Online travel agents (OTAs) act as online marketplaces where tour and activity suppliers from all over the world can list their services. OTAs then spend a lot of time and money aggregating services from all over the world and marketing their inventory to a global customer base.
The two main players in the industry are Viator and Get Your Guide. While OTAs have been growing slowly over the past few years, they still lag behind their counterparts in hospitality sector like booking.com.
Since writing this article, we have released a guide where you can compare Viator, Expedia, GetYourGuide and Airbnb Experiences in one place.
A little background on Viator and GetYourGuide
Viator is based in San Francisco and was bought by TripAdvisor back in 2014. Since then, they've moved away pre-screening and curating the operators they work with, to opening up their platform to allow more companies to sell on Viator. This would benefit more operators since TripAdvisor was able to drive traffic and volume to Viator, giving operators more bookings than before.
Last month, Viator announced that they were rolling out a new platform for travel agents to book from 70,000 trips from more than 2,400 destinations and earn an 8% commission for each booking.
The company has 10 local-language sites and more than 3,000 affiliates sites worldwide, partnering with big players like Air France, InterContinental Hotels Group and Priceline.
GetYourGuide provides over 30,000 tours and activities in over 2,500 destinations across more than 110 countries. Based in Berlin, GetYourGuide claims to find the most relevant and personalised trips for its users. In 2015, the company secured a whopping $50 million in funding, a sum unheard of before in the sector, to grow its operations. This month, the company has announced that it's secured another $75 million in funding to expand its operations internationally.
Early this year, the company secured partnerships with airlines EasyJet and KLM Royal Dutch Airlines, allowing customers to book tours and activities after booking their flights via their websites or mobile apps. Other prominent partners include Emirates, Hotels.com, hotel.info, airberlin holidays, Opodo, Thomas Cook and Lufthansa Holidays.
Viator and GetYourGuide are established online and partner with top players in the industry, getting your products in front of a larger audience
Viator has a network of 390 million monthly travel planners (including TripAdvisor visitors) and 3,000 global affiliate partner websites including major online travel agencies, airlines, and hotel groups. Viator has their website available in 10 languages which attract a global audience. Apart from this Viator also runs its global advertising program on Google, Bing, Yahoo and Facebook.
TripAdvisor’s acquisition of Viator gives it a strong advantage in terms of eyeballs and what is known as referral traffic. Prior, to the acquisition both GetYourGuide and Viator had “book now” buttons on their suppliers’ TripAdvisor listings that redirected browsers to the relevant Viator or GetYourGuide page. This was removed for GetYourGuide after the acquisition.
Viator also works with popular travel agent platforms such as ARC Marketplace with a network of 175,000 travel agents around the world, offering greater visibility and reach of suppliers among millions of customers. Top this off with their recent platform for travel agents, suppliers with real-time bookability stand a chance to gain a lot more bookings than ever before due to the sheer volume of visitors Viator is able to attract to their site.
Similarly, GetYourGuide promises more sales and bookings for its suppliers. They have their network on online platforms, partner websites, GetYourGuide mobile apps and other distribution channels that increase the exposure of suppliers’ products to get them more sales. Through white label solutions, widgets, links, banners, XML-integrations, pre-trip email integrations, and many other methods, GetYourGuide's partners promote its inventory to increase sales.
Their partnerships with large airlines have also highlighted GetYourGuide's use of technology to streamline the booking process, offering customers the option to go paperless when booking and paying for their trips.
Success online depends on web traffic, so here are some stats
In terms of traffic Viator still leads the pack. It's ranked in the top 10,000 websites in the world for web traffic, with an estimated 8m visits per month. GetYourGuide, on the other hand, follows closely behind with 6m visits per month. Their website has grown substantially in the last two years.
Viator’s traffic is skewed towards North America, making up 38% of its traffic, with 7% coming from the UK, 4% from Australia and 3% from Spain. In contrast, GetYourGuide gets more traffic from Europe, with 6% from the UK, 4% from Spain, 4% from Germany and 3% from Italy. The US still remains it's largest audience, with 11% of site traffic.
Beyond the high traffic volume these OTAs manage to attract, there are downsides to working with OTAs too.
Firstly, there is a substantial commission involved, particularly if rely on OTAs for a majority of your bookings. While it's free to sign up, both companies charge a commission when a sale. Viator has a standard commission rate of 20% the advertised price. In addition, you’re required to provide them with the lowest price possible because they don’t want you undercutting them on your website.
GetYourGuide isn’t as clear-cut and sets a commission rate based on the supplier's destination and type of activities offered. The commission rate includes all booking costs, from credit card fees to bank transactions and promotion of your trips through its distribution partners. Your account manager will be the one setting the commission rate, which can range between 20% to 30%, with higher volume suppliers receiving lower commission rates.
Secondly, the cancellation policies guaranteed by OTAs can put operators in a tough spot. With Viator, customers who cancel at least 7 days in advance will receive 100% refund. If they cancel 3 and 6 days beforehand, a refund of 50% is expected. With GetYourGuide, customers can cancel up to 24 hours before the scheduled departure time to receive a full refund. This can be tricky for operators to anticipate demand and sales they can make in a month.
When comparing both Viator and GetYourGuide, Sean O'Neil from Skift reports that while "Viator’s booking numbers have climbed since (TripAdvisor's) acquisition, (but) the growth of the product offering has (since) stalled." The same article reports that Andrew Middleton, head of ancillary revenue for the budget airline EasyJet, picked GetYourGuide because they have “the most comprehensive range of tours and activities to suit everyone – from traditional or alternative sightseeing tours, to adventure activities and attraction passes.”
For operators, this could be an indicator that Viator has become saturated with the same tours and activities from the same popular destinations. Unless you have an interesting product or service that sets you apart from your competitors, it might be difficult to fight through all the competition on the platform.
How to sign up with Viator and GetYourGuide
In both cases, sign up is free.
To sign up for Viator, visit their Supplier Sign-up page. After clicking on the sign-up button, an application form will appear after which you’ll be presented with an agreement. When a supplier accepts the agreement, you’ll receive a login ID and a password for Viator's extranet. This is the home account for the suppliers. They can add, edit products, see bookings, manage customers and do a lot more through this platform.
To sign up with GetYourGuide, head over to their Supplier Administration page. Here suppliers register by filling out a form asking for their contact details. You’ll then get an email to complete the registration by clicking on the link and also agreeing to the terms and conditions of the company. After this, your account is ready for use.
For TrekkSoft customers, the entire reselling and management process is simplified by enabling backend connections between TrekkSoft and the OTA of your choice. Our Channel Manager allows you to easily adjust the capacities of your trips, adjust prices, and seamlessly upload pictures and descriptions of your tours.
On top of that, every time a customer books from the OTA, TrekkSoft will automatically update the number of available spaces for that trip across all your sales channels.
Compare Viator (TripAdvisor Experiences), Expedia Local Expert, GetYourGuide and Airbnb Experiences all in one place
Editor's note: We've updated the article to include GetYourGuide's latest funding round. We would like to congratulate the team on their huge success.