Channel Manager: Increase Bookings and Reduce Manual Errors

Diversify your vacation rental booking sources and eliminate calendar mistakes with a channel manager.

What is a channel manager?

A channel manager is a tool which allows for the automatic distribution of vacation rental properties on listing sites or channels. Channel managers connect to a property management system (PMS) in order to manage properties and prices on various online platforms. This enables owners to diversify their booking sources to increase occupancy and revenue.

Channel managers allow businesses to partner with large online travel agencies (OTAs), as well as smaller, more niche websites in order to sell as many nights or rooms as possible – without the risk of overbooking.

The key purpose of a channel manager is to synchronize inventory and availability across multiple channels. Depending on the type of connection, a channel manager can help to synchronize calendars, rates and content (such as photos and property descriptions) on these channels.

Channel managers provide real-time, accurate property availability across all your listings. This means that when a guest books their stay on one channel, the inventory will update on all the others.

Research from Transparent on property management and technology adoption found that 67% of property managers are already using a channel manager for their business. In addition, when looking at those with more than 100 listings, this percentage soars to 90%.

In Europe, Portugal, France and Italy are pioneering the adoption of channel manager technology – with a respective 88%, 82% and 75% utilizing them. In terms of location, seaside property managers report the highest adoption of channel managers with 80%.

What are the advantages of using a channel manager?

There are many reasons why an increasing number of property owners and managers are embracing technology like channel managers for their business strategy. They can be highly beneficial for owners in terms of optimizing business processes and streamlining reservation management.

1. Save time

Data shows that channel managers can save vacation rental professionals up to 20 hours per week that they would otherwise spend on manual tasks, such as updating calendars on each platform.

2. Show real-time availability

Channel managers and their real-time connections ensure that the availabilities guests are seeing on any channel are always accurate and up-to-date.

3. Reduce the possibility of errors

Instant synchronization means that it is far less likely for errors such as overbookings or double bookings to occur. Once a room or property has sold on one channel, the channel manager will automatically remove availability for those dates on the other online channels.

4. Manage reservations from one platform

By synchronizing with a PMS, channel managers make it possible to oversee all steps of the reservation process from one platform. In many cases, owners can use this integration to manage messages, rates and payments from one central system.

5. Mark up rates to maximize profit

While it’s free to list on most OTAs, the majority do charge a percentage of the booking amount to the property owner as a commission. However, channel managers can help resolve this problem. Channel managers can be used to mark up base rates on specific channels to cover any fees or commissions.

Alternatively, they can also be used to maximize profits through intelligent or dynamic pricing. Pricing according to demand and day of the week, for example, makes it much more probable to fill calendar gaps and boost revenue.

Why advertise on OTAs?

1. Huge advertising spend

To put it plainly, online travel agencies have an astronomical marketing budget compared to the average vacation rental owner. In 2018 alone, Expedia Group and Booking Holdings spent a record $10.6 billion on performance and brand advertising – and this was an increase of 8% on the previous year. Kantar Media estimates that Airbnb spent around $54 million on advertising in 2018, and, according to Forbes, the company spends more than 90% of its advertising budget on attracting guests.

That’s why the money that OTAs inject into marketing efforts has a direct effect on property owners who advertise on these platforms. When listing on OTAs, owners have the opportunity to show up on the first page of Google, simply thanks to the money these sites invest in marketing.

2. Reach a larger audience

Some booking portals have a bigger presence in Europe, while others are more common in the US or Asia. Therefore, advertising on multiple channels not only puts owners in a better position to attract more visitors from other countries or continents, it also provides an easy way to diversify leads and attract different traveler types.

3. Increase bookings and revenue

Listing on a number of different platforms gives owners the unique opportunity to sell all of their inventory at any moment, to travelers from any part of the world. As a result, owners can expect to increase their revenue over time as well as the number of nights they book.

4. Remain competitive

If there are a couple of key channels which travelers are booking on in a certain location, owners need to be present on them in order to compete with other listings. Remember that many travelers look for the easy option – OTAs give them the opportunity to compare similar properties for their dates and book the most suitable one.

5. Increase direct bookings through window shopping

Increasingly, travelers are wising up to the fact that the best prices aren’t on listing sites. In general, most of these websites add on a fee for travelers which can really drive up the total cost.

Provided the property has a clear brand on the OTA listings, travelers can search for this in Google and find the official website. This can lead to an increase in direct bookings (those made on the property website), as travelers will find that the price is always cheaper when booking directly with the owner.

Types of channel manager integrations

For most channel managers, there are two main types of connections available. These are API integrations and iCal integrations.

API integration

An API integration is a full connection between two software platforms which allows them to “talk” to each other and share data. Depending on the connection provider, the API integration may synchronize different information between platforms. As well as this, the frequency of updates can also vary. However, as a general rule, the synchronization is automatic or near-automatic.

Lodgify currently boasts two-way API integrations with Booking.com, Airbnb and the Expedia Group.

Booking.com API integration

Lodgify’s Booking.com API integration synchronizes the following:

– Reservation and guest details
– Total booking amount
– Up to 18 months of calendar availability
– Default and seasonal rates.

In addition, use this integration to charge Booking.com reservations directly from inside Lodgify with a payment gateway.

Airbnb API integration

Lodgify’s Airbnb API integration synchronizes the following:

– Reservation and guest details
– Total booking amount
– Up to 18 months of calendar availability
– Default and seasonal rates
– Static content: property images and descriptions
– Guest messages.

In addition, owners can create a new Airbnb listing from within Lodgify in just a few clicks.

Expedia API integration

Lodgify’s Expedia Group API integration synchronizes the following:

– Reservation and guest details
– Total booking amount
– Up to 18 months of calendar availability
– Default and seasonal rates.

Similarly, as with Booking.com, the Expedia API connection also allows owners to charge Expedia reservations from inside their Lodgify account.

iCal integration

An iCal integration provides a standard way to allow one application to view and display calendar data from another application. In comparison with API connections, iCal connections offer limited capabilities – tending to only synchronize room availability.

That said, this type of connection is a good alternative for booking sites which do not provide API integrations or which rarely deliver large volumes of bookings, but may attract specialized or niche audiences.

iCal connections work by using a web address for the availability calendar. Then, any travel portal which connects via iCal can access this URL and regularly check availability.

The downside of iCal integrations is that the OTAs will only retrieve iCal availability at their own defined frequency. So in some cases, this could be every few hours, yet in others, it could be a couple of times per day.

OTAs which support iCal

While it is not a completely automated system for calendar management for the property owner, a lot of online travel agencies still use iCal connections.

For example:

– TripAdvisor
– FlipKey
– HouseTrip
– misterb&b
– Wimdu
– and many more.

Summary

Research from Transparent shows that property managers need multiple channels to optimize bookings and revenue, and that those channels include the major OTAs – such as Airbnb and Booking.com – along with their own website.

A channel manager is, therefore, a necessary tool for any vacation rental business owner who has their own professional website and is advertising on at least one external channel.

Channel managers eliminate the possibility of overbooking and other calendar errors, providing guests with an accurate picture of the property’s availability on any channel, at any time. They also simplify property management, by allowing hosts to manage their bookings, rates and payments from one software program.

It’s important to remember that a channel manager is just one piece of the puzzle. To fully streamline rental property management, vacation rental businesses should opt for an all-in-one software system that includes a channel manager as part of the package. Not only will this allow greater flexibility, but it will also make it much easier to run the business successfully by optimizing and automating traditionally manual processes.