Caribbean Travel Advisor, News, Travel

Are OTAs Still a Threat to Travel Agents?

By: Joe Pike

Online Travel Agencies (OTA) haven’t posed much of a threat to the business of travel advisors as they did in the past, but should an agent put OTAs in the rearview mirror for good or should they still be watching their backs?

Travel advisors recently shared their opinion on whether or not OTAs are still a thorn in their sides.

Here’s what they had to say

Lee Friedman, founder and advisor of Mango Tree Travel, an affiliate of Jetset World Travel

OTAs will always be a threat to agents, but I think they also serve a valuable purpose for travelers looking for budget accommodations in particular.

But more and more travelers, at least in the family travel space, want someone to take decisions and details off their plates, which will always make a travel advisor a stronger choice.

Rene Fifik of On Your Way with Rene’ Travel

OTA’s can never compare to a travel agent who provides concierge services. Those who go to OTAs are not the clients a travel professional wants to work with.

We are more than a click here, a click there. What we do is make a connection with our clients. An online booking engine is not capable of doing that. The connection we make with our clients, getting to know them is what sets us apart. That connection is where invites to weddings, baby showers and even funerals come in.

It’s all about creating a connection and a relationship with your clients. Have I thought of closing up shop and going to work for one of them? I sure have. It would be so much easier for me to just login somewhere everyday and be an order taker. It would be nice to have a guaranteed income for just showing up.

Andrey Zakharenko, founder of My World to Travel

Costco Travel is the only OTA that is very much relevant. They openly admit to selling travel at a loss and using coupons as rewards to entice their member’s to book with them. 

Just in the last couple of months, a Four Seasons client booked with Costco and a Hawaii boys golf trip decided to take the Costco deal. The price was impossible to beat.

Other OTA’s are still there, and they have their clients, but with most four- and five-star hotels guaranteeing the best price and trying to drive direct bookings, they are not a big threat for me.

OTA’s are still a volume play and not a high touch service. Be it OTA or AI, a human experience can’t be replicated, with all its good and bad.”

Nikki Miller, founder of Travel With Nikki

I don’t consider OTAs a threat to travel advisors. If we flip our mindset that our travelers don’t always want the lowest cost, but the best value there is no way an OTA can beat me on that.

An OTA won’t know that you hate window seats, an OTA won’t know that you like to be closest to the elevator at your hotel, and an OTA won’t know that your kids don’t like any vegetables and only like chicken nuggets and won’t give out a list of restaurants that will keep your kids happy.

I can understand and sympathize with advisors who have different, non-service structured, businesses would be nervous about OTAs. If your travel business operates on a quantity model, then it can be very hard to beat OTAs on pricing.

No matter how many great qualified advisors are working for OTAs if someone is only focused on price, it doesn’t matter the quality of the advisor, they will gravitate toward the option that saves them the most money.

Emily Bertsch of VIP Vacations, Inc.

I still don’t believe that OTA’s are a threat. During the pandemic, clients learned that they needed travel agents to help. We can offer service, opinions, and facts, while OTA’s only offer what is listed on their website.

I still have some clients try to price match my rates with OTA’s, but even just a few weeks ago, I had a client send me a price that I couldn’t beat and she said she still wanted to book with me. That, in itself, says it all.

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