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Evelyn Zhang

How OTAs can increase ancillary revenue and customer loyalty before and during a trip

July 9, 2019

So far in our customer journey blog series we’ve looked at the inspiration, shopping, and booking [INSERT URL WHEN LIVE] stages of the journey and how online travel agencies and drive conversions at each step. While it might seem like the job’s done once the booking is complete, this is only half the battle if one of your core goals is improving return on trip.  

There are still plenty of opportunities to engage with travelers before they travel, during their trip, and after they return home. By doing so, you can increase upsell and cross sell opportunities and position your brand as a trusted travel partner—and drive customer loyalty while you’re at it.  

Here, we’ll look at the ‘pre-trip’ and ‘in-trip’ stages of the journey and give advice on how your OTA can drive value and ancillary revenue once a booking is made.

Pre-trip

According to Travelport research, the average lead-in time from booking to traveling is around 50 days. This gives your OTA plenty of time to interact with your customers and get them excited before they travel. 

With the right data and analytics tools, you can use this precious time to suggest relevant activities and information to enhance their time away, and help you build a stronger, longer lasting relationship with them.  

As well as improving the experience for travelers, the ability to engage customers pre-trip can help your OTA tap into significant new revenue opportunities. In fact, Travelport research found that travelers going away for more than two weeks could collectively generate an additional half a billion dollars in revenue each month if they accept just one travel agency marketing offer between when they book and when they travel. 

In terms of what you can market to travelers pre-trip, the options are virtually limitless, as long as you stay relevant and focused on what customers are likely to find interesting. The possibilities include everything from insurance and ancillaries, to support with required visas, information about local events and activities, and more.

Build relationship with customers

In addition to pushing ancillaries, the pre-trip phase of the traveler journey is the perfect time to build a relationship with your customers. You can position your brand as much more than a ‘booking website’, to truly show travelers the value you can bring to their overall journey. 

Your OTA can make the traveler’s trip preparation that much easier by sending timely, contextual, and relevant communications. Some useful communications you can send include: 

  • Reminder to check-in 
  • Visa/vaccination information relevant to their destination 
  • A reminder to download your OTA’s app to manage their itinerary on-the-go

While there are any number of channels through which you can communicate with your customers, push notifications are one of the most useful tools at your disposal. Travelport Digital research shows that the number of people with push notifications activated on travel apps rose by 10% between 2018 and 2019, and there was also a 22% increase in travelers who say they find these notifications useful. 

It is also important to bear in mind that even if your OTA doesn’t have an app, you can still create a push messaging strategy. By using Apple Wallet, web push, or other mobile messaging platforms, you can send push notifications and build out an engagement strategy that allows you to keep in touch with travelers at every stage of the journey.

In-trip

Once the trip arrives, the stress of searching, comparing, and booking is but a distant  memory for your traveler. While the day of travel can bring its own frictions, for  the most part the traveler is now open to exploring their destination and is looking for recommendations on what to do and where to go.

According to Travelport research, a three-day trip gives your OTA approximately nine new opportunities to shape your customers’ experiences and engage with them. On longer trips, those opportunities are multiplied, along with the potential for generating revenue for your business.

Guides and recommendations 

According to Google research, 85% of leisure travelers decide on activities only after having arrived at their destination. With the right data, you can target travelers with personalized offers while they are on their trip, allowing you to tap into travelers’ holiday spending budgets, which are now worth an average of $5,000+.

Your OTA can recommend local activities, events, and even restaurants that are targeted towards the persona’s preferences. The goal is to consistently enhance your travelers’ experiences, while also opening new revenue streams for your business.

Our research shows that 78% of travelers want OTAs to send location-specific travel tips and 67% of travelers feel more loyal toward a travel company that shares information during their trip that improves their travel experience.

More than any other stage of the customer journey, in-trip is when travelers will use their mobile devices most. Every touchpoint, every experience the traveler has with your brand, should be mobile-first.

In-trip assistance 

Beyond in-trip guides and recommendations, travelers also expect travel brands to be on-hand to assist with queries while on their trip. Our research shows that 42% of travelers expect to be able to chat with an OTA via their app or website, and 37% expect to be able to chat via text message. More than half of travelers (59%) expect to be able to phone or email an OTA while on their trip. 

Incorporating chat services—agent chat, AI-powered chatbots, or a combination of both—provides an efficient way to provide 24/7 service to travelers via their mobile devices. Chatbots can also provide another channel for revenue generation, with some OTAs offering booking services directly from chat platforms like Facebook Messenger.

Optimize conversions at every stage of the journey

As travelers become increasingly ‘connected’ by technology across their trip, the opportunities to enhance the post-booking experience continue to grow for travel brands. To find out more about how you can optimize conversions and increase revenue at every stage of the journey, download our guide for online travel agencies.