How to Automate OTA Channel Management for Tour Operators

September 11, 2018, Kyla Steeves
Traveler walking streets of Belgium after booking with tour operator.

Listing with an online travel agent (OTA) is one way to promote your tours and activities. There are many options available — including Expedia, Viator and TripAdvisor — so you don’t have to choose just one. But listing with multiple OTAs can create more work for yourself. That’s why distribution channel management is a must-have for your online booking system.

OTAs receive millions of website visitors globally because of their digital marketing expertise. Plus, their websites are easy to use —  a top reason travelers prefer to book with them. Phocuswright discovered that OTAs’ share of the online travel market continues to rise and is projected to reach 40% by 2021. That’s a huge number for you to consider!

With an OTA, your tour business gains exposure that could lead to more bookings. To capitalize on this promotion, test which online travel agencies produce the best results for your tour business. You might find success with more than one — especially after checking out Arival’s Guide to Working with OTAs.

But what happens if you get bookings from multiple OTA sites while continuing to get direct bookings? Are you supposed to manage your inventory manually across the board?

Well, you have two choices:

  1. Manage your bookings from one centralized system
  2. Change settings on each site separately

As you might’ve guessed, the second option is prone to error and takes more time. So how do you apply the first?

Get an online booking system with channel management

Tour operator distribution channel management. Traveler planning paraglide looking up at paragliders.

Using an online booking system is the best way to manage your direct bookings. But it’s also a great distribution channel manager with the application of OTA integrations. For instance, Checkfront syncs your inventory across multiple online travel agencies from a single dashboard.

In other words, when a booking is made on one channel, Checkfront automatically updates all other websites in real-time. This means you don’t have to manually update OTA sites every time there’s a new booking or cancellation. It reduces the risk of overbooking and prevents a missed sale due to incorrect closed availability.

OTA channel management is also efficient because it accomplishes these additional administrative tasks instantaneously. With the time you save, you can spend on other things that make a more positive impact on your tour business. And since Checkfront is cloud-based, your computer doesn’t have to run for the replication to work. You can step away from your desk, interact with your guests and get home in time for dinner.

So what OTA integrations can you apply to your Checkfront account?

1. Expedia Local Expert

Expedia Local Expert (LX) is a one-stop travel resource that showcases local tours, activities, and other experiences. Travelers use Expedia (LX) to get the inside scoop on a destination, build their activity itinerary, and make bookings online.

As a tour operator, you can leverage Expedia’s powerful marketing programs and reach new customers searching for things to do in your location. When integrated with Checkfront, travelers can see your real-time availability and book on Expedia — which will automatically go to your Checkfront database.

It’s free to register with Expedia Group, but they take a small commission on every sale.

2. Viator

Viator, Inc. helps travelers discover tours and activities in over 1,300 destinations worldwide. As part of the TripAdvisor network, Viator gets millions of monthly visitors from both Viator and TripAdvisor — meaning that you can vastly increase your visibility with a listing.

On Viator, it’s possible to customize brochure pages with original content to help you stand out from other listings. Travelers interested in booking your tours and activities have two options: 1. Freesale — they can book without confirmation, and 2. On Request — you have to confirm or reject the request.

Distribution channel management for tours and activities. Two travelers looking at the Eiffel Tour at sunset.

With this add-on, you can link your inventory to Viator and track the bookings completed. Plus, you can assign multiple users on Viator so that employees can get access to products and reports.

Again, it’s free to register with Viator, but they take a small commission on every sale.

3. MyAllocator

MyAllocator is a channel manager designed for accommodation businesses. Using this platform, you can list your properties on multiple channels — including HostelWorld, Booking.com, and AirBnb — without the hassle of updating the rates and availability separately.

By activating this add-on in Checkfront, your direct bookings are also added to the MyAllocator pool. Any changes made in Checkfront will automatically send to your other configured channels. And bookings completed on your MyAllocator sites will sync over to Checkfront.

There’s a free trial with MyAllocator. After that, plans start at $25/month.

Final thoughts

If you choose to list with an online travel agent, you should automate your channel management. By handing this task off to your online booking system, you can save yourself a lot of time and effort — meaning you can reap the benefits of an OTA without working around the clock.

Want to automate OTA Channel Management with Checkfront?

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