Is there room for new OTAs to find success?
The travel industry is a crowded and competitive place, given the success of giants like Expedia and Booking, is there really any point for someone to invest in opening a new travel agency? How can they possibly compete against them and find any success?
To answer that, let’s take a look at some young OTAs and how they found success.
ID90 Travel was founded in 2006, to provide travel employees with travel services at the same level of comfort as consumers and business travelers.
Airline and other travel employees can access certain travel services at highly discounted rates, and in many cases for free. Yet the process of doing so was never as straight forward as booking through a travel agency. That’s what ID90 succeeded in changing.
In 2011, Mike Stacey became CEO of ID90 and brought about a technological change to the company, pushing them to focus on mobile devices. A decision that has resulted in 74% of their transactions occurring on mobile devices.
They identified an underserved niche; 13 years later they’re still going strong with over 746,000 individual travel employees served.
SnapTravel was founded in 2016, founded by repeat tech entrepreneurs Hussein Fazal and Henry Shi. They created a travel agency that leverages AI to allow consumers to book hotels through chats, over WhatsApp, SMS, Facebook messenger and more.
That one change is their unique proposition. What sets them apart from other chatbot services is that these bots aren’t fully automated. Instead, an agent is capable of taking over to handle trickier questions and issues. This leaves customers with highly personalized travel experience but allows for servicing an exponential amount of users simultaneously.
Their unique approach has definitely been working for them. In 2017 they raised $8M USD in Series A round funding, and then they raised an additional $13.2M USD in 2018, this time from Telstra Ventures and NBA player Stephen Curry.
Since it was founded, SnapTravel has conversed with over 2 million consumers across 150 countries and they’re showing no signs of slowing.
Nustay was founded in 2014 with a very simple, yet unique proposition. Your expectations should be met, that was enough to set them apart from the crowd.
This idea was backed up by a creative business model that took aspects of B2B bulk pricing and the wide selection of properties found in B2C travel sites. They made this model possible by leveraging the latest technology available, like AI-based solutions and big data to offer these rates while maintaining profitability
In mid-2019 they launched a successful IPO on the spotlight market and saw major sales growth in the first two quarters of the fiscal year.
The three listed here, while all unique, are far from the only new OTAs finding success.
There are plenty of new OTAs who have found success in both the B2C and B2B space, for example, Almosafer, Almatar, Ixigo, Fliggy, and the list goes on.
What do they share in common?
They’re all relatively new to the world of online travel, they’ve all seen their measure of success and continue to do so, and they’ve made it possible by doing three key things.
1. They identified a niche. This isn’t easy by any means, it requires a thorough examination of the travel space, an understanding of the behavior of an audience that needs to be defined from scratch, and a predictive approach to what they need before they’re aware of their need for it.
OTAs need to find a unique angle, be it by targeting an underserved audience, or by creating a wholly new experience. If they succeed in doing so, they can attract customers away from existing travel brands.
2. Utilizing the latest tech available to support and enable the unique proposition identified in point 1.
To expand on that, you can have a great idea, but the execution is what counts, once you’ve identified and defined your audience and unique proposition, you’ll need the right tech to execute on it.
For example; a business model focused on providing alternate destinations at lower costs. You’ll need tech to identify those rates, BI tech to identify which properties are worth promoting, and how to sort search results and the like.
Vision + the right technology = delivering on the vision. Otherwise, you’re saying one thing and doing another, a recipe for failure.
3. Messaging. This is the other thing that all recent OTAs learned to do well, they each, immediately let you know what it is that makes them stand out. They don’t have name recognition, instead, they have to repeat their messaging like a mantra.
To do this, you need to distill your unique proposition to as few words as possible. ‘Nustay - You get what you see’, ‘Snap Travel - booking through chat’, and so on. They each invest a tremendous amount of effort and resources into refining and repeating their messaging.
When you combine the right messaging and tech, focused at the right audience, then you’re delivering on your promise, this is how success is attained.
That is to say, it is very possible for new OTAs to exist and succeed, by carving out a niche and doing it well. Doing this, you can create a base from which you can expand to other services, more diverse markets or capture greater market share.
That is the space for new OTAs and it’s a big one, ripe with opportunities.