An online travel agency, also known as an OTA, is a company that sells travel-related products and services like hotels, flights, car rentals, tours and cruises on a digital platform. The OTA acts as an intermediary between travel inventory suppliers (airlines, hotels, tour operators) and customers (travelers).
Many of us are familiar with top OTAs such as Expedia, Priceline, Orbitz, Hopper and Travelocity. However, there are hundreds of OTAs that offer everything from luxury to budget flights and accommodation.
OTAs provide the online booking and reservation functionality by connecting to and purchasing travel inventory from a variety of sources, including GDSs, hotel wholesalers/channel managers, bed banks, lodging marketplaces, other OTAs and API integrations. They display listings to travelers with a range of filters, such as amenities, prices, proximity and reviews. They also provide a secure, user-friendly booking platform for reservations and booking amendments and cancellations.
As a result of the way they purchase and manage their inventory, OTAs are required to collect and remit sales tax in some jurisdictions. To meet their compliance obligations, they typically need to partner with a software solution provider like Avalara.
While online travel agencies may be good for some types of bookings, they are not ideal for all business travel needs. They are often not equipped to handle the concierge services that a good travel management company can provide. This includes assisting with hotel bookings, itineraries and changes and providing 24/7 helplines for business travellers that require assistance when they are abroad. online travel agency