Online travel agents (OTAs) are the focal point for so many travel bookings and there’s a lot of competition between them, but also a lot of consideration for hotels when deciding which channels to connect to.
In a new analysis of combined offline and online consumer conversations, Engagement Labs recently released its TotalSocial rankings on the top performing OTAs in the US. The data, garnered from social media and word-of-mouth conversations, shows exactly which OTAs are proving the most effective at engaging travellers, both online and offline, to influence booking decisions.
It could be very valuable information for hotels looking to improve their distribution and get the most out of their online booking channels.
Online vs Offline: Which one has the bigger impact?
The analysis discovered that more significant conversations around OTAs were happening offline as opposed to on social media pages, in terms of discussing the brands advertising or marketing and offering recommendations.
Considering travellers spend so much time researching online, visiting travel sites up to 140 times prior to booking, it’s interesting that the findings point to key conversations happening offline.
What are the best performing OTAs?
According to the survey, TripAdvisor achieves top ranking due to its high volume of online scores via social media pages – but it also registers above average engagement in offline brand sharing, probably due to its recent return to TV advertising.
Brands such as Expedia, Hotels.com and Travelocity have higher volume scores offline showing that consumers are talking about these travel websites in more offline conversations rather than social media. Expedia, for example, launched a series of documentary-style videos on social media before being aired on TV, resulting in a higher volume of offline conversations.
At the lower end of the scale, KAYAK, Priceline and Orbitz found themselves at the bottom of the rankings. The final standings after the study looked like this:
What learnings can hotels take from this data?
Even though consumers spend a large amount of time online, they transition very easily to their offline lives where a lot of conversations are had and decisions are made. It’s important to create an impression that will keep your brand top-of-mind even when travellers are offline.
In regards to channel management, it may be easy to look at these top seven OTAs and prioritise them as connections, but it’s important to note that traditional travel agents are still a very real force within the industry.
Some trips are incredibly complex to book, depending on how many people, flights, or locations are involved, and many consumers find it much easier to let someone else to do the planning, such as a travel agent.
Almost 25% of people still say they will use a traditional travel agent to plan a trip in the next two years. Travel agents engage in a lot of thorough research and won’t always make the obvious choice like an everyday traveller might.
That’s why it’s beneficial for your hotel to use your channel manager wisely and connect to 10 channels or more. This way, you’ll stay on the radar of travellers booking online and those who use traditional agents to maximise your bookings.