Ready to recapture the attention of culture lovers? After a long year of lockdowns, it’s time. To jumpstart that effort, you might be evaluating online travel agencies, or OTAs. And if you aren’t already, you should be.
OTAs act as event marketplaces where consumers can find and purchase tickets to venues and events. For museums and attractions, they’re valuable distribution channels that help increase booking volume and reach new audiences. For tourists and fun-seekers, they offer a comprehensive selection of venues and experiences – often along with savings in the form of promotional rates and bundled packages.
Typically, OTAs don’t just bring together a large volume of museums, attractions, and experiences. They actively influence customer decision-making. As you look to partner with an OTA for your museum or attraction, it’s important to understand the relationship and what you stand to gain from it.
All OTA booking platforms share in common the fact that they’re optimized to market, distribute, and sell tickets on your behalf. But OTAs are not alike. They differ in the audiences they target, the markets they promote to, the exclusive partnerships they’ve formed, and how successful they are at all of the above. Choosing the correct OTA can make the difference between a trickle of new visitors or a treasure trove of new visitors.
The benefits of OTA booking
Here are some of the things to consider when evaluating which OTA will align best with your venue.
One of the most obvious benefits of OTA booking is the marketing boost. OTAs typically have a huge distribution network through their partnerships as well as a much larger marketing budget than, as a single venue, you could manage on your own. Customers flock to OTA booking sites to take advantage of the campaigns and promotions they see advertised via social media, newsletters, paid advertising, organic search, and other marketing modes. Once they find out about an OTA, it tends to become their standard go-to for booking experiences, just as a hotel-booking site or airline-booking site would for those elements of travel.
For this reason, OTAs invest a lot in their marketing. They stay up to speed on available opportunities and channels – as well as best practices – to better promote museums and attractions. They have the resources to experiment with marketing techniques to optimize sales and reach new audience segments. For all these reasons, you have access to a lot of marketing power through an OTA booking partnership.
How to boost your marketing with an OTA: OTAs work best when you offer customers deals. Bundles, promotions, partnerships with other experiences – these are all ways to increase your sales. Higher ticket flexibility almost always results in more conversions.
As you evaluate OTA booking options, look for a platform that has a solid marketing strategy and offers a lot of ticket types. For instance, what kind of promotional offers and bundled deals will the OTA enable for your museum or attraction?
Going hand in hand with a bigger marketing budget, OTAs offer museums and attractions larger audiences and more reach. Ankur Thakuria, Senior Regional Manager, Asia Pacific (APAC) at Tiqets, explains: “OTAs offer access to a wide array of venues, bringing in a much larger customer network otherwise not accessible to venues through their direct marketing channels.”
OTAs typically have a built-in audience beyond the geographical area you normally market to – perhaps even international reach. The best OTAs are used by both domestic and local audiences to find out what’s going on nearby. OTAs that are well-known by travelers and local sightseers inspire customer confidence because they present your venue alongside other “tried and true” venues that customers already trust
Tiqets, for instance, has a robust search tool and regularly highlights various venues and events on its site. It also has a comprehensive venue website to help museum marketing leaders gain access to resources and information. (You’re on it right now, in fact.)
How to make the most of audience reach with your booking OTA: Find an OTA that operates in the market you’re hoping to reach, if not an international market. Look for a trusted, respected brand with a large built-in audience.
Did you know? Tiqets is rated 9.3/10 on TrustPilot with over 18,000 reviews since 2015.
Collaboration vs. competition
Because OTAs serve as planning hubs for potential visitors, your museum or attraction benefits from the success of other nearby attractions. This is true in a passive way: people booking one excursion in a city then go on to book another one – ideally yours.
But it’s also true in a more intentional way: platforms that offer bundles and cross-sales help to level the playing field for lesser-known attractions to compete with more discoverable nearby attractions. They make cross-selling and upselling highly achievable in ways direct booking does not.
In this way, museums and attractions – who are all in this thing together, after all – benefit from each other’s exposure and sales while visitors get to discover new experiences.
How to get more out of your OTA collaborations: Take proactive advantage of opportunities to promote your museum or attraction in tandem with others. With Tiqets, you can directly cross-sell: visitors buying tickets to another museum or attraction can receive a discount for yours, and vice versa.
For some museums and attractions, outsourcing marketing and ticketing is a leap at first. The right OTA should be a low-risk partnership. You’re not signing your life away or making a long-term commitment you might later come to regret.
