Metasearch and OTAs are often mistakenly thought of as being one and the same, when fact they are different platforms that can both work to grow your business in unique ways. This is a common misconception among hoteliers, as travellers use both platforms to search for hotels.
It’s important for hotel managers to know how metasearch and OTAs are different, so that they can better tailor their promotional efforts. Let’s begin by looking more closely at the business model and user experience of each, so that we may better understand the difference between the platforms.
The importance of metasearch
In a metasearch, OTAs have a new distribution channel, and hotel managers, a new online marketing opportunity. A hotel metasearch compiles the room rates from numerous booking websites and OTAs onto a singular platform. This focuses the shoppers/users onto one site, reducing the need to browse multiple sites and thereby eliminating many distractions that would otherwise slow or even impede the purchasing process. Think of a hotel metasearch as a search engine purely for travel accommodations.
Travellers use metasearch to find their ideal hotel and price, but not to book the hotel. The metasearch simply compares all available hotels and redirects travellers to the booking site of their choice. As such, the metasearch site does not charge commissions to hotels; instead, it charges the booking sites directly for clicks or visits sent to them (cost-per-click/pay-per-click, or CPC/PPC).
Particularly in the travel and hospitality industry, the popularity of metasearch has rapidly increased since the early 2000s, principally facilitated by advancements in technology. A good example is trivago.
By contrast, an OTA, or online travel agent, is just that: a travel agent. This is where users can research information and make bookings for various aspects of their trip, from single-night hotel stays to all-inclusive packages.
The search process
On a hotel metasearch, all the rates—aggregated from multiple channels—of all available rooms in a hotel are visible in the search results. This comprehensive approach increases the opportunities for a hotel to receive a booking. An OTA, on the other hand, shows only those rooms that the hotel has allotted it.
Some further examples of metasearches are:
- Skyscanner, Kayak (primarily flights)
- Auto Europe, Meta Fares, Car Rentals.com (automobiles)
- Hotels combined, trivago (accomodations)
Similar to trivago, all of these platforms allow consumers to conduct searches across multiple websites to get a single list of results on one screen. They simplify the price comparison, and thus, the consumer’s decision.
So hotel metasearch engines are changing both the way hoteliers market their properties online, and how travellers research and book their stays. It’s transparent, efficient, and cost-effective for hotels and travellers alike. Proactive hoteliers who use tools like this can get in front of potential customers with their own unique profile, which enables them to take full ownership of the entire guest experience, from the reservation through to the guest’s arrival and departure.
Gone are the days when hoteliers had to go through OTAs, which work mainly on a commission or cost-per-acquisition model. Now hotel managers can compete via cost-per-click models (think Google Ad Words, which you may already be familiar with). In doing so, these hotels have the potential to become the first choice for their target audience—no middle man required.