10 Parity-Unrelated Reasons That Make the OTAs the Giants They Are (Part #1).

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10 Parity-Unrelated Reasons That Make the OTAs the Giants They Are (Part #1)

Hey everyone, how you doing?

You may think that for adding up to 10 reasons, I must be guiding you through endless different sites, totally unrelated to each other.

Instead, I counted (at least) 10 reasons by simply looking at 1 single page on Booking.com.

More specifically, Today I want to talk about a few less known reasons that make the big giants like Booking (BO) and Expedia (EX) the giants they are.

I used to ask my customers and other hoteliers, “Why do you think BO and EX are so strong? Why people tend to book via them?”

Most times what I get in return is:

  • they have huge amount of money and budget to spend in ads.
  • they are everywhere, as soon as a user enter the word “hotel” in any query e.g. on Google, they are the first to pop up.
  • they always have the lowest rates.

Besides the last point that may be subjective depending on the situation of each hotel, those are all good and super valid reasons.

However, there are other reasons, some logical and some more emotional, that actually make visitors prefer booking via OTAs and make hoteliers either fail or, at least, struggle with their purpose of driving more direct bookings.

So what are these reasons? Specifically, I am referring to:

  • layout
  • structure
  • wording
  • colors

In one simple word: usability.

Point being, if we just pay a little attention to those details, we could learn the same principles and implement them into our direct-booking strategy as well.

Let’s see some example.

1) No Rate Names

Look at this, standard rooms&rates layout on BO. (Btw, in this single screenshot I count at least 7 different reasons why we should just shut up and learn from BO. But ok, I’ll tell later.)


Now, compare it to the layout and the content of your booking engine, whatever that is. This is Synxys Booking Engine.


Where the heck is the rate name on BO? But more importantly, why the heck do we have to show the name of the rate in our booking engine?

Think about it. What is the visitor looking for?

Rooms. That is what we sell. PUNTO!

We don’t sell RATES. That is just a label that has basically no meaning, because it’s simply not what the visitor is interested in.

There is a room, and then there are attributes whose values are bundled into what we call “rates”.

For instance, PRICE is an attribute. POLICIES (cancellation and payment) are attributes, MEALS included or not, is another attribute.

The combination of those attributes’ values makes up what we call “rates”.

So what do you think visitors are interested in? The name we assign to a rate, or what’s behind that rate, meaning the attributes (we can also refer to them as “conditions”) that come along with the room they are considering to book?

My personal view on this is that the first booking engines were released back in the late ’90 by those companies that previously used to be CRS providers for connecting hotels to the GDS systems.

As we know, GDS do work with rate names. Rate names is what consortia and travel agents used to refer to, especially because they often had dedicated rates for their corporate and consortia accounts.

In other words, the rate name was enough because the agent knew what was behind that rate, and knew that it was a dedicated and negotiated rate for that account.

As the first OTAs started popping up in the internet and those providers were asked to come up with a solution to let users make reservation through their brand websites, they essentially “adapted” what they had for the GDS to create a Booking Engine.

Whilst OTAs, virgins, created their booking systems without being influenced by “what it was” or what they previous had.


2) Rooms & Rates Structure

Same screenshot from BO.


This may sound quite subjective, but I believe that this super simple table structure actually helps visitors to better see, read and perceive what they are looking at.

Without any scrolling, I can read, evaluate and book my room, by simply reading left-to-right, the way human beings have naturally been taught to read.

Compare to this now:


Visitors are “forced” to read from the top-down, even though there is plenty of white and unused space right next to the room name.

Check again BO, do you see any empty, white and unused space in there? Everything is well organized, easy to navigate, yet not overcrowded.

Plus, think about it. BO and other OTAs have the numbers to conduct proper A/B tests on a regular basis. They spend an incredible amount of money simply testing what works and what now.

Simply put, this is not a question of “I think it’s better this rather than that”, objectively speaking, what you see that they adopted, it’s what works, besides any personal opinion or preference on that.

Let’s stop here for now… there’s a lot more to go through but a single post would be heavy.

I’ll post the rest in the next days, so stay tuned 🙂

See also:

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Digital Strategy & E-commerce Expert for Independent Hotels.


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