New innkeeper with OTA questions

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Joined:
11/30/2019

I am so thankful I found this group! We just purchased an existing inn in Maine and are working to get everything set up. It is a small inn with 6 rooms, and we are wondering about using OTAs. The previous owners did use them, but reading the contracts is scary! I don't want to sign my life and my business away to these companies. Do most of you use them?  We have a lot of repeat guests, and are already getting summer and fall bookings, so I wondered if it really makes a difference in your bookings and is necessary to stay at the top of internet searches. Thanks for any help you can give!

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Joined:
11/30/2019

Thank you for the great feedback! We were leaning towards not using OTAs, and are glad to hear so many do just fine without them. 
We are in Casco, Maine, so not a lot of other places around. I would love to connect with others in the area, so please feel free to PM me and I’ll do the same. 
 

Kim & Eric

gillumhouse's picture
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05/22/2008

I do not use OTAs as I do not want them to own me. I stopped working "for the man" when I opened and have no intention of starting to again. Savvy travelers are starting to shy away from OTAs if certain travel blogs are to be believed. Someone pointed out on one recently that they had made reservations DIRECT and when wanted to make a change - an upgrade as it happens - were told by the hotel they would not have been able to IF they had made that reservation through the OTA.

What they gobble up in commissions would be a killer for me, not to mention their terms that THEY can change at any time. Innkeepers on a closed Forum I am on in the UK are constantly alerting each other to another change the OTAs have made in the innkeepers own details  on their listing or to terms.

Each of us is different and have different needs. For me with my 3 rooms in Podunk - no thanks. (I am in a city too small to appear on most maps - even in West Virginia.)

Momma Smurf's picture
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12/06/2010



Hi and Welcome!

We are in Southern Maine and also have 6 rooms.  This is our 15th year and we have never used OTAs, despite almost everyone else using them in town and are still doing well.  We use Trip Advisor's Trip Connect which gives us tons of exposure and shows our rates and availability on not only TA, but Google & Bing. Website SEO is your best friend.  Please PM me if you wish.  Best of Luck!

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Morticia's picture
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Joined:
05/22/2008

Congrats!

 You are doing well to think these things out before signing up. Once you are listed on an OTA they will always show up higher in searches for your inn name than your own site even when you have no inventory with them. And it is hell to get them to remove your info and stop buying your inn name in google ads.

 You might have some time to think this thru if you have a good repeat rate. Do consider that some guests will wait to see how you do before they return.

 Do you have competition in your area? Are they listed anywhere?

A good starting point is to meet all of them, find out where your offerings are different (amenities, rates, view) and try to work together by referring to each other.

 Are you listed with Maine Tourism and Visit Maine? Also, local tourism if your town has that.

 How well do you show up on TripAdvisor? They have gone to a strictly pay to play model so if you don’t list with an ota or pay TripAdvisor you disappear. (Ex - we are on vacation next month. If you were to go to TA today you will not find us because we have no availability for them to sell for the default date their system uses. So, as a guest, you do not know we even exist unless you put in dates we have availability.)

 Do you want to narrow down where you are? We’re in Greater Portland. 

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JimBoone's picture
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Joined:
12/18/2014

Hi KimVan 

We started before OTA's became popular and never have used them so I can't tell about what difference they might make in booking, however please keep the important numbers in mind. In my mind anyway it is not the total number of bookings or revenue that is important, the important number is how much we have after doing the work and paying the bills.

Think long and hard about it, after commissions, after the extra work, yours or labor you are paying, after extra wear and tear, maintenance to your property, because you have extra guests, have you really improved your bottom line enough to offset the extra work and stress? I can only speak for me, but for me, I'm happy, I don't think the extra stress and work would be worth using them.

Think also about how you could promote yourself if needed with that percentage you would be paying the OTA, bet a fellow could purchase quite a bit of advertising and not have to sell your soul to the OTA, just my view. Feel free to send me a PM, I don't object to sharing.

If you (your business) has had a website for a while I would think you would be getting exposure, if guests only find you as a result of an OTA search and they book through the OTA, well I don't think that's doing you any favors. Consider using a pay per click model with TA or someone to promote yourself and get your information available to guests.

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Jim & Maxine

 

Generic's picture
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Joined:
02/24/2011

Depends on the OTA. We agreeds to a higher commission, but our contract does not require us to give them a room all the time, which is important to us. We lock them out for the whole summer, releasing dates only as they are appropriate for us. For example, if I have an opening of 3 days, they may get it only as a 3 day, even though it may be open to 2 day bookings directly. And they may not get weekends, only half weekends. So their availability and my availability don't match. It's one of the reasons that I like using MyA. I can open up single days well in advance, etc. They fill my holes... not my schedule.

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