Following news that the COVID-19 pandemic has had a serious impact on online travel agencies (OTAs) – as Google’s travel offerings are increasingly gaining a competitive edge – owner of Saxon Lodge in Gansbaai, Western Cape, Caron Lee, believes this is “a great thing”.
She writes: “I have had way more direct bookings, which saves me the huge commissions that the OTAs ask, especially during a time when our revenues and margins were shrinking.
“I am also tired of the OTAs discounting my rates in the market, using their commission, creating the idea that we are always "on sale". I also do not like the idea of having various rates present in the market. Our rate is our rate and I want to be the person deciding and implementing rate changes, specials and discounts.
“Operating within a small accommodation space it is almost impossible to compete with these large OTAs for airtime to encourage direct bookings due to the high cost of advertising to stand out above the OTAs, and Google has provided this due to the nature of their offering – a search engine. My eyes are also wide open to the fact that pretty soon they may start taking commissions as well...I am watching the space.
“Perhaps if the OTAs offered value through destination marketing and then more flexibility in terms of their commissions and a communication system that allows me to talk to another human being, especially someone in my country, I may have a little more empathy.
“They are impossible to communicate with. Local 'agents' (if there is someone appointed) are almost never available, bots and messaging services highly impersonal and lacking intelligence and empathy, direct lines into these organisations takes me to an international call centre where accents and lack of local knowledge makes for frustrating conversations and half way resolutions.
“So personally, I think the OTAs deserve what they get. They have become arrogant bullies who do not carry the costs of delivering the service to the traveller at the level of accommodation, tours, and meals and yet take percentage commissions.”