Online Travel Agencies (OTAs)

Travel Providers Miss Major Opportunity to Increase User Touch Points and Build Customer Loyalty

Online travel agents (OTAs) and meta-search providers are missing a major opportunity to drive more customer loyalty and stickiness by failing to engage with customers when they travel, according to a new FlightView survey of 2,066 travelers.

HTrends Online travel agents (OTAs) and meta-search providers are missing a major opportunity to drive more customer loyalty and stickiness by failing to engage with customers when they travel, according to a new FlightView survey of 2,066 travelers.

“OTAs and third-party travel providers have been trying to figure out how to increase usage and maximize customer engagement,” said Mike Benjamin, CEO of FlightView. “One solution is proactively providing better, more actionable information and capabilities. More than 85 percent of the travelers we surveyed said they would return to the provider that they purchased their ticket from if they were offered more valuable information during their trip.”

Cover from Flightview ReportAccording to FlightView’s survey, proactive itinerary and flight updates are no longer a nice-to-have for travelers. In fact, today, 87 percent of travelers expect updates on the status of their flight sent directly to their phone on the day they travel, and nearly 50 percent want travel providers to go one step further and alert the relevant parties affected by their itinerary changes:

  • 47% want their hotel notified
  • 46% want updates sent to family and friends
  • 38% want ground transportation alerted
“The most stressful part of traveling is the lack of transparency into flight delays, cancellations and itinerary changes – and the potential for those changes to impact a vacation or business trip,” said Benjamin. “Today, very few travel providers are delivering the amount of information and alerts that their customers crave.”

OTAs, Meta-Search Engines and Airlines Compete for Web Traffic, Sales

The competition for search volume, direct sales and referral traffic is intense; varying consumer preferences make it challenging for OTAs and meta-search engines to differentiate based on their core offerings – search and booking. The variety in search preference is underscored in the survey results: 36 percent of travelers prefer going directly to the airline, 29 percent prefer OTAs and 22 percent prefer meta-search engines. Individually, Kayak and Expedia are the most popular travel websites for ‘first searches’, followed by Travelocity and Orbitz.

According to respondents, several factors play into what makes travelers prefer one provider over another:

  • 50% said the sites ease-of-use
  • 41% said the way flights are sorted and presented
  • 30% said the accuracy of flight information
  • 29% said the extra, relevant data provided, such as on-time ratings, visibility into fees and price predictions
While meta-search companies are successful when travelers use their service to search for tickets and then book through an airline, for OTAs, the priority is travel bookings. And not surprisingly, FlightView’s survey found that today, less than 30 percent of flights are booked with OTAs. Many travelers, however, expressed an overall willingness to book more often through third-party providers in the future. In fact, according to FlightView’s survey:
  • 46% of travelers said they’d be more willing to book with an OTA if they were assured that they would automatically be re-booked on another flight if their original flight was cancelled.
  • 42% said they’d be more likely to book if OTAs made it easier to manage their itineraries (on mobile or Web) on the day they travel.
  • 37% said that better discounts on hotels and car rentals would make them more likely to buy from an OTA.
“Travelers have more options for how they search and where they book than ever before,” said Benjamin. “While price is always a crucial factor, the site-to-site difference is rarely substantial. The best way to keep users coming back and attract more customers is to provide the best user experience, information, and updates possible– before, during and after the trip.”

For the full survey findings, get a complimentary copy of FlightView’s new report – Building Loyalty and Maximizing Engagement with the Connected Traveler – here. FlightView’s survey was conducted in April of 2014.



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