before choosing the perfect vacation-rental website include:

  • Your location
  • The type of home you are listing (apartments, condos, vacation rentals, beach houses, Bed & Breakfasts, small hotels)
  • Your long-term goals
  • Your revenue

How to List your Rental on an OTA 

Search suitable rentals in your area with similar specs to your rental. Then, use the search filters for fine-tuning your search. For example, the amenities, number of beds, etc.

Open the top listings and study how they present their listings. Check out the median price per night. You should also check these factors:

  • unique descriptions
  • photos
  • titles

Collect all this information to study how other hosts use a particular channel.

Sometimes your search doesn’t result in any listings like your property. That's because the website may not be for your type of rental. So it would be best to choose another OTA. 

Optimizing your Listings for Each Channel

Let’s suppose you settle for a combination of OTAs for your listing. You will have to optimize your listings for each channel you choose. Create optimized listings that speak to your target audience so it will yield high conversion rates.

Remember that different OTAs have different requirements for content and photos. For example:

For Vrbo, you need to upload high-resolution images of at least 1024 x 683 pixels. All photos should be 1280 x 900 pixels for Booking.com.

Is Airbnb the Best OTA?

Airbnb is the giant of all giants. The platform is one of the most successful and fastest-growing rental websites in the world. Airbnb is transforming the hospitality industry by focusing on guest experiences and reviews. The OTA is highly credible and popular among hosts. Hence, frequent travelers and property managers also prefer this platform. 

Statistics reveal that Airbnb enjoys a considerable traffic share. The platform receives hits from more than 120 million travelers every month. That means your property is going to reach millions of people. 

With Airbnb, hosts enjoy benefits like brand recognition and customer loyalty. Property owners and property managers prefer Airbnb because it is safe to use. Besides, you can check out reviews from previous hosts to know if the guests have a good reputation.

Airbnb is the best online travel agency for you to market your short-term rental. If you have any safety concerns, choose Airbnb to market your property to millions of people. 

Should I manage my Airbnb myself or get a co-host?

Listing your property on multiple channels allows you to reach a wider audience. But, having a central calendar streamlines all bookings, regardless of their source. That will sync all calendars and update them every time you cancel or receive a booking.

If you fail to update your calendar timely, it will appear un-booked on different channels like Booking.com and Vrbo. So, if your calendar is still available for bookings, even when a guest has booked the dates, the situation will result in a double booking. 

Double bookings are expensive and difficult to tackle. For example, you may need to pay a cancellation fee depending on the channel.  Your listings will also drop in rankings and affect your chances to become a Superhost. That’s why you must prevent double bookings to avoid all the hassle.

A professional property manager allows you to manage your listing and connect your channels from one place. That will help you streamline your channel calendars for keeping them in sync. In addition, it will ensure accurate availability.

Bottom Line

An OTA or online travel agency is a web-based marketplace for consumers to choose and book the best travel services or products. However, there are many nuances and particulars to consider when choosing which OTA to use for your short-term rental.

Hiring a property manager for your Airbnb rental relieves the burden of maintaining your property and your calendar. If your property management company chooses the right OTA, it allows them to create optimized listing pages, hosted by the OTA itself. 

Great Dwellings is a professional property manager, based in Washington, DC. We take care of all aspects of your property by promoting it on Airbnb, the best OTA in the market. What’s more?  You don't have to worry about home cleaning, decoration, and repairs. We also offer inspection and calendar management services. Contact us to ensure safe and comfy living conditions for your tenants.

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