An online travel agency (OTA) is a website or app that allows consumers to search, book and pay for all or part of their travel needs. It acts as an intermediary between travelers and service providers like airlines, hotels, car rental companies and tour operators. It offers a variety of services for both business and leisure travel, including booking, reservation, payment and customer support. It is the largest source of online bookings in the travel industry and boasts millions of users every day.
While OTAs provide an excellent selection of products and a simplified booking process, they have some drawbacks that you should be aware of. Many of them charge a commission fee, which can be anywhere from 10 to 25% of the total booking value. They also can be prone to price fluctuations and have limited functionality for mobile devices. Finally, they are not always able to offer the best rates because they may be sourcing prices from multiple sources and have limited inventory, which can lead to higher pricing.
However, OTAs are becoming more popular because they allow customers to build their own trips by combining hotel rooms, flights and other travel-related activities. Additionally, OTAs often have deals and packages that can save you money. They can also help you book your flight, hotel and car all at once and often give you access to airline frequent flyer programs.
Some of the most well-known OTAs are Expedia, Priceline and Orbitz. Each of them offers a wide range of travel products, including flights, hotels, cars and vacation packages. Some offer specialized services for groups, such as hotel group sales managers to help negotiate group discounts and contracts. Other OTAs specialize in particular regions or niche markets, such as luxury travel or ecotourism.
Another option is a TMC, or travel management company, that provides full-service corporate travel management. These companies can help optimize and manage business travel, ensure compliance with company policy and procedures, and provide data reports on travel spend. They can also help you negotiate rates with suppliers and partners.
While it is true that you don’t have to tip a traditional travel agent, many do appreciate it when you use them and refer friends and family. It is a way to show your appreciation for their hard work and dedication to their job. Other ways to show your gratitude include writing a thank-you note or giving a small gift. And, if you ever have an issue with an OTA, there are a number of consumer advocacy groups that can assist you.