“Travelers make 38 visits to travel sites before booking a vacation with at least 45 days of planning in advance. Don’t you think that being a customer today is a ‘full-time job’?”
With such consumer behavior on the rise within the travel industry, it is important for Online Travel Agencies (OTAs) to ensure that they do a great job with their online travel content. Online travel content includes the best rates and rich product inventory (Flights, Hotels, Cars, and Activities) along with descriptive content, especially if an OTA is among those 38 websites.
A single supplier may not be able to provide you with such a vast variety of options and property coverage that are required to sustain in today’s competitive market. Whereas, having a multi-hotel content provider strategy might be the solution to your challenges, yet at the same time this also brings to light the key challenges faced by OTAs globally.
Key Challenges for OTAs with Multiple Travel Content Suppliers
- Variety at the Cost of Duplication – For an OTA, more suppliers mean more properties, more coverage and more choices of properties for the customers. However, have you noticed that sometimes the same hotel is repeated in the Hotel Search results? Yes, that is because of the presence of duplicate properties among these suppliers. In our experience, about 20% of the content of known popular suppliers is likely to be the same as other popular suppliers. That means that every 5th hotel property in your descriptive travel content is likely to be a duplicate.
- Diversity within Suppliers - Each supplier offers something different either in terms of the number of properties, coverage or commission. At the same time, each of these suppliers’ also follow different formats to represent hotel content. Some may refer to the convenience feature at a Hotel by the name – ‘facilities’ and some may call it ‘amenities’. In addition to this, some suppliers may provide the hotel property content via APIs, and some may provide it in a CSV format.
- Keeping up with Suppliers - Have you come across a situation when a customer booked a hotel on your website, only to find the property closed temporarily for renovation on their visit. These situations arise due to the presence of stale content at the OTA’s end. Suppliers update their content and release it to OTAs at different frequencies, some release it every single day and some release it once a month. OTAs need to develop the necessary expertise and infrastructure to keep up with the content updates.
- Inaccuracy of the Content – A customer books a hotel on a travel website and tries to navigate his way to the hotel. On reaching the destination, he finds an empty patch of land instead of the grand hotel that he had booked on the OTA’s website. Sounds like a familiar problem? The suppliers aggregate the content that they receive from various GDSs, self-contracted hotels, and other sources, but cannot give a 100% assurance on the accuracy of the property locations.
The stated problems could be with the OTA or the suppliers’ but with the bad experience of the OTA’s customer the blame ultimately goes to the OTA. The next question that comes up is – ‘Are these problems avoidable?’ Yes! These are the problems that have already been identified by the market and to which the solutions exist:
- Hotel Property Content Mapping - OTAs need to invest time and money to develop the technology to map similar hotels, in order to weed out duplicate content. The matching algorithms help to automate the de-duplication of such properties to a certain extent, but manual intervention would be needed to ensure the complete removal of duplicate properties from the content.
- Hotel Property Content Standardization – There is no set global standard for describing hotel content, such as the Hotel Names, Addresses, Geocodes, Star Ratings, Amenities, and Images. OTAs have to develop an internal descriptive hotel content standard and make sure that the content from its suppliers can be mapped to a common standard.
- Hotel Property Content Management - Now and then, travel content gets changed, updated and even removed. As much as 10% of the content from the suppliers gets updated in every cycle of release. In order, to process this kind of content that is constantly changing, OTAs need to develop their infrastructure around data management and engineering expertise to manage it frequently and smoothly.
- Hotel Property Geolocation Verification - Map providers such as Google Maps and Bing Maps expose the APIs to check the location accuracy of the hotel provided in the content. The property accuracy verification can be automated to a certain extent, but manual intervention is needed to accept or reject the results given by these map providers. In addition to which, the access to these map APIs is restricted to a certain number of calls per day.
Thus, there are technical solutions that exist for the problems faced by OTAs in the market. However, these solutions sometimes come at the expense of heavy investments in terms of time, cost and effort. At the same time, being an OTA, you need to realize ‘what is your core competency?’ Is your core competency in building an online presence and reaching out to the different segments of customers? Or, should you also build your expertise in managing the content by yourselves?
The choice for an OTA is whether to solve hotel content woes in-house or to opt for a service provider whose core competency is to carry out ‘Hotel Property Content Management’. There exists ‘Content Syndication Solutions’ in the market that can effortlessly do this entire exhausting exercise of Content Management for OTAs. Opting for such services will help OTAs to concentrate on creating the best experience for their customers.
So, too many suppliers are not that bad if Online Travel Agencies (OTAs) identify the problems that come with it and take the necessary steps to eliminate them before they come to haunt your brand.
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