OTA stands for Online Travel Agency. It’s a platform that list as many campsites as possible and allow their visitors to search and filter the best campsite nearby for them. They usually charge you a commission for every reservation made by their application.
Should you rely on this kind of source of clients? Use your camping website in order to try to convert these clients into your own audience to avoid paying high fees? Or maybe try different approach?
Firstly, your own camping website may be great tool to attract new segments of clients. Secondly, you may partially convert OTAs clients into your own audience.
Don’t rely on one source of clients
Many people teaching sales will tell you you don’t want to have one source of clients. If anything happens with that source, you’re in big trouble. It does not mean you need a website. However it means you can’t have one or two sources of clients.
Let me put it this way.
If you use one of OTA (Online Travel Agency) to sell, you’ll have to worry only about one profile. You need to update your campsite or nearby areas images and change allotment and prices. You won’t have to take care of SEO, or paying for the ads, to attract customers to your profile, because this is a job of the OTA.
But if the OTA changes the pricing and will charge you twice as much as usual, you’ll earn less money. Moreover, if OTA suddenly suffers from hackers attacks or loses their customers’ trust in other way, you’ll find yourself getting less and less clients from that OTA.
This way make sure you use more than one or two sources.
Some people will use only OTA to book a campsite
Some people prefer to use OTA to book campsites, because the interface and the template of each camping profile looks the same. They know how to use it, where to find important information.
I found it true when I wanted to order food from Indian restaurant. I’ve tried to use their website, but the menu was looking bad on mobile and I couldn’t find the meals I wanted. That’s why I’ve used popular delivery food services, because I could easily find what I wanted and I could use an interface I had already learned how to use.
Converting OTA campsite customers into your own audience
Some will use OTA, because it’s convenient for them. And you’ll have a lot of trouble to convert them into your own audience. Why?
First reason is the one I’ve pointed out in the previous section.
But why is that exactly, that these customers prefer OTA?
It’s because they don’t attach to one place. They want to travel and find places easily. That’s why they use the most convenient tools they can get. This is actually the OTA’s business, isn’t it?
In conclusion, if you want to convert the OTA’s customers into your own audience, then you would have to make it more convenient to use your camping website. To book a campsite, for instance. And that means you must work hard on convenience and responsiveness, because you have to be better than OTA. You must buy ads in Facebook and/or Google, build email lists, writing content, and so on. There are tons of methods, but the convenience is the most important.
The more sources the bigger market
My advice would be to not chase these OTA customers, but to look for other segments. If you have, let’s say, a campground near a lake, you could try to find clients who like to fish or sail. Or both.
Where do they meet? What do they read? Maybe you could find some Facebook groups or websites they use on a daily basis where they read learn from. They could be looking for some technical stuff or to learn more about their hobbies. Then you can buy some ads on these websites or start a conversation with them. Or maybe write a piece of article helping them consider your area for a next vacation.
If you put that article on your website, it will be ranked higher for keywords related to your brand or camping as an idea to spend free time.
You could try to build your own audience. Create your own Facebook group or even a YouTube channel. You can post videos showing how people have a good time in your location and nearby.
As a result, you’ll attract more customers for whom there is something more important than convenience of the tools they’re using to find a campsite. For many people much more important will be hobby, vacation activities and people they can meet during the trip.
Your own camping website can help you aggregate all of the social media profiles, selling channels and all customers in one place. On the website you are in charge and you have all the control over how to shape your customers’ experience.
Save money with brand keywords
When your potential customers look for your brand name in Google, they may find your competition. Or OTAs charging you commission for a reservation.
Don’t let OTAs steal your potential customers. If the visitors go to their website, OTAs have all the attention and may lead them to other brands.
If they go straight to your website, you’re having all the control over their attention and experience.
How to use OTA in a proper way?
Make sure your profile is well polished and nurtured. Review once in a while images, try to reorganize them. See what happens if you change the main image.
Try to get into your customers shoes and think about how they search. Try different combinations and see who your profile looks compared to other profiles. Do you have the main image looking almost the same? Does your profile stand out in any way? Do you point out benefits your potential customers are looking for?
Focus on getting more reviews. Ask for them in “goodbye” emails or in person, during the checkout. Tell your clients that it would help you get more visibility. You can say it would be highly rewarding for you and your staff.
Let your clients see awards you already got, for example from TripAdvisor. It will show them you already have clients given you a good testimonial, therefore they will not stand out. In other words, there is a bigger chance they will do it for you.
Don’t offer any reward for adding a testimonial. It’s against the rules for a huge part of reviews platforms. And it’s unethical. It’s sort of buying fake testimonials, which you should always avoid.
And be patient. Many people won’t add a review, because they never do that and this is more than enough reason. But if you never ask, you may never get it.