9 features to look for in an OTA
A channel manager is an essential part of a property's online distribution strategy as it's used for managing multiple OTAs so you can keep track of your inventory in real-time while avoiding unintentional overbookings. A good channel manager will provide two-way synchronization with your property management system and booking engine to keep your rates and availability in sync.
What is a channel manager?
A channel management system is software that allows hoteliers and hosts to manage their distribution channels from a single platform. It helps streamline online bookings so that you can connect to more channels and increase occupancy.
Without a channel manager, properties must log in to the extranet of each channel and manually make changes which can take hours, especially for properties listed on many of the major OTAs.
Channel managers allow you to update multiple online travel agencies like Booking.com, Expedia, and Airbnb automatically every time a booking, cancellation, rate plan or room type change, or stay restriction occurs. They help significantly reduce overbookings that often come with manually updating OTA connections and help to save employees a lot of time.
How does an OTA channel manager work?
A channel manager automates a property’s distribution strategy by dynamically connecting inventory to multiple OTAs. While you technically can manage inventory manually, keeping rates and availability across all online marketing channels takes a lot of time and effort and often results in overbookings and other errors.
Instead, a channel manager can be used to automate the distribution process and automatically update room rates, availability, and more. It ensures that your data is always in-sync and helps you to easily make changes across platforms to increase competitiveness and reduce overbookings.
Why manage OTAs with a channel manager?
Having a channel manager is pivotal in remaining competitive in the hospitality industry. While channel managers were mainly used by large hotel chains in the past, technology has evolved so that independent properties can manage their online distribution at an affordable price.
Here are a few reasons why you should be managing your online channels with a channel manager:
- Connect to more channels: manually managing channels takes a lot of time. By switching to an automated channel manager, you can expand your distribution strategy to attract more guests and increase both direct and indirect reservations. You can round out your distribution strategy to drive online sales using OTAs, metasearch sites, and GDS.
- Reduce or eliminate accidental overbookings: overbookings are detrimental to a property. They significantly impact the guest experience and result in negative reviews. A hotel channel manager immediately updates availability in real-time so travelers cannot make a new booking if someone else has already booked a room.
- Minimize reservation errors: transferring reservation information from emails or extranets to a spreadsheet is bound to result in errors. Channel managers automatically transfer information from OTAs to your PMS, including names, dates, occupancy, and check-in times.
What is the difference between a channel manager and a PMS?
A property management system (PMS) is the control system and data hub for a property and includes broad functionality such as reservation management, guest communication, payments, rates, availability, occupancy, and more.
A channel manager distributes your inventory across online channels and your website to ensure accurate and up-to-date information.
Ideally, you can manage your property with a single software solution that incudes both channel management and PMS functionality. With a single system, you will have centralized data making it much easier to manage your inventory, rates, and reservations.
What is the difference between a channel manager and a booking engine?
A booking engine is a reservation processing system that captures bookings via a property’s website, social media, and other marketing channels. Properties can embed a booking engine into their hotel website to allow guests to book online at any time and collect credit card payments immediately.
Your channel manager should integrate with your booking engine to ensure your website and other connected channels have accurate pricing and availability.
9 considerations when choosing a channel manager
- Make sure your channel manager connects to the channels you already use and depend on.
- Analyze which other channels they connect to. Does it connect to the largest OTA networks like Airbnb, Expedia, and TripAdvisor? What about local connections in your area? For example, if you’re in South America, Despegar is an important connection.
- Choose a channel manager that integrates with your property management system and direct booking engine so your availability and rates are updated in real-time, reducing the possibility of overbookings or losing the opportunity to sell a recently canceled room.
- Find out what type of onboarding and support the channel manager provider offers. You’ll want to find a vendor that cares about your success and has 24/7 support in case you need help.
- Ask the channel manager software provider about their data safety and security compliance. This is important since the system will be processing your rates and guest information, so you’ll want to ensure the data is secure and compliant with PCI DSS, SCA, GDPR, and guest data compliance.
- Look for a channel manager that lets you connect to unlimited channels without a per-channel fee and doesn’t add additional commission and transaction fees on top of what your OTAs already charge.
- Check online reviews on software review sites and seek a channel manager that’s recognized by the industry. Large OTAs have premier/preferred partner programs to recognize software partners with high-quality technical connections.
- A channel manager with direct API partnerships and two-way connections will help ensure that you can connect to major and niche OTAs to not limit your sales channels.
- See if your channel manager has a metasearch hotel ad integration that can help drive hotel booking’s directly from your website.
successful channel mix
The Big Book of OTAs
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- Directory of 75+ OTAs