Let’s kick things off with a channel manager definition:
What is a channel manager?
A channel manager enables the process of managing online travel agents (OTA’s) and other online distribution channels through which rooms are sold online. A channel manager is a piece of software that connects your property to OTAs and synchronises availabilities and details across all platforms. It is the most cost-effective way to put your property in front of the biggest audience!
What Does a Channel Manager Do?
Channel managers push out your rates, availability and content to online travel agents, like Booking.com, Expedia, Airbnb and Hotels.com, to advertise your rental online and enable your property to be visible and bookable on multiple sites simultaneously.
Do You Need a Channel Manager?
In short, yes. If you’re a B&B, hotel, or vacation rental business, you won’t have a big brand name behind you and you’ll need to work smarter to fill your rooms.
Being on more OTAs gives you a bigger chance of getting bookings but more bookings can get harder to keep track of. Luckily for you, having a good channel manager in place can make life a lot easier for you and your staff and there are many other channel manager benefits.
What Are the Benefits of Using a Channel Manager?
The main benefits of channel management software include:
- Avoid double-bookings
- Streamline your admin
- Simple Management & Full Control
- Optimise How You Work With OTAs
- Advertising your property on OTAs
- More OTAs = more bookings
- More Direct Bookings
- Local reach
With a channel manager, all of your rooms and availability will be synced on all OTAs at the same time so there is no more room for human error or double bookings!
Streamline Your Admin
Rates, availability, photos, content and policies are instantly updated in real-time across all OTAs you choose to work with so you don’t have to manually update each distribution channel separately. This will save you and your staff hours in tedious admin and leave you free to get on with the more important stuff.
Simple Management & Full Control
With channel management software, you’ll only need to learn how to handle one OTA travel agency and you’ll know how to manage and connect them all. There’s no need to learn the quirks of each travel agent and you’ll be able to manage all OTAs in one place.
Optimise How You Work With OTAs
We know working with OTAs can get a mixed reception from independent hotel owners but there are potentially massive upsides if you manage the relationship properly, and maintain control.
With a good channel manager, you can vary your prices and policies by OTA channel to offset bad practices. For example, if you have bookings through one particular OTA that are frequently cancelled last minute, you can vary your cancellation policies for that channel alone to give yourself a safety net.
Advertising Your Property on OTAs
Using a channel manager is the most cost-effective form of advertising, you can advertise your B&B or hotel seamlessly. Your spend goes on managing multiple channels (sometimes hundreds) so your property is put in front of thousands of potential customers and you only pay the OTA commission on confirmed bookings. It’s a no risk investment!
Compare that to running an ad in your local paper or online, which would set you back hundreds of pounds but have no guarantees of bookings, and it makes more financial sense to invest in an online booking channel manager and sit back, relax and let the profits roll in.
More OTAs = More Bookings
OTAs are also spending big on metasearch, paid social, driving traffic via SEO, sophisticated email and display campaigns. In short, work with them and treat them as your outsourced marketing team.
OTAs are trying to become traffic acquisition and conversion machines, which drives their key upside – larger booking volumes and global reach
On average, businesses that work with 2 to 4 online travel agencies enjoy more than double the occupancy than those working with none. That’s a huge improvement!
More Direct Bookings
Another benefit of using a hotel channel manager is ‘The-Billboard-Effect’. This is the phenomenon that when properties advertise online through more than one online travel agency, the multiple adverts act as verification of the property and increase its credibility.
Potential visitors may find your B&B website and go looking for your property on, say, Booking.com to get a better look at reviews, photos and content.
Think of it like a 3rd party endorsement – as consumers are so used to using travel sites to find places to stay, it’s in your interest to appear on more than one to verify your property – which is why a channel manager comes in handy!
Channel managers also offer a connection to a wide array of regional community sites, that you may never have even heard of before! Most are commission-free or charge very low commission rates so it’s worth your while to connect to them, with no extra effort needed. Channel managers can connect to smaller-scale OTAs through an iCal connection, which is more limited than an API connection (which bigger OTAs use) but it does still update availability, sparing you manual effort.
Where Can I Find a Free Channel Manager?
Sadly, there is no such thing as a free channel manager but they are more cost-effective than you may think.
How Much Does a Channel Manager Cost?
The truth is: it varies! They can range in price but most are charged per room, therefore, the larger your property, the more you pay. Beware of property management services that charge a commission for your connectivity, which can be very costly. Instead look for 0% commission connectivity, like eviivo Channel Manager, which doesn’t add a cent in commissions.
Travel agency bookings are paid on commission: you only pay once they’ve delivered a confirmed booking and done all the hard work – this makes it a no-risk investment. If you’ve integrated your property management system to your channel manager, the PMS may have the capabilities to handle OTA commission payments on your behalf – saving you, even more, admin time!
What Is the Best Channel Manager for Hotels, B&Bs and Vacation Rentals?
Well, that depends on your budget and what features you want from it. Some channel manager software allows you to alter rates and cancellation policy by channel – so if there’s a travel site prone to cancellations, you can require a cancellation fee as a safety net. Look for a channel manager that truly saves you time by synchronising more than just rates and availability. Sophisticated channel managers will sync all of your photos, content, descriptions, terms, policies and more, eliminating repetition errors and saving you valuable time and energy.
We would advise that you conduct a channel manager comparison based on your property type to get the best one for you. When you do, it’s best to bear in mind the following:
- Budget & Pricing
- Payment management
In summary, a channel manager is a life and time saver for accommodation providers. Hopefully, we’ve answered the question ‘what is channel management software?’ and you’re equipped with all the know-how to choose one and change your work life!
If you’re looking for a channel manager for your hotel, B&B, self-catered accommodation or serviced apartments, have a look at what eviivo can offer.