1st October 2015

The Pitfalls of Online Booking Agencies

The Pitfalls of Online Booking Agencies

The amount of people booking through online agencies, has risen dramatically, over 80% of people book their breaks, accommodation etc. online according to TravelWeekly – many of them through agencies such as booking.com and Expedia.

What these companies do is pay large sums of advertising money to Google to feature at the top of the search results – you may think “great, my business is getting a lot of exposure”. This may be true on one hand, but on the other hand, it gives people the opportunity to compare your business with others very easily, very quickly and book there and then. Also there is a commission to pay on every booking which takes profit away from you.

Accommodation providers, however, cannot ignore these online giants, they have too much power and, one could agree they help small businesses get heard and provide a separate platform for website traffic.

Here’s the interesting bit, whilst these booking agencies provide awareness and online presence, small businesses may need to consider what it is doing to their bottom line. What would you do if these sites started raising their commission fees?

Visitors tend to think that they will get better rates if they book through a large online booking agent, however what this is actually doing is allowing visitors to directly compare your business with others at an instant, potentially helping you lose business. Customers who buy through booking.com and such like means you will have to pay a commission. This may reduce your profitability and not to mention direct website traffic!

We have been doing our own research, and we have found that traffic to the Shropshire Tourism site businesses are increasing, but the number of bookings and enquiries are declining. So, what does this mean? It means they are finding your business through the Shropshire Tourism site as a result of our domain authority BUT they are then comparing prices/accommodation on online agency sites!

The danger here is that people will/may use these bigger sites thinking they will get a better deal, when in reality they are not, and you are not.

Don’t fear, there is something you can do to combat this problem and still feature on these sites.

Why not clearly state on your website or Shropshire Tourism listing “You won’t get a cheaper rate anywhere else!” By doing this, you are more likely to retain your website traffic (maybe even increase it) and benefit from the exposure of online booking agents. This way if agencies do increase their commission fees, you will be safe in the knowledge that you can still generate a sustainable amount of customers through your own website, without having to pay fees at all!

You can also ensure you have availability and book ability buttons on your Shropshire Tourism entry and so visitors don’t need to leave your entry to book.

Additionally, there are ways to make your own entry and/or website more attractive than those of these agencies without reducing your prices. We know that by law businesses are not allowed to undercut agencies, so why not add value to your proposition – give away a free bottle of wine with an evening meal, offer a box of chocolates on arrival or maybe a free breakfast?

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