Ideally, the OTA you choose should not charge an upfront fee. If fees you pay are dependent entirely on sales made, the OTA is more incentivized to help you succeed. Working with an OTA should also not be a huge time draincl for your marketing organization. The best OTAs have a streamlined supplier portal and easy-to-use booking management tools.
Keep in mind, though, that if your business model only works when you get full face value for every ticket, OTA booking might not be the right solution for you. But typically, the values OTAs offer vastly outweigh the expense.
How to make the most of a low-risk partnership with your booking OTA: Look for an OTA that does not require a long-term commitment or upfront fees. With Tiqets, for instance, we only earn commission when you make sales. There’s nothing required in advance. You also gain access to a hands-on account manager who can answer your questions and listen when you have feedback, helping you make the best decisions as you go along.
Taking advantage of that account manager and the other support resources your OTA provides will help you get the most out of the relationship. Claire Elsden, Tiqets Attractions Account Manager for the UK and Ireland, says, “Communication as the partnership evolves is key. Can you try new things, add new products, and tweak existing products? Use OTAs to optimize sales, revenue, and your understanding of customers over time.”
For OTAs with a global reach, look for a dedicated regional manager who has local knowledge of your particular area and even your venue. They should be able to combine that insight with industry insight from all over the world through the OTA’s greater network. It’s that combination of on-the-ground support and global industry insight that serves to elevate your museum or attraction through the relationship you have with an OTA.
Your account manager or regional manager – exact titles will of course differ from OTA to OTA – has a wealth of knowledge and insights to draw on. Whatever challenges your venue might face, chances are this contact person has experienced other venues facing the same challenges, so they’ll likely have ideas and insights on efficient solutions.
How to make the most of your OTA’s support: Your contact person can help you make tweaks to the way you’re marketing and promoting your museum or attraction through the OTA. Based on their experience with other venues they’ve worked with that are similar to yours, they might suggest you try new features or add new products, for instance. Ultimately, your goal is to get the highest possible conversation on the OTA, so your contact person should work closely with you to continuously increase that metric.
Data and insights
Speaking of metrics, your OTA booking platform should offer regular data and insights that help you get to know your customers. For instance, here’s a sample data chart that reveals some of the insights a museum or attraction might get from its partnership with Tiqets:
The breakdown includes information on where visitors come from, how old they are, how they tend to book and how far in advance, and who they visit your attraction with. This sort of information lends itself well to your marketing and even your exhibit design.
How to make the most of data with your OTA: As you work with an OTA, it’s always important to be very clear on what you hope to get out of the partnership, and to have explicit visitor metrics in mind. Knowing your visitor growth plan going in will help you maximize your partnership with an OTA, and will help your OTA account manager give you the best advice.
The technology advantage
At the end of the day, the technology platform is perhaps more important than anything else when you choose an OTA booking partner. A 2021 Tiqets survey of over 7,000 customers across Europe and the US showed that 64% of people prefer to book museum and event tickets online, either directly through a venue or via OTA booking. In some regions, that number was even higher – particularly for booking local museums and attractions.
The best OTAs are built on robust technology platforms that make ticketing easy and secure for customers. Security is particularly important. Your OTA must take active measures to prevent fraud and ensure that customer personal and financial information is fully encrypted and compliant with all federal and regional laws. For instance, Tiqets is PCI-compliant, which means our payment provider, Adyen, meets the key security standard within the industry.
How to make the most of your OTA’s technology: As you evaluate OTA booking options, look for platforms that offer proof of their technological security and fraud-prevention efforts. Take the time to walk through demos and tutorials to see how it works – both from the perspective of the customer and your internal teams who will maintain the relationship.
If you plan to take advantage of APIs in order to build your own apps or digital products using the OTA’s data, make sure the OTA is configured to support that level of technology.
Best practice: Balance your direct bookings with OTA bookings
“Venues should offer both direct and OTA bookings to leverage as many distribution channels as possible,” says Heidi Andersen, Tiqets Regional Manager Scandinavia and the Baltics, “to get their brand name and the experiences they can offer visitors known by diverse client segments.”
Most OTAs have so much more to offer than just adding a venue to their portfolio. Make use of the many tools and initiatives they supply. Challenge your OTA and expect great things from it. By involving your OTA in your ups and downs, and maintaining a close relationship with your contact, you gain a strong partner who can truly support your business.
Ultimately, your partnership with an OTA is about more than just increasing bookings. It should help you expand your audience, understand your visitors, and better promote your own offerings.