What is an Online Travel Agency or OTA?

We tell you what an OTA is and how to build your own

An online travel agency, or OTA for short, is a website where you can book travel services such as hotels, holiday apartments, holiday homes, but also flights, transfers and activities. In most cases, such websites are referred to as OTA, which do not sell their own services but services of third parties. So don't have your own hotels or holiday apartments. So basically a travel agency, just as a website. With an online travel agency, you can search through the services and offers, make binding bookings and pay with your personal data. You will then receive a booking confirmation.

Aircraft wing during sunrise

Do you want to have your own OTA?

Developing an OTA is quite difficult, time consuming and expensive. You have to connect the hotels, develop the booking software and set up the marketing. Nevertheless, many small and specialized OTAs manage to establish themselves on the market. So it is not out of the question if you want to run your own online travel agency. Especially if you already have a certain reach, e.g. in social media or on your own website.

The history of Online Travel Agencies (OTAs)

Some of the most well-known OTAs today include Expedia.com, Booking.com, TUI.com and Priceline.com. However, the history of online travel agencies began in the early 1990s. At that time it was very complicated to book flights, as this was mainly done over the phone or at the counter. Travelweb.com and Expedia were among the first OTAs. OTAs wanted to make hotels and flights easier to access and book online, and they succeeded. In the early 2000s, as online booking wore out and the software became available to more businesses, more booking websites emerged and more OTAs as well. In the early days, the main focus of OTAs was still on hotels and flights. With the founding of e-domizil in 2000 and Airbnb in 2008, more and more OTAs for vacation rentals and holiday homes have come along. Websites like Getyourguide now also make it possible to book activities and excursions. There are now a large number of online travel agencies for all kinds of travel services.

What does an online travel agency actually do?

An OTA signs up hundreds or thousands of hotels, vacation rentals, and vacation homes for users to book on its website.The Online Travel Agency takes care of the marketing, the booking process, the payment processing and, if necessary, supports the smooth processing on site.Similar to a classic travel agency, OTAs can advise customers with their website and offer more in-depth information about the accommodation.In addition, OTAs are mostly independent and therefore often offer more neutral and independent information than the providers themselves. Many OTAs also stand out with better booking technology and offer a more pleasant booking than most hotels or holiday home providers themselves. Due to the high competition, OTAs are always trying to go furtherto differentiate and to focus on specific target groups.

What are the biggest challenges of an OTA?

The biggest challenges for OTAs is the complex technology and the necessary marketing automation.At the same time, the accounting processes for collecting customer funds and forwarding them to hotels or holiday apartments must function smoothly.Because accommodation services are limited in time and can have very different prices at different times, they are significantly more complex than retail products.Just like shipping goods, things can go wrong when people travel.An OTA must be prepared for this and have the processes with customers and accommodation under control.In order to be competitive, these must also be automated down to the last detail.If OTAs didn't automate their processes, they would have to charge high price premiums.Money that an OTA needs for advertising, to differentiate its business and brand, and to attract customers.

What software is available for online travel agencies?

While the providers of management systems for hotels, holiday apartments and holiday homes often include simple booking systems, there are no standardized industry solutions for OTAs.OTAs such as Booking.com, Expedia, Priceline and TUI work with very expensive systems that have been extensively customized.Most small OTAs are therefore faced with the challenge of having to develop their own booking software or to buy expensive software.This often does not meet the requirements and wishes of the operator of the OTA.When you start an online travel agency, you have to invest a lot of money in technology.Quite a few startups that wanted to found an OTA failed because of the technology.This is exactly why we invented LODGEA.

How does LODGEA help me with my own OTA?

LODGEA has already included all the technology for an online travel agency. The direct connection of accommodation, the creation of websites, the processing of bookings as well as the control of payment flows. If you want to set up your own OTA, you can save yourself all the difficulties with LODGEA, as we have already solved them with a turnkey solution. LODGEA is also the first software-as-a-service solution for OTAs, so that prospective online travel agencies save hundreds of thousands of euros in investments that are usually incurred for individual developments. In addition, LODGEA has already implemented a few really difficult regulatory requirements, so that legally compliant operation of your own OTA is always ensured. Especially for small and medium-sized OTAs, LODGEA offers the solution to keep up with the really big ones. Both in marketing with the integrated search engine optimization, conversion-optimized booking, social media data feeds for advertising measures as well as payment processing and the synchronization of bookings between the OTA, the customer and the accommodation.

Women using a credit card on her computer in a hotel

It's easier with us

Get started right away with your OTA
If you want to offer hotels, holiday apartments, holiday homes and more online, you often have to dig deep into your pocket and patiently endure months of development processes. That annoyed us too. With LODGEA you can start immediately, simply register, connect accommodation and get started. This means that the probability that your online travel agency will be a success is significantly higher than with complex individual developments. And if you want more, you can still have whatever you want developed with our APIs.

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