22.04.2015

Common Pitfalls in Updating OTA Content

Today, almost every 3 to 5 star property works with online travel agencies (OTAs). However, despite intense global OTA consolidation, managing the intermediaries’ content still poses significant operational challenges for hotels. Time consuming content updates are even required for those OTAs who are writing their own unique content. While dynamic updates (i.e., rates and availability) are usually automated via the hotels’ CRS, PMS and/or channel managers, static updates are stealing a very considerable amount of the hotelier’s precious time. The time required for filling in up to 500 extranet content fields per OTA could be better spent on guest relations, for example. 

Selecting the right OTA channels, based on clear decision criteria, can reduce much time and efforts for the first complete property set-up. The proposed qualification process should consider the OTA’s business model (and reputation), distribution costs (e.g., retail versus merchant), reach (including new and emerging markets), target groups, (CRS/PMS/channel manager) connectivity, and the operational effectiveness of content updates. By using this qualification scheme, non-productive OTAs can be avoided.

Below are some insights, highlighting the challenges of content management via an OTA’s extranet:

  • One size fits all: OTA extranets are highly standardized. Content set-up is partly conducted via inflexible tick boxes. Therefore, hoteliers still have limited capabilities for showing individual content.
  • Automatically generated property descriptions, based on the selected/ticked amenities and facilities, can be misleading in the worst case. This process varies between OTAs. In some cases, hotels can change property descriptions via the extranet. In other cases, hotels must communicate changes via email.
  • Automated room descriptions can also lead to incorrectly generated content. Complementing room specifications (in addition to the extranet standard) are not possible. Standard OTA room types often disable displaying the hotel’s room type names.
  • Non-customizable photo titles and the order of image displays can cause confusion of the consumer in some cases.
  • Non-availability of exceptions and special conditions. E.g., “available on request” or “available on Sundays” cannot be displayed in most cases.
  • What you see is NOT what you get: Some extranets are not self-explanatory. The OTA extranet structure differs from the consumer-facing graphical user interface (GUI). Therefore, it remains unclear where (in which fields) content updates are required and where/how it is displayed on the GUI.
  • Moving target: Once the hotel has acquired the specific knowledge for every employed OTA extranet, the GUI and/or extranet often tends to change and learning restarts.

OTA CONTENT CHECK-LIST
(based on h2c's experience with chains and independent properties)

  • Following content updates, check if the changes are correct on the consumer-facing OTA site. This is even more important if the OTA pulls its content from another extranet.               
  • Where two OTAs belong to the same company/group, the same extranet is often used for updating both of the two different (consumer-facing) OTA channels. Therefore, automated property descriptions and facilities displays could differ by channel.
  • Expect varying response times. While some changes will be visible immediately, other OTAs or some types of changes (such as the upload of photos) might take longer.
  • If you have questions or would like to display special conditions or facilities that are not available in the standardized extranet criteria, use the message function that is often integrated in OTA extranets. Response times are generally within 24 hours. Alternatively, contact your Market Manager for explaining additional options.
  • If you do not have the time and resources to regularly update information, avoid displaying information that often changes e.g., opening times of restaurants.
  • Check both the OTA GUI and the OTA extranet content fields regularly – design and features are updated quite frequently. Doing this will help you identify new fields that may be important for your business (e.g., more detailed/specific search options).
  • The layout and display of information on the consumer-facing OTA site can differ by source market. Keep this in mind when checking OTA content for different country versions.

OTA content checks should be part of your monthly workflows. Maintain unique content on your hotel website, not only for SEO/SEM purposes; never use OTA content. Also check review and metasearch sites for content updates as these sites do influence your customers’ booking decisions. 

Contact us for more information about OTA content support services. 

Michaela Papenhoff, Managing Director h2c GmbH

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