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If you are considering promoting your property with online travel agents, then you’ve most likely heard of a channel manager. We’re here to help you find out more – what is a channel manager?

Listing your property with an online travel agency can more than double your occupancy, but it can be a hard and tedious process to manage on your own. You’ll need to maintain the consistency of information across all the websites. Data such as prices and availability will need updating around the clock. That’s a big responsibility, and one that you can most likely do without. That’s where a channel manager comes in.

A channel manager is a piece of software that can update this information for you in real time, across all platforms, and at the click of a button. So, you can let the bookings roll in without having to make constant manual updates.


Not sure if a channel manager is right for you? Read on for a full break down of the facts around channel managers, or click on a link if you’ve got a specific question:

What is a channel manager?
Who uses a channel manager?
What are the benefits of a channel manager?
How does a Channel Manager work?
Is there a limit to how many sites I can promote my property on?
What is the cost of using a channel manager?
What is the difference between a channel manager and a property management system?
What is the best channel manager for my business?
Holiday-letting and Channel Managers – an overview.


What is a channel manager?

what is a channel manager

A channel manager is a piece of software that will ensure that all information such as availability, prices, photos and descriptions stay up to date across all Online Travel Agents, or OTA’S that the accommodation is being listed on, in real-time, with a single click. You won’t need to log into each individual channel to make changes. It also provides booking insights and statistics that help you make decisions, as well as handling foreign currency and site audits.

Most holiday bookings are now placed online, and there’s been a significant increase in the use of online travel agents. Online travel agents can promote a wide selection of accommodation to potential customers all over the world from different channels, such as:

  • Booking.com
  • Airbnb
  • Expedia
  • Latminute.com
  • Vrbo


Who uses a channel manager?

Usually, anyone in the travel accommodation industry will use some sort of channel manager. Anyone from holiday let owners and hoteliers to property managers. They can all benefit from managing their accommodations efficiently through a channel manager, instead of using in-house staff or doing it themselves.


What are the benefits of a channel manager?

what is a channel manager benefit

It isn’t hard to see why most hospitality businesses across the globe use a channel manager, but what is a channel manager best at?

Time and effort
Keeping track of updates and inputting data can be a very time-consuming task. It also requires a lot of effort. A channel manager saves you the trouble, so you can focus your time and energy where it’s needed most.

Automation
Properties across multiple channels can be simultaneously updated from one place. So, when a customer books, it’s reflected in the inventory of the other websites. The information is automatically updated in real-time by the channel manager.

Reduces error
We all make mistakes, especially when we are under pressure. You don’t want any double bookings or incorrect prices. The pressure of trying to amend the information quickly can often lead to manual error. These errors can result in double bookings, which affect the reputation of your property. A channel manager can significantly reduce the risk of error.

Simplicity
Not everyone is the same when it comes to technology. Many people get deterred from using certain technologies because they don’t understand them. If you find the thought of using online travel agencies confusing, then a channel manager will simplify it for you.

Reporting
Channel managers can produce reports that provide a wealth of useful information. This includes identifying booking trends to discovering peak booking times. This can help with decisions such as pricing and when to put out promotions. It will also help you identify which channels work best for your property.


How does a channel manager work?

Ok, so we’ve looked into ‘what is a channel manager?’ and ‘what are the benefits?’,  now let’s dig a little deeper and find out how it actually works.

Usually, property owners and hoteliers will have some sort of Property Management System or booking engine from which they manage all of their bookings. It’s sort of like the main control of a hospitality business. A channel manager will plug into this system and automatically push any updates in data straight out to any channel that the property is being promoted on. It also receives data such as bookings and sends them directly into the booking system that you are using to manage your property. This is called ‘two-way integration’.

It’s a co-ordination between each of the individual channels private networks and your PMS. Updates are sent out and data such as bookings are sent to the PMS or channel manager dashboard. It’s a two-way flow of data in real-time, that works seamlessly and quickly to keep all information constantly up to date.

Note: You can use a channel manager without a property management system.

You can then access all the information about the booking either through the property management system or directly through the channel managers dashboard, if you are choosing to make your updates from there.


Is there a limit to how many sites I can promote my property on?

No. You can promote your property on as many sites as you wish. With 450+ distribution channels available, you won’t be short of choice.

Key point: Not all booking sites are appropriate for certain types of properties. Niche sites for glamping for example, could be better for your property than Booking.com.

You should take a moment to consider if your property would be better suited to a small number of niche sites, as opposed to many of the larger OTA’s.


What is the cost of using a channel manager?

what is a channel manager cost

It varies, a lot! Channel Manager software is usually billed in monthly subscriptions, but pay-per-booking packages are also available. Some companies offer free trials so that you can make sure the software is a right fit for you. There are many variations of packages available to suit all different kinds of businesses. The price usually reflects the different features that you will have access to.

Channel manager costs explained:

As mentioned above, there are some channel managers that offer a small charge per booking. This is a great option for smaller businesses who might not have the same requirements as a large hotel. It may work out cheaper to pay per booking, instead of signing up to a monthly subscription.

The cost per booking ranges, but in the UK this can start from as little as £1 per booking. For example, if the cost per booking was £1, then a small B&B with 7 rooms receiving 5 channel bookings a month will pay £5 per month.

A large hotel with over 500 rooms and say 250 monthly channel bookings would pay anywhere from £60 to over £100 for their subscription. This would be much more cost effective for them than the pay-per-booking.

