OTAs must work harder to deliver the ‘right’ guests for hoteliers, new Sawday’s report highlights

Online Travel Agents must work harder to deliver the ‘right’ guests for their hospitality clients, as hoteliers reveal their biggest challenges when it comes to dealing with the OTAs.

In a new report by travel guide Sawday’s, which compiled the results from a survey of 350 Sawday’s Owners in February 2017 and a series of focus groups, hoteliers recognised the important role OTAs play in securing bookings, but many feel increasingly squeezed and exploited with the way the process is run.

The findings showed that 68% of those questioned said that ensuring the OTAs deliver the right type of guest was of most value, while trying to stand out on the online portals was cited as one of the biggest challenges among hoteliers.

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Owners feel that OTAs are taking away control, with guest-focused OTAs who charge high fees and impose unfair contracts, and only 6% would want OTAs to manage the entire guest booking on their behalf.

Going forward, the report identified six areas that need to be addressed in order to create a sustainable future for independent travel businesses.

Allowing owners more control over bookings, ensuring quality control and accurate representation, restoring guest interaction and treating owners as individuals not a commodity, were just some of the suggestions.

Fairer payment terms and lower costs were also high on the agenda for change.

Mike Bevens, managing director of Sawday’s says: “What’s emerged in recent years in the world of accommodation is a powerful duopoly of two Online Travel Agents – Expedia and Priceline, that own 80% of the OTA market and in which owners of small, independent businesses reveal they feel increasingly marginalised, treated merely as ‘providers of inventory’.

“A healthy, vibrant and diverse sector is great, not only for guests and owners of places to stay, but for the communities for which tourism is so important. Small, independent businesses typically support other small, independent businesses in the area, helping to make the local economy more resilient, characterful and varied – and, ultimately, a more interesting place to visit. The harder it becomes to thrive in this industry, the fewer people will choose to join it, let alone stay in it. And it’s in all our interests to have a thriving sector, now and for years to come.”

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