What is an OTA?

The definition of an online travel agency (OTA) is a website that sells travel-related products, including airline tickets, car rentals, cruises, experiences, accommodations and more. 

Vacation rental managers would utilize OTAs that specialize in renting temporary housing to travelers. Some well-known OTAs in this category include Airbnb, Booking.com, TripAdvisor Rentals, HomeAway, Vrba, Expedia and FlipKey. 

How Do Online Travel Agencies Work?

An OTA allows vendors in the travel industry like vacation rental owners and managers to list and advertise their products, usually free of charge. 

The channels earn money by taking a commission on every sale. OTA rates and pricing vary between platforms, with commission ranging from approximately 3% to 25%. 

How Do I List My Rentals on OTAs?

Though each OTA has its own specific guidelines, most will walk you through a simple sign-up process, during which you’ll relay details about your property, and then create a listing description, upload photos of your rental, check off the amenities you provide and set your prices. 

How Does the Booking Process Work?

Once you’ve completed the process, you can publish your listings and wait for booking requests to come in, unless you’ve enabled guests to instantly book your properties without requiring your approval. In this case, you’ll receive direct reservations rather than requests. 

Travelers will generally search for rentals based on date, location and the number of guests in their party, but they can also apply a variety of additional filters, like room type, amenities and facilities. 

Initial communication with prospective guests will take place through the channel inbox. With some platforms, once a booking has been made, guests will be able to access the contact information you’ve provided and can then reach out to you personally, either via phone, email or SMS. 

How Do I Get Paid for Bookings Made Through OTAs?

Payment policies vary across channels. While some channels process payments on your behalf and then release your cut of the revenue at a certain stage in the reservation, others may allow you to process the payments independently. Hosts can choose how they wish to be paid (i.e. via credit card or bank transfer). 

How Do I Get Reviews?

After your guests check out, it is a good idea to kindly request that they review you on the original booking channel, as prospective guests often base their booking decisions on other guests’ reviews. In some cases, the channel will reach out on your behalf and ask guests to rate their experiences. 

You will often be prompted to review your guests as well, since guest reviews give hosts some indication of how trustworthy and responsible guests are before accepting their booking requests. 

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