If you are a host just starting on your short-term rental journey you might be asking yourself what all the talk is about OTAs?
OTA stands for Online Travel Agency. These are online marketplaces that sell everything to do with travel, such as airline tickets, accommodation, tours, car rentals, and everything in between!
As a short-term rental host, you will advertise your accommodation on the OTAs or Online Travel Agents which specialise in travel accommodation.
You create an account and the OTA promotes your property around the world, advertising the rates, details and photos. It means that travellers can see all their options in one place with a simple search and you get to advertise to a greater range of potential guests.
OTAs consistently appear at the top of search engines results and are a necessary and effective way to market your properties and enjoy more guest bookings, especially when you are first starting out in the short-term rental business.
Let’s take a look at how the OTAs work and how you can get the best out of them.
Types of Online Travel Agencies for accommodation hosts
There is no doubt that the global OTA platforms, such as Airbnb, Booking.com, TripAdvisor, Vrbo and Google Vacation Rentals deliver a high volume of enquiries to hosts, whether you convert those bookings depends on how well you optimise your listing’s advertisement (see below).
Regional OTAs, such as Autentical, provide an excellent platform for hosts to advertise their property to guests who know exactly where they want to visit and are often investigating the destination before they are thinking about the accommodation.
In some locations, the supply often outweighs the demand on the global OTAs, so adding a regional OTA to your marketing strategy gives you another platform to advertise locally.
Niche OTAs focus on a specific target audience, type of accommodation or experience. Luxury, pet-friendly, and ski holidays are all niches that have focused OTA platforms that only promote accommodations within the niche.
There are hundreds of OTAs for accommodation to choose from and ideally you will find a happy mix of the above for your short-term rental.
PRO tip: Constantly analyse enquiries and bookings, and adapt your OTA marketing channels each year based on those that are performing the best, until you get the absolute perfect combination.
See our extensive list of travel OTAs below.
How do I list with an Online Travel Agency?
Each OTA will have a different model and guidelines on how to list your accommodation. Essentially, you will find a basic sign-up process where you will include your host details, the type of subscription model you want to sign-up for, payment details and property details and photos.
When you are advertising your short-term rental on several OTAs and booking platforms, the task of managing all of your listings, calendars and bookings, can overtake your life.
PRO tip: streamline your short term rental business by using the channel manager to edit all of your listings and bookings in a single place.
What are the best online travel agencies for my short-term rental?
Fine-tuning your OTA distribution is an ongoing part of building a successful short-term rental business, which you need to be committed to for at least the mid-term.
In an ideal world, we would be achieving 100% direct bookings through our own marketing efforts: our direct booking website, social media, email marketing, etc. But winning direct bookings takes time and effort in terms of building your online brand presence, so at least in the short to mid-term, you will need the help of the OTAs to maximise bookings.
So as not to limit your reach on the OTAs we recommend a holistic approach to advertising. As above, using a combination of the global platforms, together with regional and niche channels, all of which can be synced via your ‘your.rentals’ account.
As tempting as it may be to go out and open accounts with every OTA out there, you need to do your research and investigate each and evaluate them on their merits, otherwise, you’ll soon find your marketing budget drained.
To do that you can utilize Channel Advisor – a tool that helps property managers select the right OTA depending on your apartment and business profile.
The biggest online travel agencies (OTAs) list
|Online Travel Agency (OTA)||Channel owner|
|Google Vacation Rentals|
|American Express Travel||Expedia Group|
|Amex The Hotel Collection||Expedia Group|
|Amex Fine Hotels and Resorts||Expedia Group|
What are the costs of advertising with an Online Travel Agency?
The cost of advertising on the OTAs depends on the model you choose. But in most cases, there is a guest fee and a host fee which is charged as a set commission on the amount of the reservation.
Commissions vary between channels from around 15-20%.
- On Booking.com there is no guest fee, the host pays 100% of the commission.
- On Airbnb, there is an option to add a guest fee or pay 100% commission as the host. The percentage you pay has variables depending on the type of property, duration of stay, and accommodation features.
- VRBO offers the host an option to pay an annual subscription or a percentage on each reservation.
During your listing set-up, you will also be able to choose if you want to use an instant booking feature. Which allows travellers to book with you without any initial contact.
