By Mike Tavares, Founder of Ojimah – It is no secret that the relationship between Online Travel Agencies (OTAs) and its partners, has always been a complicated one. Often a very tense relationship where trust and ethics do not go hand in hand. At the beginning of my hotel career, I quickly became aware of the nicknames hoteliers use to describe their relationship with OTAs: Frenemies, The Necessary Evil, Marriage of Convenience, to just to name a few.
An Online Travel Agency, or OTA for short, is an online marketplace that allows users to research and book travel products and services, such as hotels, flights, activities, and other travel related services. As a technology-focused business, they appeal to today’s traveller more than using a traditional bricks-and-mortar travel agency. In an OTA marketplace, customers have access to all the travel product offers while they research, plan, and buy trips.
In the early 2000s, the software became available to more business and ever since, the OTAs have been disrupting the travel distribution system, and have often become the hotels and airlines worse nightmare. The OTA will list hotel rooms, airline seats, activities on their website in exchange for a commission that goes anything 5% up to 30% per booking.
I remember asking my manager, “Why do entities that partner with one another constantly blame each other for unfair business practices? What kind of a partnership is this?” But I soon realized that the answers were: the relentless OTA growth, often to the detriment of its partners; the often unfair commissions being charged; the unavailability of shared data; and the rate parity problem.
In addition, I realized that the OTAs are tech companies operating in a different industry – in this case the travel industry.
After years experiencing the friction between hotels, airlines and OTAs, we decided to build a platform that operates differently. An OTA built by the travel industry for the travel industry – and OTA that truly understands the needs of customers and suppliers. But we went one step further, and built a web platform – Ojimah – where travellers from all over the world can easily access a full range of travel services in a single tech solution.
Unlike most OTA’s, when a customer books a room through Ojimah, they are supporting direct booking. The technology we use, empowers hotels to deliver rooms with maximum efficiency and profitability. In essence, this open and highly scalable cloud technology enables direct booking flow between ourselves and our hotel partners.
The same with the airlines, when a customer books a flight through Ojimah, the booking confirmation is sent from the airline and not from Ojimah. In other words, direct booking.
The name Ojimah is derived from the Swahili word “Ujima”, which means, togetherness, or collective work. We are not here to compete with our partners, we have been in their shoes therefore, we fully understand their needs. We should complement each other instead of fragmenting the industry even more. We want to create a sustainable environment where all industry stakeholders have a relationship based on mutual gain and respect.
First published in VoyagesAfriq