Vacation Rental Guide / Choosing a Channel Manager

By using a channel manager, you can save valuable admin time and get the most from your online marketing efforts. Distribution is more efficient, and your hotel, vacation rental business or bed and breakfast offering and booking information will reach a larger audience.

How Does a Channel Manager Work?

One of the most crucial elements in vacation rentals is having up-to-date rates and availability at all times. Your website software goes a long way to keeping track of booking, prices, and availability, but when you advertise with online travel agencies, you will need an interface between their software and your own. This is where a channel manager is crucial.

When you use a channel manager system, you enable your business to distribute your property listing and availability to all of the OTAs you using. The two-way connection synchronizes rates, bookings and in some cases, guest details, across your platforms. In addition, having a channel manager decreases the likelihood of overbooking. This is because the channel manager automatically updates property availability across all other sites when a new reservation comes in.

Most of the time, a channel manager will work through the cloud. This ensures that you can access any data on your account from any internet access point. Whether you use a desktop, laptop, smartphone or tablet for the management of your business, the cloud makes your account easy to access.

As you build your online presence, you may begin to list with more online travel agents (OTAs). While this is a great way to get your brand into circulation, you will need a channel manager to synchronize accounts and avoid errors.

Functions of a Channel Manager

Your property management software automatically updates availability and rates on your website. You enter seasonal prices, specials or room configurations on your website and guests see all of this when they complete their booking.

However, when you operate your business manually, someone needs to be responsible for changing every rate change, reservation and cancelation by hand.  That is, unless you have a channel manager system.

This tool does all the administrative work for you automatically. Those calendars on each of the OTA websites? Instant changes. Managing is real-time and immediate. All of your calendars are immediately updated by your centralized channel manager. Updates on any one of your OTAs will be recorded on your website and your other listings, too.

Managing external listings is immediate and automatic, greatly reducing the margin of error. Calendars across all channels are synchronized and information concerning your vacation rentals is consistent all over the internet.

Features of a Channel Manager

Some features to look out for when deciding which channel manager system to use are:

  • Automatic updating
  • Updating on the channel and calendar
  • Accessible from various devices
  • Reach more markets
  • Integration with current PMS

AUTOMATIC UPDATING

Multiple channels can – and should – work smoothly together, interfacing with your website software. Every time a guest makes a reservation, it should immediately send to all of your channels for real-time updating.

Your channel manager will have access to all of your rentals and will synchronize availability, prices, and fees to each of your OTAs – as well as back to your site.

In addition, if someone makes a reservation or cancelation on your site, the channel manager will pick it up and update your OTA listings automatically. If you have a special offer, simply enter the information on your site. The channels will send it to the OTAs without you having to do anything else. This type of integration is crucial with vacation rentals especially, since seasonal prices often apply.

CHANNEL AND CALENDAR UPDATES

Your web builder software should have a calendar. This is a crucial feature for guests planning their trip, as they can visualize their booking and the available dates.

The best channel manager system will automatically synchronize your calendars. If a guest makes a booking at one of your hotels using a travel agent, your calendars on every OTA and on your site should update immediately.

MOBILE OPTIMIZATION

Almost 60% of travelers will book from their mobile devices. That’s why it must be adaptable to handheld mobile devices. Part of this phenomenon is due to the popularity of social media.

Your site is probably already optimized for mobiles and tablets. In addition, much of your marketing utilizes sites most frequently accessed with handhelds. Your management system should also offer accessibility.

Guests who reserve online expect instant access to information about the property. Any place that has WiFi can yield bookings, and the right solution can provide access.

INTEGRATES WITH SOFTWARE

Channel manager systems are built to integrate with your hotel software. Any reservations taken on your site will immediately be sent to OTAs, and vice-versa. Your PMS, calendars, and payment processing should interact smoothly without the purchase of any additional products like hardware.

Hotel and guest management has never been easier. There are now automations for many of the tasks which were formerly done manually.  A channel manager for your different platforms ensures fewer mistakes and can increase guest satisfaction. The result is bigger profits and fewer errors.

Advantages of Using a Channel Manager

As a hospitality business owner, there are lots of benefits of using a channel manager for your business. Find out how channel managers can improve company processes and guest relationships.

Private and Company Use of Channel Managers

Even if you are a private individual looking for other ways to list your Airbnb property, you’ll find that an Airbnb channel manager will enable you to update your availability and room configuration on multiple markets. This increases the likelihood that your property will reach more guests and improve reservation numbers.

For example, if you have two suites available, you list them on your website. You enter these into your system and you distribute them to each of the external channels to which you subscribe. Now, your website and each of the booking channels show that you have two suites available for a period of time on the calendar.

When someone books one of those suites through an OTA, the inventory automatically reduces to an availability of one. This happens immediately and across the board – to both your website and to the other OTAs.

Regardless of the size of your vacation rental business, updates across all channels are almost always immediate.

Property Management

Multiple properties require more administrative tasks. That’s why a PMS channel manager is crucial for hotels, beds and breakfasts and other vacation rentals with several locations and many rooms.

As travelers get ready to explore more and more unusual destinations, your channel management needs to be up to the challenge. Your calendar, reservations, cancellations, payment processing and invoicing, and even group reservations can all be handled by your channel manager.

A good PMS channel manager partners with your software to collect guest data and help build profiles. It will also help you sell your room selections in different layouts. As it integrates with your website, it will be secure and fast, offering reduced margins of error in availability and billing.

Compatibility and Accessibility

Even a free channel manager may offer the same quality of service with the right vendor. But, whether you pay for a subscription or choose one of the free options, you’ll find them to be excellent partners in building and maintaining your vacation rental venture.

This is because the best channel managers are compatible with the most popular software options in the hotel industry. In addition, it will also be accessible on handheld mobile devices.

Any marketing plan includes specifics on how to get your message to a wider group of guests. With an accessible channel manager, potential guests can view your website on their smartphones and follow through with booking and payment. Marketing 101 says to meet your consumers where they are and over 90% of those consumers use their smartphones while they shop. Your company will benefit from a compatible system that partners with your website for flawless guest service.

Increase Exposure

Increase exposure for your vacation rental through the use of a channel manager. You will increase the number of reservations and avoid double bookings or mistakes. Manage all of your online travel agent adverts with one system. This creates the most natural, instinctive managing processes for your vacation rental or small hotel business.

Wherever you are you can update your information easily. Use your smartphone, tablet, laptop or desktop to change rates or room configurations. All changes are sent to each channel simultaneously, virtually eliminating any margin of error.

By listing on OTAs, you can reach more markets than you ever imagined. This will make your hotel or bed and breakfast available to demographics that would otherwise never be aware of your business. A channel management system will keep those OTAs updated.

More Flexibility

With the right channel manager, you have more flexibility in the way you run your rental. If you make a change in one place, it automatically sends to all of your calendars across the internet.

You should have a dashboard that you can customize for your own convenience. You can use an optimized template for your emails, which increases the likelihood of them being opened. Your hotel will have a quick, online check-in and check-out capability.

You will also be able to add extras to bookings, for example, a group booking may need extra towels or bedding in your rooms. This can be taken care of with your group booking function, too.

A good channel manager will offer secure and easily updatable payment processing as part of the package. Many hotel owners are now accepting PayPal as a form of payment.

You can manage invoices through your principal website software system, which pulls in external channel information via the channel manager. Taxes and fees will be displayed appropriately for each OTA, with prices adjusted automatically according to rules that you put in place.

Your channel manager will be the best administrative assistant you could ever hire!