What OTAs and fine wines have in common

An online travel agency is like a fine wine. It has its place — in moderation.

Naturally, hotel groups and hoteliers are examining their relationships with OTAs as the economy improves. What was an indispensable tool for all of us in the downturn has become something of an uneasy friend in the recovery while we look to recoup ADR and rebuild traffic on our own primary engines.

Like opening that fine wine, however, I believe there is a right time and place. OTAs are here to stay. What’s more, I believe they provide the consumer with a fundamental service.

There can be more to the relationship than rate parity, dynamic pricing and distributive omnipresence. I find there is often a chance to craft a creative and sustainable strategy that extends beyond revenue management to the core practices of our industry across a wide variety of disciplines. Here are a few examples: 

Get social: Maximize the extent to which OTAs are integrative within the social space.

Go mobile: Mobile search is increasing at an exponential rate, and OTAs are paving the way. Ride the wave.  

Customize: Understand how an OTA handles and shares vital demographic information that can provide effective long-term returns.  

Head overseas: Consider the usefulness of OTAs in capturing international travel.

Discover new audiences: For lesser-known brands or hotels, OTAs provide an obvious distribution channel that reaches untapped audiences. 

Packaging: OTAs have the ability to bundle our hotels alongside other products and bring them to market in a way we can’t. 

Every OTA strategy should be tailored chiefly to a hotel or brand’s market situation. Product familiarity, for one, is a chief consideration; it is different for all of us. Another consideration is that not all OTAs are created equal and useful at different times.
One thing may be helpful to remember: building a dynamic OTA strategy can involve more than revenue management and the law of supply and demand come downturn or upswing. 

Every strategy needs time to reach its full potential just as every wine needs time to breathe.