We have seen in a previous article that the OTA (Online Travel Agencies) like booking.com or Expedia are the new leaders in the reservation of tourist accommodation. Their arrival has changed the habits of the sector by allowing accommodation providers to improve their visibility on the web. At the same time, it has led to an overall drop in prices and revenues for accommodation rental professionals, forcing some of them to close their establishments.
The activity providers are experiencing the same phenomenon with the appearance of booking platforms specialized in activity services (e.g. Viator, Ceetiz).
However, the activity provision sector is more complex and diverse than the accommodation sector. Therefore, they cannot be approached in the same way.
We chose to identify the differences between these two sectors in order to understand the the challenges that the presence of new players implies for activity providers.
The place and time of reservation differ
The first big difference with accommodation is the moment and the place reservation.
Indeed, most holidaymakers book their accommodation well before their arrival, from their home sweet home! As far as the services are concerned, in the majority of cases tourists book on their holiday location a few days or hours before the activity.
Differences in booking patterns have an impact on marketing strategies. Hoteliers need to have international visibility almost all year round! Whereas for activity providers, promotion (online advertising, flyers, Facebook ads etc.) is done within a limited radius of a few kilometres and during a short seasonal period.
So, of course, the OTA allow activity providers to attract new customers by improving their visibility on the web, but it is important to keep in mind their commission rate (ranging from 10% to 25%, which represents on average about 20 euros). This commission is to be compared to the local advertising cost that the provider can either make himself (by offering a welcome drink worth 20€ for example) or buy online (by buying a 20€ advertisement on Facebook which will allow him to gain visibility while targeting the people he wants to reach).
A greater need for live exchange for providers
In all sectors, the customer relationship is at the heart of the concerns. Activity providers are more than concerned by this issue. They must establish a climate of confidence with their clients (for example, when a father books a skydiving trip with his daughter, he needs to be reassured, the instructor must be available to answer all his questions...). The live chatThis is why it is so important to have a good understanding of how to deal with a client's needs, whether by telephone or face-to-face.
However, it is almost impossible to establish this relationship of trust by going through the OTA. Indeed, to favour direct contact between the client and the service provider would mean a significant loss of earnings for them. They therefore protect their interests by hiding the name of the client in order to inhibit dialogue and keep their commission.
It is therefore necessary to favour online booking agencies that encourage exchange live, but we can't hide the fact that they are becoming increasingly rare!
More complex and diversified availability management
The management of a schedule for rooms for rent is relatively simple and not very restrictive. Activity providers are faced with schedules much more complex. It is necessary to manage guides, groups, departure and arrival times, transport... In short, a more or less complicated task depending on the type of activity. The OTAs have not yet succeeded in providing a unique planning management tool that would be adapted to the needs of the different sports activities.
When activity providers choose their online booking agencyTherefore, they must pay particular attention to schedule management tools offered. In most cases, they will need to keep an internal tool as a complement, to which it will be necessary to add the reservations generated by the chosen OTA. Other tools such as the " channel manager "The most important thing to consider is whether they want to digitize and automate their booking schedule. However, this increases the cost and complexity of management.
Federations in large numbers and more difficult to mobilize
The accommodation rental industry has a small number of unions, making it easier for them to work together. For example, hoteliers have been protected through joint action by unions in the Booking parity clause. If a similar situation were to happen to activity providers, the many federations (French Sailing Federation, French Mountain and Climbing Federation etc.) and unions would make it difficult to achieve the seamless coordination that is essential for effective action with government.
It would then be very difficult for activity providers to put pressure on OTAs to remove unfair clauses.
We find that all of these differences make difficult the relations between activity providers and OTAs. However, they are not discouraged, since it is undeniable that the sale of activities on the Internet is growing day by day. This boom is therefore a source of opportunities for these online booking platforms.
A booming market that attracts investors!
The market for online sales of activities are booming and attracts many players! Indeed, the market for activity services represents 49 billion in profit in the world per year. Online booking is at the heart of the issue: 80% of European tourists prepare their trips on the internet.
The OTA are therefore trying to establish themselves in this sector by buying or creating new booking tools. Examples include Tripadivsor, which bought Viator, Airbnb, which launched Trips, and sites that specialize in a particular sector, such as WineTour Booking for wine tours and tastings at wineries.
Dear Activity Providers, our recommendations for a good use of OTAs
Maintain some autonomy
Any partnership is good to take as long as a certain autonomy is kept. Indeed, if you go exclusively through an intermediary you take several risks: change of contract, closure of the site, price increase, etc. As for the hosting, we advise you to limit the share of revenue from an intermediary to 30% and encourage direct booking.
Trigger a ripple effect
It is important to take advantage of the visibility given by these booking platforms to trigger a ripple effect. That is to say that when a potential customer identifies you on an online booking platform, he must be able to find you easily by a simple Google search. For this it is important to have unique keywords between your platforms allowing a good referencing. We advise you to favour online sales sites where you can put forward your brand and your colours! This is the essential condition for the ripple effect to work and bring you direct bookings.
Maximize your visibility to increase your direct bookings
To maximize your visibility, your website must be modern and responsive (the reading and browsing experience must be optimal for the user regardless of the type of device). In addition, we advise you to create a " Google my business You can also use the "My Account" button, which allows you to give basic information such as your location or the link to your website. You can also use the social networks which offer the possibility of advertising at a lower cost. If you have a Facebook (or other) page, don't forget to update it regularly. A page with no activity will make potential customers wary.
You have understood that independence and therefore the direct bookings are your best allies. Indeed, taking your reservations by phone or face to face allows you to build a customer relationship of quality. However, by doing so, you cannot be sure that your client will show up on the day or that the group will be complete. In short, it is very difficult toengage your customer in order to avoid last-minute cancellations. The " no-show "These are always unwelcome! Not only do they disrupt your organization, they also have a real impact on your sales. Many of you then ask for cheques or transfers. Solutions that involve a lot of management work, that do not necessarily allow you to secure the reservations of your foreign customers and that are neither practical nor efficient.
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