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How to rank higher in OTAs: A Comprehensive guide for tour operators

How to rank higher in OTAs: A Comprehensive guide for tour operators

Jan 24, 2024
5 min read

Online Travel Agencies (OTAs) have become pivotal platforms for tour and activity operators to showcase offerings and reach a global audience. 

 

Understanding the intricacies of these platforms and mastering the art of ranking higher on them is necessary to maximize visibility and bookings. This comprehensive guide delves into the world of OTAs, exploring what makes them indispensable for operators.

What are OTAs, and how their algorithms work

 OTAs  are websites and mobile applications that allow consumers to search for, compare, and book different travel services, like tours, activities, flights, hotels, car rentals, etc. Some of the most famous platforms of OTAs are Expedia, Booking.com, and TripAdvisor - but keep in mind that there are many other OTAs in the market, some more niched into a topic, such as wildlife experiences or cheap options, so research the right OTAs for your business before registering in one and search for the best practices of it. 

 

So, what is so special about these platforms? Well, the main reasons are their convenience, ease of use, competitive pricing, and ability to provide users with a one-stop-shop for all their travel needs. Practicality has become essential for customers. A research by Tripadvisor has shown that "52% of American travelers prioritize the time they devote to travel research over all other factors involved in the booking process. 55% of Britons feel the same way."

 

Not only is it a place where travellers can learn more about the different activities they can experience in a location, but OTAs also help them compare prices, availability, and itineraries, making their purchase better thought out. So, for you and your business, it's worth standing out from the crowd.

 

OTAs have sophisticated algorithms to manage and display the available inventory of different travel providers. These algorithms consider various factors, and their goal is to maximize revenue for both the OTA platform and its partners - in this case, you - by offering travelers the most relevant results based on their search criteria.

 

For tour and activity operators who wish to increase their visibility on OTAs, it is crucial to understand how these algorithms work. Factors that may influence your ranking on an OTA platform include:

  • Having competitive pricing, 

  • Updating availability information in real-time, 

  • Offering flexible cancellation policies,

  • Having good ratings,

  • And unique promotions to attract customers.

 

Other important data that OTAs consider are volume and conversion rate. While volume refers to the number of views the specific tour or activity has, the conversion rate refers to the number of bookings. This means that the greater the volume of visits, the greater the number of bookings, and because it has many bookings, it gets more views. 

 

To help you make the best of working with OTAs, read Maximizing your business potential: The benefits of Online Travel Agents and learn about how they work, their benefits, and how they can increase your bookings.

How to optimize listings

Creating a compelling and optimized OTA profile is essential to rank higher on these platforms. To achieve this:

  1. Write engaging descriptions highlighting your tours' unique selling points or activities.

  2. Upload high-quality images that showcase the best aspects of your offerings.

  3. Provide accurate information about the availability, pricing, duration, and other relevant details.

 

One of the main aspects of running a successful ranking in OTAs is optimization. A well-optimized OTA profile can significantly increase your visibility and booking potential. To achieve this: 

 

Write engaging descriptions that highlight the unique selling points of your tours or activities. Use a storytelling approach to captivate the reader's attention, and be sure to include relevant keywords related to your offerings.

 

Only work with High-quality images. How are customers going to believe your amazing description? With images that validate everything you shared. Images and videos allow potential customers to envision themselves participating in your tours or activities. Select high-resolution photos that display your offerings in an appealing manner, and be sure to showcase diverse aspects of your services; we're talking about the breakfast, the vehicles, the tour guides, and even the landscapes you go through in the tour.

 

When choosing the images, take into consideration the different target audiences that you have. 

 

Videos and images increase bookings not only in OTAs but also in social media channels. Read How to use YouTube for marketing: strategies for tour operators.

 

In addition to compelling descriptions and eye-catching images, it's essential to provide accurate information within your OTA profiles. This includes details such as availability, pricing, location, duration, and any restrictions or requirements for participation. Frequently review and update this information to ensure its accuracy because outdated or incorrect details can lead to customer dissatisfaction and negative reviews.

Collect positive reviews

As you might already know, customer reviews play an essential form of social proof and significantly influence booking decisions for potential clients browsing through OTAs. Having positive reviews can lead to improved rankings on OTA search results pages, increased trustworthiness, and higher conversions. 

