New Research Reveals OTAs Aren’t What You Thought They Were

A recent study created by Expedia Media Solutions examined the relationship between Online Travel Agencies and Destination Marketing Organizations to better understand the traveler’s path to purchase.

The study looked at the 45-day period leading up to the booking of a vacation package, which revealed several interesting insights into the travel shopping journey. Mainly, how consumers are using OTAs and how content consumption behavior changes the closer a travel shopper gets to booking.

online booking

Let’s have a look at the key takeaways and why they are important for hotel marketers to understand.

1. Bookers visitedOTAs more often than other travel sites.

share of visits

Almost half (47.2%) of all travel sites visited by the study participants during the 45-day pre-booking research stage, were accredited to OTAs. This quadrupled the next most frequent travel site, airline suppliers.So what does this mean for an individual hotel property? With OTAs attracting a large portion of the pre-booking research traffic, it’s not only vital for your hotel to be listed, but to put your best foot forward. Making sure your hotel is well represented with rich visual content – videos, photos and virtual tours – that conveys your hotel’s story is a necessity if you want to make an impression during the research process.

2. Bookers visited OTAs throughout the entire 45-day span.

During the 45-day research period, OTAs were visited 18 times before booking. This is pretty impressive and once again reinforces the point that OTAs play a major role throughout the travel shopping journey. The idea that OTAs are used solely as a last-minute booking tool is a myth. In fact, according to Expedia’s study, travel shoppers visit OTA sites as far as 5 weeks in advance of their trip. It isn’t just spontaneous travelers who are seeking information on OTAs, it’s also those who begin researching weeks in advance. If your hotel doesn’t maintain a strong OTA presence, you’ll miss out on a large portion of the travel research done online.

3. In the last week when OTA visits were highest, it wasn’t just due to last minute comparing.

Only 35% of all OTA visits the week prior to booking occurred on the same daythat the booking was actually placed, leaving a whopping 65% of visits for the rest of the week. We know OTA visits are high in the final week leading up to booking, but the bulk of the traffic is still due to research. Having a strong message amplified across travel websites means your hotel can catch the travel shopper’s eye, even late in the game. Contrary to common belief, the OTAs are more than price comparison tools, they’ve become important research tools for travelers, making it all the more important to have a strong strategy in place for your hotel.

4. The Billboard Effect

It’s obvious that OTAs play a major role in the online research process, but they are also inspiring the evolution of a billboard effect for other sites. While OTAs account for 47% of travel site visits in the study, destination marketing organizations (DMO) grew to over 6%, which is a 30% increase from 2010. Travel shoppers who visited DMO sites before OTAs converted 32% higher ahead of booking, showing us that the relationship between OTAs and DMOs is beneficial for both sides.

As a hotelier you may say, “Who cares that DMOs saw an increase? I want to see an increase in traffic to my website and direct bookings.” The point is this…

For travel shoppers to be exposed to your hotel, you need to maximize your presence on OTA websites (as well as many others). One of the best ways you can help your hotel stand out is with compelling multi-media. Displaying engaging videos and virtual tours that tell your hotel’s story will catch the eye of travel shoppers and help separate your hotel from its competition.

To read the full custom research and learn more about OTAs and the traveler’s path to purchase, download the report here.

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