A global study by international insight specialist, BVA BDRC, has revealed the positive economic influence of OTAs on the Australia tourism sector, accommodation providers and the communities in which they operate.

Conducted on behalf of Expedia Group, the bespoke study assessed the booking behaviours and spend activity of travellers to and within Australia.

The study found that OTAs are a significant contributor to Australian tourism, supporting one in four of the industry’s jobs, and accounting for AUD$7.1 billion of the AUD$28.4 billion spent by international tourists in Australia over the 2017/18 financial year.

In addition to generating economic value via bookings, the study revealed OTAs also proved to be a valuable research tool, providing a platform for Australian tourism operators to expose offerings to travellers that they may have otherwise not known about or considered.

In fact, seven out of 10 travellers – both international and domestic – choose to use OTAs in the research process, whether or not they purchased from an OTA.

For Australian hotels more specifically, OTAs were shown to provide a significant boost to bottom lines with bookers via these platforms spending an average of AUD$385 (19%) more on paid accommodation per trip. In general, travellers also showed a clear preference for staying in hotels, as two thirds of travellers will include a hotel during their stay.

Importantly, as well as benefiting Australian hotels, the high-value OTA bookers generated a more significant flow-on economic impact, particularly in regional communities.

OTA bookers were revealed to spend an average of AUD$275 (17%) more on in-trip activities and meals than non-OTA bookers.

They are also more likely to spend an extra night at beaches and coastal areas and are most likely to spend a night in the outback compared to hotel-direct bookers who spend the majority of their nights in the inner city and urban areas.

“This is a critical piece of research that provides tangible economic figures on the positive impact OTAs have in supporting Australian tourism,” said Expedia Group’s Head of Research, Abhijit Pal.

“OTAs facilitate travel by bringing premium, high-value visitors to and within Australia, who can really influence the profitability of tourism across the nation.

“While this is felt across both domestic and international travel, it’s the capability of OTAs to seamlessly bridge Australia to the world that is providing the most substantial impact.

“Tourism is Australia’s second-largest export industry and is considered all the more valuable because international travellers are spending foreign currency in the country, and this translates to new dollars circulating within the economy,” Pal said.

The benefit of OTA bookers was also shown to be effective for all hotels, no matter their size and marketing power. Specifically, it is OTA bookers who are more likely to opt for an independent or a brand they may not have heard of previously, compared to hotel-direct bookers.

BVA BRDC President, Matthew Petrie, said that the more complicated the trip, the more travellers rely on third parties for booking.

He said over half of the international hotel bookings were made via OTAs (online) or offline travel agents.

“For international travellers, Australia is often a once-in-a-lifetime destination, however with its geographical spread, the destination options are seemingly endless, and knowledge of what to do and where to stay can be overwhelming,” Petrie said.

“It’s why the model of using third parties – whether that be online or offline agents – isn’t new for the Australian tourism industry. Travellers want to limit risk by researching thoroughly, booking via trusted providers and making sure every dollar is stretched as far as possible.”

With online travel agents predicted to be the fastest-growing booking channel, expanding 8-10% annually through 2022, Expedia Group’s Senior Director of Market Management in Australia, Drew Bowering, said it was important to articulate the 360-degree benefits for Australian hotel partners.

“As the world operates increasingly online, and prevalence of OTAs continues to grow, global leaders in travel such as Expedia Group are set up to provide a win-win for both travellers and Australian hotels,” he said.

“On the consumer front, Expedia Group-branded sites provide a user-friendly way to compare options based on price, availability and guest reviews to ensure they’re booking the best option.

“While for Australian accommodation providers, OTAs can not only deliver high-value travellers but also help them drive incremental revenue through access to advanced tools and real-time data insights, unlocking new opportunities through technology on behalf of travel suppliers,” he said.

For more details on the research and methodology, please download the full report by clicking here.

James Wilkinson

Editor-In-Chief, Hotel Management