Lessons from an OTA on Converting Users

In the modern travel market, online travel agents have successfully retained the lion’s share of online travel bookings made by users – according to a 2016 Phocuswright study, 66% of British travellers booked their accommodation through an OTA, while only 28% used a hotel’s own website.

As frustrating as this is for a hotelier who is looking to increase direct bookings, is there something you can learn from their success?

Here are five of the top reasons travellers chose to use OTAs, as identified in the Phocuswright study, and some ideas for how hoteliers can up their online games:

OTA websites are easy to use

The number one reason people gave for using OTAs is that the websites are easy to use. Because online travel agents don’t have their own product to sell, the best way for them to differentiate themselves from the competition is to ensure that the way they sell their product (hotel rooms) is the best.

OTA websites all make it plain and simple for a user to do what they are there to do – find a hotel and book a room. Navigation on the homepage is usually minimal, important information is displayed above the fold (it is visible to the user without them having to scroll) and all the user’s attention is directed towards calls to action to “search” and/or “book”. OTAs are also easy to use on mobile devices, and indeed, according to eHotelier, more than 1 in 4 of the room nights booked via Expedia group sites are booked on a mobile device.

ota websites are easy to use

What can you learn?

As an hotelier, you need to decide what the ideal action you would like people to take on your site is, and steer them towards taking that action. If you want users to book a stay at your hotel, you will need a clear “book now” or “reserve your room” call to action, website users will need to be able to see your call to action and other important information without scrolling, and your navigation (while still being user-friendly) shouldn’t distract users from the primary route you want them to take.

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