The leading OTAs require no introduction. Expedia, Booking.com, Opodo and Agoda have made huge names for themselves for offering extremely quick and convenient ways of booking holiday accommodation, flights and more. They have a reputation for the most choice, the best prices and the quickest booking process which holds appeal to any travel enthusiast.
Old school travel agencies in contrast are an antiquated concept. Almost extinct in their original form, a high street service provider with piles of brochures and manual ticketing machines, this is an industry which has long since gone online and with good reason. How can a single travel agency service the world without a branch in every town? How can travellers find the best options by walking into one or two local stores?
So online has been the way to book travel since before the dominance of OTAs, but that does not mean that smaller travel agencies had completed their transformation. Much like the family run coffee shop in a world run by Starbucks and Costa, increasingly small businesses have had to compete with the giants and carve out a new niche.
Firstly price is key. Japan Ski Experience is an example of a niche travel agency which guarantees its customers the best prices available. Surprisingly this is not as hard as it may sound. As the OTAs often prioritise instant availability and free cancellation in the terms they come to with their service providers, they don’t always get the best deals. And in many niches, accommodation providers are not interested in having OTAs undercut their direct booking prices, so a fixed retail price is available to all. While some niche companies do then mark these prices up as a charge for their services, others like Japan Ski Experience don’t.
Modern technology has also lent a helping hand. With automated travel reservation software widely available, quick and easy booking is no longer reserved for big companies. As such niche companies can rival OTAs for a quick and easy booking process, something that was not possible, at least on a large scale, a few years ago.
Choice is another leading reason OTAs are often preferred, but in fact in many markets this choice is quite restricted. It is true that on an OTA’s website I can book a stay almost anywhere in the world. But if I am committed to a single destination then my choice is usually limited. However big these giants may be, they do not have contracts with every accommodation in the world, and especially not over all dates. In fact, they often only have availability for shoulder dates when properties are unable to fill up using their preferred booking channels. Niche providers in contrast often offer most of the properties available within the area they specialise, and over all dates.
The points above make a good case for niche companies providing a comparable booking experience to that of the OTAs, but don’t necessarily convince that doing so is any better, but there is indeed a case to be made. Booking with a small niche travel company like Japan Ski Experience can mean receiving expert advice about where to visit, how to travel to your destination and what kind of accommodation to book free of charge. It can also provide you with the opportunity to book a wide range of extra services, that you would otherwise have had to book separately at your destination, together with your accommodation. A glance over reviews from past customers of Japan Ski Experience shows how this latter point transformed customer’s experiences in a way that the OTAs will never be able to compete with.