You’ll also need to study each cancellation policy in detail to make sure that you agree with their conditions. We’ll be covering cancellation policies and multi-cancellation policies in more detail in an upcoming article.
To limit the amount of commission you are paying for guest bookings, you should plan in the development of your own book direct website and marketing channels, so over time you can become less reliant on OTA bookings and enjoy a combination of direct and OTA bookings.
How to write my short-term rental description
If you want to stand out in a highly competitive marketplace, you’ll need to spend time creating a wow-factor description that will stand out in OTA search results.
Your headline should make travellers want to click to find out more and your description and photos should make them want to save you to favourites or go straight to book you!
Keep your description fresh with updates for different seasons, new photos and lots of reviews!
It’s also essential to do your market research to ensure that you are priced competitively for your destination and niche. That doesn’t mean you should be the cheapest, you’ll need to establish a happy medium to make you both attractive and competitive, but also not so cheap that you will not attract those ideal guests who want quality over budget.
Check out our recent article with tips on writing your vacation rental description.
How many photos should I publish in my channel listing?
The short answer to that is as many as possible!
Did you know that the number of clicks your OTA listing gets, influences its ranking in search results? So the more photos, the more clicks!
Most OTAs will recommend having at least 2-3 photos per room and exterior, and it’s also a good idea to add destination photos into the mix.
Each channel will give you guidelines on what type of photos to publish, in terms of size and quality.
And it’s not just about how the photos influence your ranking. Publishing a lot of good quality photos on your OTA listing will also help the traveller to identify if your accommodation is what they are looking for.
Staging your photos is also an excellent way to help travellers put themselves in the picture. The more life you bring into your photography the better.
Check out this article on the best examples and tips for your vacation rental photography.
What happens when I receive an enquiry or booking?
Once your listing is published you should start to receive enquiries and bookings.
If you have enabled instant booking you will receive direct reservations. Otherwise, you will receive booking requests or questions about the booking or accommodation.
All initial contact is made through the OTA system via your account inbox. Once the booking is confirmed some platforms then open up contact between host and guest, providing your contact details to the guest or vice versa.
What is Instant Booking?
Instant Booking is a feature offered on Airbnb, Booking.com, TripAdvisor and other OTAs allowing guests to instantly book your accommodation without having initial contact with you to enquire about rates and dates.
Airbnb claims that your bookings can substantially increase (+20%) when you enable the instant booking feature, as travellers want to make decisions and book without waiting for a confirmation from the host, at which point they may decide to go off and book another property, where the host is quicker to respond.
Hosts and property managers that enable instant bookings also win more last-minute bookings and there is less admin to do for each booking, as you don’t have to carry out a conversation with the traveller answering questions before they book.
How do I get paid for my bookings through an OTA?
In most cases, when you receive a booking, payment will be processed through the OTA. They will take payment from the guest and each channel has a policy on how and when you get paid.
Very few OTAs will allow you to take payment directly from the guest. This is to ensure that payments are secure and to avoid fraudsters publishing adverts and stealing booking payments. This security precaution lends confidence to the guest at the point of booking, so although you may not receive instant payment, you will have a confident guest booking.
How important are reviews and how do I get them?
Reviews are valuable for both hosts and guests. Positive reviews are read by potential guests, they enhance your reputation and help them make the decision to book with you.
It’s a win: win situation. You enjoy more bookings, guests can find accommodation that has been recommended by peers.
If you are in contact with your guests pre, during and post-stay, ensuring their experience is a positive one, it’s highly likely they will leave you a good review.
A good tip is to reach out to the guest the day before they leave, while they are still enjoying their stay and ask them to leave a review. Often once they return back to work and the humdrum of normal life, they forget to leave a review or ignore your requests for a review.
Within your OTA account, you will find a section where you can contact the guest and request a review. Some channels will automatically request a review for you, but giving your review request the personal touch is more likely to engage with the guest.
You may also be asked by the OTA to review the guest, which helps other hosts identify guests who are trustworthy and respectful during their stay.
Although it’s advisable to get guests to review on the channel they booked on, it’s also a highly effective element within your marketing strategy to get your guests to review on Google and which can then be published on your book direct website.
Streamline your Airbnb bookings, sync your calendars and manage properties and payments through one single channel with your.rentals. Try us, it’s free to sign-up!