While hotels have long since caught onto the perks of using online travel agencies (OTAs), holiday parks tend to work with them less. Some parks consider themselves too small to work with booking platforms, while others think that they take too much commission or make demands that owners aren’t comfortable with. Either way, OTAs are here to stay, with global growth not slowing down.
In this article, I’ve outlined 10 ways to make booking websites really work for you and your holiday park. Creating a successful partnership is key; OTAs and holiday parks should be collaborators, not competitors.
1) Build a relationship with your personal account manager
Like Google, booking websites or OTAs have their own algorithms to determine the ranking of holiday parks on their websites. The rankings are based on many complex factors, from availability in peak periods to discounted prices and revenue generated.
This system, of course, is not beneficial to all parks. What if your holiday park is not booking, and you are therefore receiving little to no visibility? The answer here is simple: work with the OTA to come up with a solution that suits you both. Go with a smaller OTA, one that offers personalised account management and listens to your specific needs. Based on the data insights of the OTA, your personal account manager will be able to advise you on market trends and price strategies. It should be a win-win situation for all parties, including the guest.
2) Optimise your content
The number one rule of branding is that your marketing efforts are consistent across all channels. Don’t save your best pics for your own website while leaving the OTAs with low-rest shots from the 90s. Invest time in providing high resolution, quality images and good descriptions of the facilities, accommodations, and surroundings. High quality, comprehensive content will reflect well on your brand and encourage the guest to trust you.
3) International approach
OTAs often have websites that are available in different languages. If you’re looking to attract guests from different countries, it’s wise to make use of the international expertise of OTAs. Everything from public holidays to booking behaviour can be different in other countries, and OTAs have the knowledge and infrastructure to target the interests of domestic visitors. They also usually hire native copywriters to make sure the tone and voice is suited to the target country, significantly widening your reach.
4) Use a Channel Manager
A Channel Manager basically acts as a connection between properties and booking websites, ensuring a streamlined distribution process for holiday parks who are looking to expand their reach.
If you don’t have the resources to continually check, update, and distribute your prices and availability across all channels, then it’s essential you use a Channel Manager. OTAs usually work with multiple Channel Managers so it should be simple to find a good connection, and you’ll avoid double bookings and incorrect prices. This will have a positive effect on conversion and occupancy.
5) Optimise your prices and special offers
Guests use OTAs for choice and orientation, but also for last minute deals and special offers. Be smart with your prices and deals and you’ll greatly increase the likelihood of being booked and filling up during low season. Often, OTAs offer a more even booking spread, so they’ll be able to advise you on the best ways to achieve bookings during low season. If you have a specific goal, such as boosting your bookings for a specific period/target group/accommodation type, make sure that you share this with your account manager. Ask them for advice regarding your interests and make use of their knowledge.
6) Consider a preferred partner agreement
Paying more commission than strictly necessary to your OTA may seem like bad advice, but this can be a short term strategy. If you participate in a preferred partner agreement, you’ll often receive more promotion on the website, in the search results, and in their marketing efforts. Once your conversion is up, you can consider returning to standard agreement. With a raise in conversion, your ranking and visibility should be improved organically.
7) Make the most of the reviews
Consumers trust reviews far more than they trust adverts. OTAs have a very reliable review system, because guests can only review an accommodation that they’ve actually stayed at. Optimise this process where you can and respond to reviews (both positive and negative) on the OTA website. It will increase the satisfaction of previous guests and influence the perception of potential guests.
Make sure you actually read the reviews and try to improve upon points that are mentioned often. In the end, guests that receive exactly what they expect will be happier.
8) Customer service
OTAs often have large customer service departments to help guests who have any queries. Some booking websites even use services like WhatsApp, meaning even when they’re at your property they can easily get in touch with the booking platform that they used. This doesn’t only mean happy guests, but also a reduced workload.
9) Believe in the power of marketing
Even though you have to pay commission to an OTA, the exposure you get through their marketing activities will not only boost your bookings through their site but through your own website, as well. Besides increased exposure and brand awareness, you can reach new target groups through their large external newsletter databases. One of the main marketing tools of OTAs is Google Ads. Why not make use of their expertise and let the OTA pay for the click?
Through your personal account manager, get to know the options for marketing through them, whether it’s email marketing or content marketing. Create a partnership so that you can both get the most out of the resources available.
10) Innovators of tech
Many holiday parks tend to think of OTAs as travel companies, but they are also tech companies at the forefront of innovation. Mobile bookings are growing at an unprecedented rate, and OTAs have the funds, technological expertise and infrastructure to make sure they keep up to date with changes in the market.
By viewing the OTA as your competitor, you won’t create a mutually beneficial partnership. Holiday parks need OTAs as much as OTAs need holiday parks, and by being partners, you’ll both get the most out of the situation. As will the guest!