Why small property owners see OTAs as a "necessary evil"


The codependent nature of small property owners and their booking partners has its upsides, but primarily, it’s viewed by the underdogs as a “necessary evil.”

For independent hotel and B&B owners, the competition against online travel agencies is weakening as the OTAs’ market position only seems to strengthen – especially for Expedia and the Priceline Group-owned Booking.com, which some estimate now command an 80% slice of the action in the UK.

In turn, small property owners are left feeling “squeezed and often exploited, some of them to the point of quitting,” according to a new report from Sawday’s examining owners and their relationship with booking partners in the UK.

The unavoidable

Despite this, OTAs are an important source of revenue and an undeniable influence, with 80% of accommodations providers saying they use at least one major service.

These partnerships help address business challenges such as getting accommodations noticed online (25%), marketing efforts (15%), communicating property offerings (13%) and time spent running the business (11%).

Largely, independent property owners want booking partners to deliver the right guests for their accommodations (68%), though only a small percentage (6%) want them to handle guest bookings on their behalf.

Not enough

Benefits aside, many owners are “disillusioned” with the nature of their relationship with OTAs as well as the sacrifices those relationships entail.

Some 49% consider OTAs a “necessary evil,” while 43% think they charge too much, 32% say they’re hard to work with and 30% worried they’ll gain market share.

Only 15% think they’re easy to work with, and 12% feel they’re the best way to make bookings.

To salvage these relationships, Sawday’s suggests giving back control to owners over bookings, restoring guest interaction and establishing fair payment terms among other key areas.

“A healthy, vibrant and diverse sector is great, not only for guests and owners of places to stay, but for the communities for which tourism is so important,” says Mike Bevens, managing director at Sawday’s.

“The harder it becomes to thrive in this industry, the fewer people will choose to join it, let along stay in it. And it’s in all our interests to have a thriving sector, now and for years to come.”