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What Is An Online Travel Agent (OTA)?

What is an OTA

A successful vacation rental business relies on having a great customer base with plenty of bookings. But getting your vacation rental business out there to a wider audience can be tricky if you are marketing it yourself. 

You can get friends and family to share your business as word of mouth is an essential tool. You can even advertise your business locally to gain new customers. But in the world of travel that will only get you so far, excuse the pun.

However, a great way of increasing your guest rate is to look at using an Online Travel Agent (OTA). A lot of vacation rental owners don’t know what this is and how it will benefit them. Therefore, here is everything you need to know about OTA and why it might be the right choice for your vacation rentals.


Here’s how an OTA can help

Over the last decade, these online travel agencies have grown in popularity with the websites being an online marketplace that allows travellers to book everything they would need for their trip. From accommodation to flights, car hire to attractions, a lot of these sites have everything a traveller would need in one place. These types of sites have got more popular with high street travel agencies shutting down.

It’s no surprise millions of travellers are now using these to book their next trip, whether that is leisure or business.

Examples of OTAs include Booking.com, Vrba, Expedia, HomeAway and Airbnb. 

These sites are hugely popular and are now a top place that advertises hotels, bed and breakfasts and vacation rentals. Vacation rental managers are using these types of sites to help market their properties to a much wider audience. After all, the first port of call for those looking for a vacation rental is these types of sites. Therefore, it’s becoming essential to vacation rental owners.

In reality it’s very difficult to run a short term rental business without being on these platforms.



What are the benefits for vacation rental owners?

Now we have discussed what exactly is an OTA, here are some of the reasons why you should consider listing your rentals on them.

They have their own marketing tools

Marketing is an expensive, time-consuming job for vacation rental owners. It’s an important part of building your business and finding your customers, but it can be costly. Therefore, when you use an OTA, they do all the marketing for you. They have their own marketing tools to help bring customers to their site. They spend millions on advertising, social media campaigns and billboards to draw people to their business. 

Therefore, they have done the hard work for you in building the customer base and growing their business. That way, you know that their large audience will have access to your property. So you can spend less on your own marketing tools to access that wider range of travellers. Therefore, OTA’s reduce some of your stress and budget spent on marketing.


They can process bookings 

Another big job which can be time-consuming is the whole booking process. Arranging when guests are coming and planning out the diary can be a complex process. You want to answer potential guests quickly and if you are doing everything yourself, it can take ages to figure out exactly what is booked. 

Therefore, when you use an OTA for your vacation rental, they can sort all the bookings for you. They know which dates your property is free and will advertise this to the traveller. You have a reduced risk of double bookings. It will mean bookings are less time-consuming and a lot more secure.

They bring you secure bookings

It’s a concern when you make a booking with a traveller that they will pay and turn up on the day. If you are doing it all yourself, there is no guarantee they will pay on time and the booking is not completely secure and guaranteed to go ahead.

When they book through one of these sites, they are more likely going to pay and go ahead with their booking. After all, the OTA will help reassure you that you will get your profit and the booking will run smoothly. 

They often vet their guests before they allow them to book on the site. Therefore, you know that the stay will run smoothly with the guest. It’s something we recommend anyway to make sure your property isn’t getting damaged, or even potentially having guests that won’t leave.

They have analytics and insights 

Another benefit of using one of these sites is that they have a lot of handy tools that will help you to make a success of your business. They let you have access to analytics and insights that will give you a better understanding of your business. You will be able to see trends and can make decisions on what you need to change and develop with your business. 

With the ability to check the year's performance plus look at trends in the current market, it will help you to monitor your business effectively. You can also keep an eye on your competitors on OTA sites. Whether they are increasing their prices or offering something unique, you can keep on top of what they are doing so you can work on improving your rental.

A big part of your success will be down to your location, and your listing. We’ve created a guide on how to list on Airbnb, also if you’d like to read more about how to properly stage your listing check out our article on that.