An increasing number of tourists coming to and out of Vietnam are using Online Travel Agent (OTA) services for their convenience and low costs while local tourism service providers have also tapped into the new form of business.
OTAs offer a wide range of services, including information on hotel and resort rooms and apartments, public means of transport, scenic spots, restaurants, and entertainment programs.
Online travel agents also provide clients with counseling and surveys on the services offered at the destinations.
All OTA transactions are performed on the computer or smartphones, and tours are sold at lower prices compared to direct purchases.
Clients can pay by credit cards or directly at their destinations, and can cancel their ordered services at the last minute without being charged.
OTA websites, including booking.com, agoda.com, tripadvisor.com, and expedia.com, now feature dozens of languages to bring comfort to users.
With a clutch of benefits, OTA services have appealed to tourists worldwide and become tour providers’ major source of revenue.
Tao Van Nghe, general director of Rex Hotel in Ho Chi Minh City, said that the revenue brought in by selling rooms at his hotel through OTA services accounts for up to 40 percent of the total during peak seasons.
Clients typically travel alone or in pairs, but groups of less than 10 also buy rooms through OTAs, he added.
More Vietnamese people now also book rooms or rent apartments through OTAs during their trips to other countries.
Tu, from Tan Binh District in Ho Chi Minh City, said that her five-member family chose to rent a two-bedroom apartment in Tokyo at US$42/person per day through booking.com.
She also chose OTA services when traveling to Kyoto and other places in Japan.
However, OTA services are ideal mostly for experienced travelers with an adequate command of foreign languages.
Major OTA websites have also forayed into Vietnam’s market.
Agoda.com has run its Vietnamese version since 2010 and currently cooperates with over 2,000 local hotels.
Booking.com and expedia.com have entered Vietnam as well but mainly offer services designed for inbound tourists.
In recent years, several local OTAs have emerged, including chudu24.com, ivivu.com, vinabooking.vn, mytour.vn, and most recently gotadi.com.
Despite the fierce competition from international OTAs with Vietnamese versions, local OTAs are trying to take advantage of their own niche markets.
For example, gotadi.com currently offers cheap tickets and phone counseling.
Ivivu.com focuses on rooms of lower than three-star quality in Vietnam, while mytour.vn targets the segment of hotel rooms which cost less than VND500,000 ($23.53) a night.
A representative of a Vietnamese OTA said that as international OTAs have yet to focus on Vietnam’s hotels or Vietnamese tourists, local OTAs still have room to grow.