A meta-search engine or metasearch allows consumers to compare hotel rates from various online travel agencies (OTAs) and other booking sites, all in one place. The rates and availability of a hotel can be found, for example, on the official hotel website, the websites of OTAs Expedia, Hotels.com, Travelocity, Orbitz and Booking.com. When a potential customer visits one of these sites to find a hotel in a specific city or region, that hotel and its rates will appear.
But each OTA is also displayed on metasearch providers such as Google Hotel Ads, TripAdvisor, Kayak, Trivago and Agoda. When a person visits a particular hotel on a metasearch site, they see the rates for that hotel as they appear on the various OTA sites. For example, if a hotel has different rates on five different websites, all five prices can be displayed on the meta-search site. The site can also display the rates of the affiliated networks of these sites and other smaller travel sites. It allows travelers to compare several prices from many different websites, all in one place.
When consumers find an offer they like, they click and are usually directed to the original source (the OTA or hotel site) to book their stay. The hotel pays the meta-search company a referral fee or cost-per-click (CPC) for referring the customer to its website.
The advantage for the hotelier is clear, if he sets a lower rate on his official website than the OTAs, the prospect will see it on a metasearch and will be able to book live, which will avoid the hotelier paying a commission to an OTA. On the other hand, at Google and TripAdvisor, users can now book instantly, directly on the site, and Google or TripAdvisor receives a commission from the hotel instead of a fee to the CPC. The benefit for the consumer? Because they stay on this site, instead of being directed to another, the booking experience is even more fluid and easy.