Guest Booking Process - Step One Of The 5-Step Series

Tricks To Getting The Most From OTAs

As someone who speaks frequently with other hoteliers, I have heard online travel agents (OTAs) call a number of things in my time. I think the most popular description I have heard is the oxymoron “a necessary evil”. I completely agree that the OTAs are “necessary”, but “evil”? If you find your relationship with the OTAs makes you angry or frustrated, then YOU are managing it wrong. Always remember: They are here to work for you.

You should be using the OTAs to generate extra bookings and incremental revenue, and they should be helping you fill your accommodation when you haven’t been able to do so. If you feel they are taking direct bookings from you or decreasing your average room rates, then you need to make changes.

Direct Bookings

If you feel that the OTAs are wrestling business away from you, the first thing to consider is your direct booking process. How can you make guests show loyalty to you over an OTA? The answer is to act like an OTA yourself. There’s a reason they are so successful. They do certain things very well. These are the three primary points to consider.

  • Your website. Is it easy to navigate? Does it contain all the info a guest might need? Is it easy to find the booking process?
  • Your online booking process. Is it as simple and seamless at the OTAs?
  • Your email marketing. Take your guests' emails and keep in touch with them. Email them monthly, keep in their eye line, and keep in their thoughts. They might not buy from you, but they will remember you when they are ready to buy! Check out training videos designed around email marketing for the hospitality industry here.

Managing OTAs

Now that you have your own house in order, it’s time to sort out your relationship with the OTAs. Next, there are a number of things that you need to check on and put into action.


Don’t just do the basics! Ensure that the description of your property is accurate, comprehensive and includes every “wow” factor that your property may have. Ensure photos are well done and give an extensive view of all features.

Use a few

Don’t just partner with one OTA. Work with as many as you are able. This gives you more control over your commission rates as you have more bargaining power if one decides to increase their rates dramatically. Also, multi-partnering provides a bit of free advertising.

Three-quarters of people start their hotel search on a search engine, and the OTAs generally occupy the top search results, so if you work with several OTAs, your property will be seen multiple times. The guests may even go to your website to find out more information. If you use a simple booking process, as mentioned above, you may get your booking direct and commission free.

Manage your commission rates

Continually review your commission rates to make sure they are working for you. A rate of 15% is a good target, but if your rate is 20% or higher, then you should consider negotiating it down. This is easier if you are working with a number of OTAs. If you feel that 15% is still too expensive, consider what you would pay for an effective pay-per-click (PPC) campaign.

Use the tools offered

You’ve got a fantastic hotel description, and your photos make your hotel look like a paradise, so you can now walk away and enjoy the perfect relationship with your OTA. Right? Nope! Before relaxing, you must ensure that the OTA knows exactly what they can and cannot provide for you. Most have a number of online tools to let you do this. Use them.

  • Blackout dates – Your town is the venue for a huge summer festival. Every year it is teeming with people, and the bars, shops, and hotels are full of bursting. You can charge whatever you like for a room, and people will pay for it. People book a year in advance, and you are full every year. Why are you paying 20% commission on any of these bookings? Don’t. Block them out, and don't let your OTA partners book your rooms during that time.
  • Non-refundable rates – Set up a non-refundable rate with the OTAs. That means a guest pays upfront and cannot be refunded if they choose to cancel. This gives you guaranteed revenue.
  • Special offers – It doesn’t have to be a free night. It could be a discount on a room during quiet time, a free drink, or free Wi-Fi. As well as making your property stand out on the OTA sites, you may even be included in marketing emails to a huge database of people.
  • Preferred Programme – Some OTAs, such as, operate these. You need to fit certain guidelines and end up paying much higher commissions, but you become a property that is actively recommended by some of the biggest and most trusted companies in the worldwide travel industry. If managed carefully, the rewards are obvious.


Have one. This is the most important thing to consider when working with the OTAs. What exactly do you want to achieve from your relationship?

Not only is it important for you to know the answer to this question, but you must also communicate the answer to the OTAs. Through effective communication, you can give the OTAs availability when needed and ask them to sell space you would not otherwise have been able to sell.

A frustrating but necessary evil? No. Are the biggest companies in the travel industry working for you on your terms? Oh yes.

Share this post