By Mahesh Chaddah
Originally created to sell excess inventory during slow seasons, OTAs have become one of the top driver of hotel bookings around the world. Their customers range from both business and leisure travel and their bookings are expected to continue growing. They have moved from offering simply hotel bookings to providing everything from language support to personalized experience suggestions.
With this growth, there has been enormous advancement in automation and online servicing but ironically, the industry is seeing a trend to bring back the human element. The new generation of travelers seek more curated, bespoke experiences and desire on-demand personal travel services. In order to keep up with consumer needs, previously online-only services like Reservations.com have made significant investments to provide immediate phone assistance by a trained team of customer success agents who can help suggest and find hotel deals based on specific preferences.
In addition to providing a full-circle customer service experience, many OTAs are going a step further and offering the opportunity to book a full-circle travel experience. Like Reservations.com growing from a hotels only booking site to offer tours and activities, car rentals, travel insurance and more, services are evolving to allow the new generation of travelers to plan their entire trip, from car rentals to activities and tours– all in one place. As this model advances to keep up with the growing travel trend, more personalized services are being developed to create one-of-a-kind trips for individuals based on their interests and travel behavior.
To support all of these updates while continuing to provide an optimal booking experience, major OTAs are also shifting their services from desktop-only to enabling data persistence across all their booking channels and devices with the goal of making the booking process natural, smooth and seamless. Travelers can start a personalized booking process on a third-party widget, continue it on their desktop website and finalize on a mobile device or with a live agent all while maintaining their preferences and information to complete the booking process effortlessly.
Due to the success top online travel agencies like Priceline and Expedia have seen, there has been an influx of online travel websites popping up. It is more important now than ever that authentic OTAs continue to showcase their growth and be positioned as valid and trustworthy brands. OTAs like Reservations.com ensure this, by not only providing strong marketing and public relations campaigns, but by also ensuring that their services, especially customer service, are top notch.
By continuing to shake up the travel industry with innovative methods of travel booking, such as data persistence and the incorporation of live customer service, coupled with being flexible and adapting to the needs of travelers, top OTAs will outstand the test of legitimacy and continue to thrive and revolutionize the travel industry in the years to come.