Effective distribution makes for a profitable hospitality business. Whether you manage an independent hotel, bed-and-breakfast, vacation rental, or hostel, it’s absolutely critical to get your inventory in front of potential guests. After all, guests can’t book something they don’t find! That’s why a channel manager is a must-have for a strong distribution strategy that outs your inventory in front of the right guests.
Yet, there are hundreds of channels to choose from, each with its own demographic profile and commission structure. The Cloudbeds Big Book of OTAs dives deeper into the tangle of options, which easily becomes overwhelming and dispiriting to busy hoteliers looking for ways to increase revenue.
What is channel management?
Channel management is the process of actively managing the distribution of room inventory on channels, including online travel agencies. So how do hotels pick the right channels for a property’s individual needs? And how do they find time to manage inventory, update rates, and keep content consistent across the many different channels — each with their own login credentials and user interface? The answer lies with a channel manager made to solve this problem for hotels, bed-and-breakfast, and hostels.
What’s a hotel channel manager?
A hotel channel manager is a software that automates the tasks mentioned above – from updating rates to managing inventory. You have one interface to manage all of your channels.
How does it work?
The channel manager connects directly into your Property Management System. It acts as the real-time shepherd of rate and availability data between your PMS and whichever channels you sell on.
The best channel manager integrates with your existing property management technology without sacrificing functionality or speed. It pulls from a central pool of inventory that maps to existing rooms to provide real-time availability updates from/to the PMS. Each new reservation is delivered right into the PMS, without any manual intervention.
Who needs a channel manager?
It’s not just hotels. Properties of all sizes benefit from a channel manager. If your property distributes inventory to more than one channel, then you should definitely consider a channel manager. It will pay off in time saved, bookings gained, and sanity preserved!
Why use a channel manager?
It’s all about consistency, efficiency, and revenue optimization. This trifecta can have a tremendous influence on the profitability of a given hospitality business. Here’s why.
- Consistency. Each distribution channel has its own user experience. It can take up a lot of time to become familiar with each tool, which takes up precious minutes from management and increases training costs for new staff. With a channel manager, there’s a single portal for all channel management activities. Update rates and availability once, and distribute any changes everywhere. This consistency reduces the risk of overbooking while also giving consumers the confidence to book in their preferred channel. When consumers see consistent fares, they feel comfortable booking at the fair and current rate.
- Efficiency. The consistency of user experience on the hotel side saves time and frees up staff resources for higher-value tasks. That consistency is also great for potential guests, who see accurate availability and rates. There’s no disappointment or consternation at mismatched rates on different channels, which is one of the major risks of optimizing your channel mix manually. Also, since your availability and rates are always in sync, you’ll never waste staff time on navigating the tricky waters of overbookings.
- Revenue optimization. The final, most vital, reason to use a channel manager is that it can make you more money. Fewer overbookings mean fewer related costs, to both a hotel’s reputation vis-a-vis bad reviews and paying to accommodate guests elsewhere. In addition, the best hotel channel managers put your hotel, bed-and-breakfast, or hostel in front of new guests. When doing channel management manually, it’s impossible to be everywhere you’d like. There’s just not enough time to research new channels, and then manage rates and availability across yet another platform. A channel manager offers new opportunities for exposure, which will increase occupancy and give you more pricing control.
What makes a great channel manager?
There are four must-haves when selecting the best channel manager for your independent hospitality business.
- Cost. Budget is always top-of-mind. Each technology must serve a clear purpose with a compelling return on investment. Look for a channel manager that is directly integrated into a PMS (Hint: check out the channel manager included in Cloudbeds’ all-in-one suite). Commission-based or channel-based pricing gets complicated and costly. On the flip side, a “too good to be true” price is a warning sign that the channel manager may not be stable and reliable.
- Access. The channel manager should support your existing channels, as well as other channels you haven’t used before. The goal is to have your inventory accessible to all audiences, across mainstream OTAs, metasearch, and niche OTAs. If you can easily test out new distribution channels with easy activation with a low time investment, even better!
- Integrations. Be sure that your channel manager integrates with all existing (and future!) technology.
- Multi-Currency Support. Quality channel managers allow you to take control of your currency strategy and distribute to OTAs in whatever currency you desire. Booking.com in dollars, Expedia in Euros, and your own website in Kuwaiti Dinar? No problem – leading channel managers, like Cloudbeds, handle it all AND automatically updates rates multiple times per day and all conversions so your accounting is not affected.