 

Sharing more about the importance of reviews, SiteMinder shared that more than 90% of the interviewees consider reviews necessary in the research phase and that also more than 90% of the 18-34 year-old interviewees trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations.

 

Now, we know that we're talking about the good reviews here, but keep in mind that receiving bad reviews can be bothersome for you, but great for new clients since 40% say negative reviews build credibility.

 

One way to encourage satisfied customers to leave positive feedback is by making the review process as simple and convenient as possible. Provide clear instructions on how they can leave a review on the specific OTA platform where your business is listed. Send personalized follow-up emails sharing your gratitude for their participation and gently reminding them to share their experiences with others.

 

Another strategy for collecting positive reviews is by actively engaging with your customers throughout the booking process and during the tour or activity itself. Showcase your genuine concern for their satisfaction and openly solicit suggestions on improving your services. Demonstrating your commitment to customer happiness can prompt clients to leave great reviews, boosting your credibility on OTAs and ultimately driving more bookings for your business.

Work with keywords

To improve your online visibility, conduct keyword research to identify relevant terms for your niche. Start by brainstorming a list of phrases people may use when searching for activities or tours like yours. You can then refine the list by using tools that can be free, such as Google Keyword Planner, Ubersuggest, Answer The Public, and Also Asked, which provide you with data on search volume, competition, and related keywords.

 

Once you have identified the best keywords for your business, add them naturally into your OTA listings. Be sure to avoid keyword stuffing (when you use the same keywords over and over again), which can hurt your SEO performance. Instead, place your target keywords strategically in titles, descriptions, headers, and image tags. By doing so, you not only help search engine algorithms understand your content better but also make it more appealing and relevant to potential customers.

 

Other tips for a great keyword research are:

  1. Analyze competitor listings and note common terms they use.

  2. Use long-tail keywords that are more specific and less competitive.

 

Check these 5 tips to create SEO-friendly content.

Competitive pricing strategies

Developing competitive pricing strategies can help you stay ahead of the competition in the tourism industry. To create a competitive pricing strategy:

  1. Start by analyzing the prices of similar offerings in your niche or location.

  2. Take note of trends or seasonal fluctuations affecting prices and adjust accordingly.

  3. Keep an eye on market demand and continuously re-evaluate your pricing strategy.

 

Consider using dynamic pricing strategies that consider factors such as the number of bookings, customer purchase behavior, and special occasions or events. This approach can help boost revenue by offering customized prices based on customer preferences or willingness to pay. Additionally, consider creating attractive packages that combine different services at a discounted rate to entice new customers.

Importance of engaging with customers on OTAs

Building trust and credibility for your tour and activity services is an ongoing work that requires attention and dedication from even before the booking happens to after the experience. While in OTAs, actively respond to customer reviews, both positive and negative. Remember that bad reviews will come, but when addressing negative reviews, remain professional and use them as an opportunity to address concerns while demonstrating a commitment to constant improvement.

 

As we mentioned previously, customers often turn to OTA websites to learn more about offerings from multiple operators. So, ensure that your profile and listings have accurate and updated information to facilitate easy decision-making for potential customers. By actively engaging with consumers, you can turn them into loyal customers and ambassadors for your brand.

Combine it with social media and online marketing

To expand your reach and further promote your tours and activities, combine your OTA presence with a robust social media and online marketing strategy. Develop social media profiles on relevant platforms, such as Facebook, Instagram, X, or LinkedIn, where you can showcase your offerings, share customer reviews, post engaging content or announce new tours or special promotions.

 

In addition to social media, explore other online marketing channels like email marketing or search engine advertising, specifically targeting clients interested in similar services or destinations. Combining these various strategies will not only help you reach a broader audience but also improve brand awareness and boost overall sales.

Conclusion

As you embark on the journey of optimizing your presence on OTAs, armed with the insights and strategies presented in this guide, remember that continuous adaptation and refinement are key. The landscape of online travel is ever-evolving, and staying ahead requires a proactive approach. 

 

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Gabriela Cofre Torres
Posted by Gabriela Cofre Torres
Content writer with a background in customer success and sales, Gabriela enjoys exploring Latin America, reading, and DIY projects.
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