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Hospitality Technology

The Ultimate Guide to Hotel Channel Managers – by Cloudbeds

09 September 2022


Umi is not a booking engine, channel manager, PMS or any other SaaS solution. We therefore have the enviable position of cherry-picking the very best technology for each client and act as the orchestrators. As a result, we are agnostic of company and brand, which allows us to be – above all – a digital partner. However! While we pride ourselves in our vast hospitality technology knowledge, we also know when to ask an expert. Cloudbeds kindly created this guide to help answer any questions you might have.

The Ultimate Guide to Hotel Channel Managers

In today’s increasingly online world, it’s pivotal for properties to be active across online travel agencies (OTAs) to increase visibility and drive more bookings. A channel manager helps hoteliers manage multiple OTA listings and automatically keeps information in sync to minimize overbookings. 

No matter what type of property you run, investing in a channel manager can significantly reduce the amount of time spent manually updating your distribution channels, allowing you to focus your time and attention on developing a solid marketing strategy and personalized guest experiences. 

Read on to learn more about channel managers and tips for choosing the best solution for your property. 

What is a channel manager and how does it work? 

A channel manager is software that allows lodging operators to update multiple online reservation sites automatically every time there is a change in availability, pricing, or stay restrictions.  

Channel managers are vital to running a strong distribution strategy as they eliminate the need to manually log in to the extranet of each channel to update information. Manually updating channels is time-consuming and can easily lead to overbookings and poor yield management. 

A channel manager will automatically update your rates and availability across all your channels in real-time. Each time you receive a reservation, cancellation, or change rates, that information will be distributed across all your connected booking websites via your channel manager’s automatic, two-way synch. 

Image credit: Cloudbeds’ Channel Manager

In summary, channel managers help lodging operators accomplish three key tasks:

Differences between a channel manager and property management system 

A property management system (PMS) is a property’s control system and data hub, and it stores all of the information required to manage a successful lodging business. It manages reservations, guest communications, payments, rates, availability, occupancy, and more. Many hands work daily within a property’s PMS to access data, conduct day-to-day operations, and make business decisions. 

If the PMS is the control system and data hub, the channel manager is the distributor, sharing all of your inventory across online booking channels and keeping it up to date. Ideally, your PMS and channel manager should work within one unified system for optimal efficiency.

Using a single platform for your PMS and channel manager can help:

If you choose to forego a PMS and just use a channel manager, your team will most likely have to conduct some manual work through spreadsheets. Before going this route, consider how your daily planning will look across functional areas, what guest check-in/out will look like, and what information your channel manager will store. 

How to pick the right channel manager for your hotel

While various channel managers exist on the market today, it’s essential to choose one that comes equipped with the features needed to support your channel mix. 

A good channel manager should be able to connect to hundreds of channels from regional, global, and niche markets to drive the best results for your property. It’s best to choose a provider that doesn’t charge added commission or extra fees per channel connection, as this can limit your distribution strategy and hinder growth. 

It should seamlessly integrate with your hotel management software solutions, especially your PMS and direct booking engine, to ensure accurate rates and availability. The key benefit of a channel manager is automatic updates and consistency across platforms, therefore ensuring compatibility between systems is a must. 

Channel managers are meant to simplify the distribution process and should be user-friendly and intuitive. You don’t need another tool that will complicate processes. You should ensure that the channel manager you decide on has the functionality to make your job easier, such as reporting, multi-currency support, payment processing, and more. 

Your channel manager should use advanced API connections with two-way sync to make real-time updates through the cloud. This feature removes the need for an on-premise system, allowing greater flexibility and speed. 

5 considerations when choosing a provider for your channel manager 

Throughout your research process, it can be helpful to have a list of questions to guide your decision in choosing the right channel manager. While it may seem as though you are just selecting a software system, you are also choosing a partner who will help with onboarding, support, and product updates. 

Consider these questions when researching channel managers and software vendors:

1. What is their pricing model?

Does the provider work on a per-booking commission model, or does a flat subscription fee apply? Here is your opportunity to see if they charge for extra channel connections. Ensure that you carefully consider the cost and determine what your return on investment would look like. Commission-based or channel-based pricing can get costly, so this is an important consideration. 

2. What kind of onboarding and support can you expect?

Adopting a channel manager requires initial setup time to ensure that channels are properly connected. Whether this is your first channel manager or you are looking to switch systems, it’s beneficial to have support when setting up your account and channels. Make sure your provider offers lots of training materials and regularly communicates product updates and changes. 

3. What channels do they have relationships with?

Many leading OTAs grant preferred partner status to vendors that fulfill the highest technical benchmark of connections. Working with these vendors can unlock perks to different OTA programs s make them a better choice for your channel manager provider. 

4. How do they handle sensitive data like rates and guest information?

Ensure that the vendor you choose takes security seriously and follows compliance standards such as PCI DSS, SCA, guest data compliance, and GDPR. 

5. What are their customers saying about them?

Check online reviews on reputable software websites like Capterra, Software Advice, and Hotel Tech Report to see what other customers are saying about their experience with the vendor and their software. Here you can identify the product’s strengths and weaknesses and determine if it’s the right fit for you. 

Streamline your distribution process with a channel manager

Actively managing your distribution of rates and availability across OTAs is an effective strategy for driving more reservations and revenue to your property. A channel manager can streamline this process, allowing you to formulate smart pricing and promotions to attract visitors and get visibility across niche, regional, and top OTA websites. Make sure you take time to choose the right channel manager solution for your property, preferably one built into your property management system (PMS) for optimal performance.  


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