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How Can Online Travel Agents Help Connect You with Today’s Digitally Savvy Travellers?

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There is no doubt that the travel booking experience is rapidly changing in all corners of the globe, particularly with the wide range of online channels, platforms and the tools provided by OTAs (online travel agents) all increasingly available at the disposal of a person looking to book their next vacation.

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Hotels are seeing more than ever that travellers are searching, shopping, and booking online – and the good news is that the number of people travelling globally has been significantly climbing annually since 2009, with millions more being projected to travel from key markets as global consumption grows[1].

Expedia’s latest data from the first half of 2016 shows that the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia and Germany are among the top 10 feeder markets into Thailand, with the U.S. and U.K. being the highest volume drivers.

For Thai hoteliers looking to benefit from the wealth of global travellers, having a better understanding of how travellers in these markets search, shop and buy their travel will help hoteliers develop the right revenue optimisation strategy and best capture this international demand.

Recent Phocuswright research which covers some of Thailand’s top international feeder markets, as well as France, China, Russia and Brazil, has revealed some specific and useful facts that can help hoteliers effectively target and tap into this ever growing market of global travellers:

  1. Travellers are migrating from offline to online – Not all booking channels are growing equally, and online is leading the way as the preferred choice for people looking to make travel plans. By next year, more than half (52%) of all travel bookings in Europe will be made online, followed closely by the U.S. (45%) and Asia Pacific (37%)[2]. So what are these travellers doing online?
  • 3 out of 4 travellers from U.S., U.K., Australia (Expedia group’s top international feeder markets for Thailand) and China, are searching online to shop, and select, their next destination.
  • Travellers are also very active online in buying. The key markets included in the Phocuswright study show that at least 60% of travellers, and up to over 80% in some major markets, are purchasing and booking online. In fact, almost all travellers (90%) in the U.K. and Australia utilise online resources to book.
  • Online penetration is seeing more and more travellers share their travel plans with their peers, as they complete the spectrum of online experiences that a person goes through as they make their travel plans online; these are components which are essential for Thai hoteliers to fully utilise as ways consumers prefer to search, shop, and share about their destinations.
  1. OTAs are the preferred option for online hotel shopping – Consumers who face a choice to shop for travel between a hotel website and OTAs are turning to the latter as the preferred choice. Of the travellers from the U.S. and the U.K, more than 2 out of 3 online hotel shoppers use an OTA while merely one third went through a hotel website. Similar trends can be seen in other key markets for Thai hoteliers, as over 70% of travellers from Australia and Germany are also utilising OTAs as a preferred option[3].
  1. The convenience factor provided by OTAs are proving to be key attraction – Travellers value the convenience of a one-stop online platform where they can find, compare, and finalise their travel plans – all in one place. Here are two compelling reasons why consumers are choosing OTAs:
  • Almost half of users say they book through an OTA because it is easy to use[4]. As an example, Expedia has a platform known as‘Scratchpad’ (https://www.expedia.co.th/scratchpad) that logs searches on Expedia.com, notifies users in real-time when hotel and flight prices along with availability change, as well as automatically feed customer search information throughout their travel planning process. In this way, customers don’t have to start over with new searches on each device they use. At Expedia, over half of all transactions have touched more than one device prior to booking[5]. This means that cross-device compatibility is critical in providing convenience and driving engagement with travellers. It is found that ‘Scratchpad’ users are 3 times more likely to convert.
  • Unlike dedicated, single-supplier websites, OTAs give travellers the ability to efficiently compare a wide range of travel products in a single place. Not only do OTAs enable comparison shopping, a website like Expedia.com allows travellers to save time and money when they combine multiple products together like air, car and hotels. In fact, Expedia’s dynamic packages which offer such combinations have yielded significant results for Thai hoteliers. In the first half of 2016 alone, international demand for Thai packages increased by 50% compared to the same period last year. Package bookings are highly valuable to Thai hoteliers as hese travellers tend to stay longer, book longer in advance, and have lower cancellations.
  1. Mobile continues to grow significantly – Mobile bookings continue to rise. Today, 40% of worldwide traffic for the Expedia group comes from a mobile device[6] and more than 1 in 4 room nights booked globally was made via a mobile device/platforms[7].  The growth in mobile bookings show that Thai hoteliers who want to capture customers should ensure that their hotel/s are optimised for mobile. OTAs, who are otherwise known as technology companies in the travel space, lead the way in providing great mobile experiences. As an example, theExpedia group invested over USD1 bil (approximately THB35 bil) in technology to ensure best in class mobile experiences for consumers and for hotel partners to reach travellers in the way that travelers want to shop[8].

In 2015, Expedia mobile apps were downloaded more than 130 million times, capturing a valuable digital audience who repeat business at about twice the rate of the average consumer[9].

It is important to note that mobile is not just for consumers. The Expedia PartnerCentral mobile app allows hoteliers to manage their business on Expedia anytime, anywhere, and was created to help solve the everyday problems hoteliers face in an increasingly fast-paced and competitive world. To date, there have been more than 30,000 downloads of the EPC app worldwide.