Hoteliers face an overwhelming number of options when it comes to software. It may even feel like a full-time job to identify the best channel manager for your hotel, the best PMS, revenue management system, CRS (and the list goes on). Whether you’re looking to upgrade your existing hotel management software or choose technology for a new property, there are more options than ever. The good news is that today there are advanced systems that offer fully integrated solutions.
Of course, it’s a welcome state of affairs that hotel managers are spoiled for choice. Until quite recently, there just weren’t that many solutions available, especially for independent hotels, B&Bs, and vacation rentals.
This article outlines what makes for ideal hotel channel management software and highlights the best providers in the hospitality industry and available worldwide.
5 Best Channel Manager Software for Hotels
When evaluating hotel channel managers, rely on these critical criteria:
1. Speed and flexibility
Speed is paramount to inventory management that requires seamless updates across all online distribution channels, with bookings and availability updated in real-time. Any latency between the time a room is booked and when availability is updated can cause overbookings. That’s avoidable with the right channel manager.
Speed also matters when it comes to adjusting inventory. Your channel management system should empower your hotel’s distribution strategy and allow you to allocate availability on each channel according to market demand. It should also enable you to sell your inventory on all channels simultaneously (known as pooled inventory) without having to worry about overbookings. Your hotel is more profitable with more granular control over where specific hotel room types are distributed and how much is made available on each channel ().
Also important: flexibility. When you partner with a vendor that enthusiastically supports third-party API integrations, your hotel gains invaluable flexibility. If you get stuck in a single vendor ecosystem, you have less agency to craft a technology paradigm that improves profitability and enhances the guest experience for your hotel.
When it comes to hotel booking sites, consumers have many options. The online distribution ecosystem is rich and evolving: from online travel agencies such as Expedia and Booking.com to online lodging marketplaces such as Airbnb and VRBO to wholesalers, meta searches, and GDS systems – travelers are spoilt for choice.
This has lots of potential upside for hotels in the form of stronger consumer awareness and visibility on an OTAs desktop and mobile app. The downside is that there are so many booking channels to manage. Your channel management software should offer broad connectivity that reliably distributes your inventory across all the channels that matter most. Look for a 2-way XML connection, which is a programming language that’s designed to transmit data effectively.
For small properties such as guest houses, there’s just not enough time to ensure that inventory exists on all the channels where guests book. The problem is especially acute with hard-to-reach international markets, where language and currency barriers prevent smaller hotels from competing. For example, your hotel is not likely to book Chinese travelers without a presence on Trip.com, the country’s largest OTA, or Agoda. The best channel manager connects your hotel to travel markets that you weren’t aware of.
The best channel managers are built to support hotel revenue strategies and pricing parity needs. They’re equipped with the functionality to sync different room rates and packages: from discounts for selected periods to different rate plans such as Refundable, Non-Refundable, Weekly/Monthly Discounts, Last Minute, and more.
Make sure that the channel manager you choose integrates with your other hotel management software, especially your property management system and booking engine for direct bookings. This way, all of your systems will be “talking to each other”, updating automatically every time there is a new booking or cancellation – regardless if they are from the hotel website or 3rd-party online travel agents. You will be saving yourself and your staff countless hours of manual data updates on occupancy, pricing, minimum stay, and more.
Our recommendation is to choose one fully integrated software or separate systems that synchronize as much data as possible with each other: occupancy, different rate plans, promotions, special offers, amenities, images, just to name a few. When you use separate systems, you have to double-check the integration capabilities at two levels: your PMS and Booking Engine to the Channel Manager and the Channel Manager to the OTAs.
4. Software simplicity
Finally, the ideal hotel channel manager is user-friendly. There should be little-to-no training necessary, and all functionality should be straightforward. As the hotel industry staff turnover rate is high, look for a software company with good customer support and training resources. This doesn’t mean that advanced options aren’t available; on the contrary, it’s about making the tool unintimidating for newbies and extensible for advanced users, such as managers and owners who need more information.
Your channel manager should also streamline front desk administrative time by eliminating the need to update availability and manage reservations across a dozen dashboards. Jeremee Peters, Cloudbeds connectivity manager, has this to say:
“Look for real-time synchronization across sales channels, which means that your property can distribute inventory while also receiving reservations. This bypasses the need for you to individually manage your property on each channel you choose to list on, avoiding that back and forth between those extranets.”
A hotel channel manager should also play nicely with your other hotel software, especially your property management system. Any errors or incompatibilities can create headaches that waste time and impact the guest experience. A PMS with a channel manager updates room inventory across all channels in real-time, so you don’t risk the same room being booked twice through different sites. This allows you to optimize your room distribution efficiently and strive towards a sell-out.
The future of channel distribution
What will hotel distribution look like after Covid-19? Hospitality industry tech is more accessible than ever, and creating a channel mix is more obtainable than ever. Is optimization one of the best ways for hotels to beat out their competition and emerge from the pandemic stronger?
Marshall Knauf, Cloudbeds’ Director of Integrations and Business Intelligence, gives insight into distribution before, during, and after Covid-19.
As long as you’ve selected a solution that delivers on each of the points mentioned in this article, your hotel is well-positioned. But if you’d like to read in-depth feature analysis and more criteria before you make your decision, check out this comprehensive guide on choosing Channel Manager Software. It will help you select the right channel manager that effortlessly distributes your inventory across all your chosen channels, which earns you more online bookings and saves you from having to manually update your hotel on each distribution site.
If you find that your channel manager is taking more time than it’s returning, consider a change. The best hotel channel manager simplifies your life and helps you achieve revenue targets reliably. Don’t accept anything less!
See how Cloudbeds saves you time and gets you more online bookings with one easy-to-use hospitality management suite, including the industry-renowned Cloudbeds Channel Manager for hotels, hostels, B&Bs, and any property type.