How online travel agencies influence your destination

30 years ago, if you wanted to travel to the South of France, you might give a call to book your flight and hotels or go to the local travel agency directly. You did not have many choices considering the travel information you received, time and tickets. Money and maps would be everything you needed for travelling to the South of France.

Now everything is different. When did it start to change?

Since the boom of information technology, deregulation of the economy, urbanisation, age of abundance, etc…As a millennial when we book the hotel or hostel, we are not only looking for a safe place to stay and a comfortable bed to sleep in but more than just that. We want to have a good experience. We feel more loyal to the hotel or hostel if we receive a warm welcome from the staff. We want to learn about local culture through different activities. Sometimes if we have less budget, we do not mind being hosted by a local family and taking care of their child or helping with farms in exchange for our stay. Because everything we do is all about the experience.

From the beginning of your booking journey, you might be inspired by your friends, travel vloggers, social influencers or articles from TripAdvisor. Next, you might make a choice on online travel agencies (OTAs) such as and Agoda or metasearch engines such as Trivago and Kayak on either your mobile phone or laptop, searching for the available time and price. Next, you might compare the price on a few different websites because you only trust them. But you might not notice before you act on the next step, relevant advertisements always have popped up on your screen to provide the next information you might need. How is it possible? Is it because Google saves my cookies? or Siri knows my plan while I am talking to my friends? This could be one of the reasons. But, before you book the trip, you are already being marketed. You are just not aware of it.

Have you ever wondered why most of the OTA websites include a blog and various articles? From the local events to “The best restaurants you should visit” and other related topics on their website to remind you “It is time for travelling”. Whatever the reason is. This is called the “Dream” stage to trigger you to think “I want to go on holiday” via TV and social media. Once you have the desire, the planning stage is following where you imagine “I want the trip to be perfect”. While this stage is very important for promoting the destination to assist potential travellers to make a plan, which should be filled with information from digital display and search. That is why the National Geography channel or BBC is introducing some specific areas with amazing images and videos to attract your attention.

While you finally have some day off and decide to enjoy a trip, you are excited to check the cheapest price on Suddenly, you saw “the last room left” on the website, you are nervous and afraid to lose the good opportunity, so you take the next step to the payment. This is how OTA applies “Stress Marketing” to increase the reservation of rooms on their websites. The website should always be “responsive” instead of “proactive”.

When you finished all the planning and booked the trip, you might receive emails from the OTA to remind you that the trip is going to be a great experience including local activity information and images. This is called the “Act” stage.

When arriving at the hotel, you could not help but share the astonishing view from the hotel and an amazing restaurant which served you the fantastic dinner. Sharing your experience during the trip to create ease of celebrating through your Instagram account or any platforms. This is called the “Share” stage.

After a happy ending, you check out from the hotel, you might receive an email again to be asked for the review. This final stage is called Reflect. This stage is very important for any player in the service industry. As you are the most authentic and credible resource for them to build their reputation, to encourage others to come or to improve their services and operations.

Now that you have a clear view, next time, I hope you can make a decision without these marketing traps by these tourism actors!

Ying-Hsi CHEN, MSc. Tourism and Hospitality Management, Class of 2020


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