If you’re new to vacation rental management, “OTAs” and “metasearch engines” are two terms you’ve probably come across recently. Although OTAs, as well as metasearch engines, enable travelers to search for and book accommodation, flights, car rentals, and even travel packages, cruises, tours, and different activities, each option comes with its own set of pros and cons you should be aware of in order to make the best decisions for your lodging management company.

Key Differences between OTAs and Metasearch Engines

To begin with, “OTAs” stands for Online Travel Agencies. Nowadays, millions of travelers use specific OTAs, such as Airbnb, Vrbo, Booking.com, Expedia, and Marriott Homes & Villas, Google, etc., to check the availability and compare the rates and reviews of a wide range of accommodation options in different locations around the world. In addition, these platforms simplify and automate many processes so that anyone can make travel arrangements in just a few clicks.

Coming down to metasearch engines, these are actually web portals that aggregate results from different sources, including OTAs. While these portals aren’t unique to the hospitality industry, they make some great distribution channels for any business operating within this industry. Compared to OTAs, metasearch engines can display a higher number of results and more affordable options, thus saving travelers time and money. 

Assessing the Pros and Cons of Using OTAs

In addition to the convenience they offer to travelers, OTAs can provide some important benefits to lodging management companies as well. These are:

  • Increased visibility OTAs can improve the online visibility of the vacation rentals you manage considerably. According to a study published by Cornell University, this can give your business a greater chance of reaching a higher number of potential guests on a more global scale, increasing your bookings between 7.5% and 26%.
  • User-friendliness – When it comes to OTAs, user-friendly means not only that these platforms are easy to use, but also that they provide detailed information about a series of related aspects. For instance, most OTAs also provide information about area attractions, events, and activities in multiple languages. As a result, these platforms could help you attract new guests, who might otherwise never consider visiting the areas in which your properties are located. 

Here are the most important drawbacks of using OTAs:

  • Commissions – A lodging management company can use different OTA platforms to advertise vacation rentals free of charge. However, the vast majority of OTAs make their money by charging a commission on every booking made through their platforms.
  • Rules and policies Some OTAs impose restrictive terms and conditions, which may affect the way you run your properties as well as your relationship with your guests. 
  • Additional tasks – When you list your vacation rentals on several OTAs, you might need to log into a series of extranets in order to update your listings, daily rates, and availability. Not only can this be time-consuming, but it may also lead to inaccuracies and errors, such as double bookings. Luckily, an advanced channel manager can help you streamline the entire process by allowing you to manage everything from a centralized dashboard.

The Advantages and Disadvantages to Using Metasearch Engines

If you have ever come across a web portal displaying some of the properties you manage, then you know what a metasearch engine looks like. Certain metasearch engines, such as Trivago, TripAdvisor, and Google Travel, can bring along the following benefits:

  • More direct bookings – Similar to OTAs, metasearch engines can significantly increase the online visibility of your vacation rentals. In addition, there are metasearch engines that also allow property managers or owners to insert links to their own websites. This can increase the number of direct bookings you’ll get, while adding quality backlinks to your website for SEO functions. 
  • Lower or no fees – Instead of requiring a commission on every booking completed through their platforms, most metasearch engines use two pricing models (CPC or CPA), while others, such as Google Vacation Rentals, don’t charge any fees at all. This could make your bookings more profitable than those via OTAs.

Coming down to the drawbacks of using metasearch engines, here are the most important ones:

  • You might need a website – Some metasearch engines may already display the properties you have listed on OTAs, provided that the OTAs you use are approved connectivity vendors. But if you wish to list your properties on specific metasearch engines separately, you need to have a well-designed website with an integrated booking engine.
  • You need metasearch marketing knowledge – To generate more bookings via metasearch engines, you might need to invest a lot of time and effort in learning how to optimize your metasearch campaigns.

All things considered, the best strategy for increasing the online visibility of your vacation rentals is to create a lucrative channel mix by allowing some bookings to go through OTAs and others through metasearch engines. With the right channel mix and lodging management solution by your side, you’ll be able to maximize not only the online presence of the properties you manage but also your revenue and profitability. To learn more about our lodging management software and how it can improve your distribution strategy, schedule a personal demo today!