So, the cost varies depending on how many rooms or properties you are looking to sell. The more rooms or properties you have, the more expensive your monthly subscription will be.

Each channel manager offers different features that can affect the price. Many subscriptions will let you choose which features you want to include in your monthly plan. You can choose a basic plan for example, which may not include features such as analytics. Or you could opt for a full subscription and additional features such as stripe card payments or messaging options, you can even get help with direct bookings and Google advertising.

You will need to do some research to find out which features you require and which ones you could live without. This will all depend on the size of your business and the scope of your needs.

Whether you opt for pay-per-booking or a monthly subscription, the savings usually far outweigh the cost of doing the work yourself.


What is the difference between a channel manager and a property management system?

‘What is a channel manager?’ is a question that is often confused with ‘what is a property management system’? Both are tightly linked, and seem to complete similar functions, but there are specific differences. The main difference between a channel manager and property management system is to do with their primary functions.

Property management systems have been around for much longer than channel managers. They are often referred to as PMS, and there are many different types available. Some small hospitality businesses, and all large ones, will have some sort of property management system. As a holiday let management company, Sykes uses a PMS to manage all of our owners bookings for them. A PMS will manage most of the tasks associated with front desk activities at a hotel. This includes bookings, check-ins, housekeeping, rates, storing customer data and payments.

As technology has evolved, we’ve seen a drastic increase in the amount of people booking online. This lead to vast array of online travel agents being introduced. In order to capitalise on the opportunity to reach more potential customers, anyone with rooms or holiday homes to let began promoting their availability on these sites, but data has to be updated manually, and each site updated individually. You can see how, as the online industry grew, this became more and more time-consuming and left room for errors. That’s when channel management software was developed and designed to integrate seamlessly with existing PMS’s.

A channel manager doesn’t get involved with things such as housekeeping schedules. Instead, it’s primary job is to connect the PMS with all the online travel agencies and make sure that all data, such as prices and availability, is kept up to date.

Today, systems are very sophisticated and many companies offer a fully integrated service.


What is the best channel manager for my business?

what is a channel manager choice

The answer will depend on a number of factors. You’ll need to think about the size of your business and the specific requirements that you are looking for. You also need to consider your budget and think about your expectations.

Tip: Look at what is provided in the service as standard, such as emergency support and how long it takes to get started. Read the customer reviews to find out what people are saying about the services.
Here are some top channel managers for small businesses and holiday-lets:

Smoobu – Smoobu is an emerging player as an all-in-one software for short-term holiday rentals. It comes with a 14-day free trial and no credit card required. Their basic package starts at £13 per month.

Supercontrol – A booking and management software as well as a channel manager, they can provide services for both small and large businesses with a focus on the self-catering industry. Prices start from £34 per month.

Lodgify – This a well-established channel manger. They offer a free trial, and the option to create your own website and can connect to your guests directly. The company is based in the USA and prices start from £8 per feature.

Eviivo – This is award-winning software that caters for all types of businesses. It’s the one of the original all-in-one booking suites and provides a very simple way to manage your bookings. Prices start at £22 per feature, but they don’t offer a free trial.

Hostaway – Hostaway is specially designed software for property managers. It’s a unique software that can manage anywhere from 10-500 properties. They don’t offer a free trial, and prices are available on request.

Syncbnb – This channel manager is designed specifically for holiday lets. It boasts a zero double booking guarantee and a 24/7 support line. It also offers a free 30-day free trial. Pricing starts from £11 per month.


Holiday letting and Channel Managers – an overview

We’ve looked at channel managers in general, so now lets take a look at what is a channel manager for holiday lets? There are many different types of accommodation, so it is no surprise that there are different types of software designed for each type of property.

They serve different needs, so the software is designed in different ways. There are many holiday letting channel managers available on the market. Using software tailored to holiday let operations will ensure your business runs smoothly.

Here are they key benefits of a channel manager designed for holiday lets:

  • The type of channels the software connects to. As you can imagine, certain channels reach out to a specific type of customer. Your channel manager is designed to fit better with short-term holiday let channels, as opposed to last-minute hotel room bookings.
  • Channel managers for holiday lets are designed to ensure that a property is booked for the right length of time, for the correct price and for the desired type of guest.
  • Your holiday home website is also regarded as a small channel. Channel managers for holiday letting can also connect to a property’s independent website. So you can manage all your regular website bookings through the channel managers dashboard.
  • You can manage multiple properties at once across multiple channels, all from a single dashboard. This is great for property owners who let out more than one property.

With so much sophisticated technology available, you’re sure to find a channel manager that is great for you and your property.


Summary

In this post, we’ve delved into questions such as ‘what is a channel manager?’, ‘how much does it cost?’ and ‘how can it be of benefit?’. We hope that we have answered these questions for you and more.

Using a channel manager will significantly reduce your workload, giving you more time to spend on other important aspects of managing your holiday let. With its global reach and sophisticated automation, you can increase your occupancy by putting the most accurate information in front of the most relevant customers, at the most appropriate time – all with a few simple clicks.

Remember, you need to do a lot research to find out which one is best for you and your business. We hope that this article has been useful to you. You can read more about the benefits of holiday let management here.


Let your property with Sykes and earn up to £125,000 per year*

  • Join over 15,000 holiday properties already working with Sykes Cottages
  • We welcome over 26 million web visitors a year
  • Many of our owners achieve more than 45 bookings a year
  • We specialise in turning your holiday property into a profitable year-round income for you

*Based on a 7 bedroom property in the Lake District with bookings between October 2017 to September 2018.

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