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How tech can help specialist OTAs stay on the winning streak

Toby Urff
Whatever a traveller is looking for, chances are there’s a specialist operator who can provide it for them. With their numbers rocketing, Impala co-founder Toby Urff explains how technology can help these players stay one step ahead.

We humans can be a demanding bunch. Latte with an extra cinnamon dolce topping? Sorted. Buying a Tesla? Spruce it up with Autopilot and bespoke 21-inch wheels, no sweat. When it comes to consumer choices, being vocal about our individual tastes is now firmly part of the conversation. And travel is no exception.

Enter the growing army of niche OTAs that has sprung up to cater for previously unfulfilled needs. But, let’s be clear, quite often these are essential needs that stop guests from staying if they’re not met. I’m talking about requests to do with accessibility, families, religious beliefs and so forth. A case in point being Wheel the World who ask guests how wide their wheelchair is and state how high a bed’s mattress is to ensure the room is just right. 

At the other end of the spectrum, there are demands that reflect greater consumer choice. Want to travel but not fly? Looking to spend time with a nomad community? Maybe you’re after somewhere to stage a once-in-a-lifetime wedding? Not a problem – you’ll find travel agents confidently setting out their very specific stalls in these areas.

One size doesn’t fit all

The trend is being driven by fast-changing consumer behavior, which reflects a wider shift in lifestyles and a desire for more choice. And while the giant one-size-fits-all OTAs may be handy supermarkets, if say you’re a cheese lover, you may now prefer to get that rare Swiss cheddar from the speciality cheese shop around the corner. There would be little reason to go back to the supermarket when your needs are fully catered for at this one-stop shop by people who have expert knowledge. 

Niche operators offer a unique and highly customisable product, as well as highly curated content. By focusing deeply on narrow audiences, they serve them well – or are working out how to.

Because there are roadblocks aplenty. Many stumble across functionality deficits that can hamper their success. One example being an inability to finetune room bookings to cater for highly specific needs, such as families needing to ensure sleeping arrangements for their children in connecting rooms.

Dog by hotel pool
Big vs bespoke

Some of the smaller players routinely piggyback on the APIs of the much-larger OTAs or even have bookings redirected to their pages, so they often don’t even get the right credit for these bookings, which can hinder relationship building - and prevent hotels from understanding which niche markets their demand is truly coming from. 

This is where Impala can help. Our radically simple platform provides the infrastructure to customize not just the booking experience but also the nitty gritty of content, rates and availability. Let’s just say a hotel might typically charge a $50 cleaning fee for pets. If I were Bring Fido, I could use Impala to agree a bespoke rate, certain conditions or inclusions, so the hotel waived that fee for my guests, given that I’m sending them plenty. Alternatively, if I were Little Guest Collection, I could agree that children on my bookings could get breakfast free or receive free access to paid activities.

Unshackled from these restraints, specialist operators should be in a much better position to focus on the most important task – building their businesses.  

And the benefits don’t stop there. Through the use of technology such as Impala’s, smaller operators receive a meaningful commission each time a room is sold. Our platform’s inherent speed and ease of use also mean they’re free to build long-term direct relationships with properties. Talk to us to find out how today.