Travel planning may be shifting from OTAs to brands

Jun 26, 2019


Adam Blacker

Jun 26, 2019

VP, Insights

Airlines and hotels would rather have you book directly. The problem is, some of them need help with discovery and attracting new customers. Enter online travel agencies, or OTAs. These companies (think TripAdvisor, Expedia,, etc.) bring airlines and hotels business they would not otherwise have, but if a consumer books directly, the brand does not have to pay a fee.

Recent Apptopia data showing U.S. app installs (new users) year over year displays a lack of growth for the mobile apps of top OTAs. At the same time, specific airline and hotel apps grew their new installs.

Subscribe to our weekly newsletter to get data like this sent straight to your  inbox.

We grouped together the top OTA, Airline and Hotel apps in the United States to get our data. Looking at Q1, OTA downloads were down 8.4% YOY while Airline apps were up 12.1% and Hotel apps were up 14.6%.

So, why is this happening? My guess is that brands are fighting back. OTA companies have been growing massively for years, creating opportunity for smaller brands while the larger, more established brands have wrestled with the pros and cons of increasing fees.

They still want the feed of potentially new customers that OTAs provide, but they want their return customers to book directly. Knowing this, how would they fight back? By enticing customers with better deals, through loyalty rewards. People love points and getting things for free and so we have a surge of new installs.

Diving Deeper: Specific OTA Performance 

Within the top OTA apps, there are those trending up and those trending down. Check out the two below charts showing the top performers and their counterparts:


Overall Skiplagged has shown the most growth but Hopper clearly has more users and scale. Priceline has been around the block and so its continued growth caught me by surprise. Now, let's look at the inverse:

travel ota down

These brands are well known (I loved KAYAK's older commercials) but have found themselves with slowing growth. Again, it might not be anything they are doing or not doing specifically, but more a consumer trend toward brand specific apps. It's also possible these OTAs are showing strong growth internationally, outside of the United States... but only an Apptopia subscription could answer that for you. 😏

Adam Blacker

VP, Insights