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Channel management software: Complete guide for hotels

The best way to sell your hoteThe most useful tool hotels can use to win more bookings and earn revenuel rooms online

What is channel management software?

Channel management software is a solution that allows your hotel to plan and manage the online distribution of room availability and room rates on distribution channels like online travel agents (OTAs), your booking engine, the GDS, or wholesalers. 

When you start using channel management software to broaden your sales net by connecting more channels, your bookings and revenue will both increase and you’ll have more opportunities to boost your overall profit.

Channel management software is designed to make the process of updating rates and availability much quicker and easier, while also providing two-way communication to your hotel’s other existing tools and giving you key performance reports that you can action to improve results.

Why is channel management important?

Channel management is the only way to effectively reach and convert guests from all over the world without risking overbookings or wasting more time than you can afford to.

To avoid overbookings, your hotel’s inventory needs to be continually updated across all of the distribution channels you may use, including direct online bookings, travel wholesalers, and OTAs.

However, channel management can often be time-consuming and tedious, especially when manually managed across multiple OTAs and an internal property management system (PMS).

Time lag and human error may result in double bookings or incorrect rate parity across third-party booking sites. Manually managing a number of booking channels is a full-time job. But your hotel can automate the majority of this data entry with a channel manager, allowing you to focus on delighting your guests with a great travel experience.

How does channel manager software work for hotels?

A channel works by automating and updating your hotel’s inventory in real-time. It shares reservation data on a two-way basis with your PMS and your connected channels, including your own online booking engine. 

This two-way data sharing is crucial for keeping your information accurate at all times and eliminating any manual updates you would normally have to do.

For example, when a room is booked on the channel manager will send this data to your PMS. At the same time it will also update your inventory across your other connected channels, such as Expedia or Agoda.

With all this rate and booking data travelling back and forth, channel manager software also has the capability to produce reports that detail the performance of your channels. You can easily see which channels are bringing in the most revenue, which are receiving the highest amount of cancellations, how your direct channel compares to the OTAs, and more.

Why should you use hotel channel management software?

You need to use hotel management software if you want your hotel to keep up in a modern and competitive market. It’s undoubtedly one of the core pillars of successfully running a hotel business in an online environment.

With both online bookings and technology adoption only continuing to grow, you risk being left behind if you aren’t using the latest and greatest software. 

Without hotel channel management software, too much of your time will be spent on admin. This will result in less opportunity to satisfy your customers or analyse data to make strategic decisions. It could also mean missing out on valuable bookings and actually increases the risk of a bad guest experience in the event of a double booking.

Hotel channel management software is a powerful tool but it’s very easy to use and master, especially if you choose a reliable provider.

How to choose hotel channel manager software

While most hotel channel manager software does the same thing, there can be differences between providers when it comes to price, functionality, reliability, and performance. The size and scope of your property can also impact which channel manager you choose. 

It’s important to keep a few questions in mind when you’re looking for a solution, including:

  • How many channels does the channel manager software have access to?
  • Will it integrate seamlessly with my hotel PMS?
  • Will it integrate seamlessly with my hotel booking engine?
  • What reports and insights are available?
  • Can you see a demonstration of the product?
  • Is there a free trial offered?
  • What kind of security and data protection is in place?
  • Is there local 24-hour support on hand?

Getting the answers to these questions and any others you may have will help you identify the top channel managers from the rest. 

Having a strong overall online presence is crucial for success. To this end you need a channel manager that will not only help you distribute your rooms and eliminate errors, but also provides ways to sell direct, make actionable business plans, work at speed, boost profit with powerful insights, and be called upon at anytime with little to no risk of failing or experiencing disruption. 

Must-have features of a channel management platform

To solve the challenges it’s designed for, a channel management platform must have the following features:

  • Global reach with connection to international and local booking channels
  • Automated real-time, two-way, updates and communication
  • Integrated ecosystem of booking engines, property management systems, revenue management systems, the global distribution system, apps, and experts
  • PCI DSS and GDPR compliance
  • Minimal downtime
  • Advanced reporting and insights functions
  • A single interface to manage operations

This is by no means an exhaustive list but it’s a good start to keep this in mind when making your choice. If you need a simpler way to narrow down your options, researching the reviews and reputation of your options is very helpful. It’s extremely easy to quickly check which providers are regarded as the leaders in the industry, as you’ll see below…

How to see channel management software reviews

One of the most reliable sources of channel management software reviews is HotelTechReport, which also hosts the HotelTechAwards

It aggregates scores based on ease of use, customer support, ROI, and implementation. The #1 hotel channel manager for 2023 is SiteMinder, beating out 95 other providers.

What’s great is that you can also read reviews from other hoteliers who have already used the platform. Being able to learn about the experience of your peers can really give you peace of mind when choosing channel management software.

A recent 5/5 review of SiteMinder stated: “SiteMinder is easy to use and we enjoy it. Very user friendly, very reliable with excellent support.”

When asked what they liked most, another hotelier said “Quickness of phone assistance and responsiveness to requests. Also, the crucial point that I like the most is the courtesy of assistant agents.”

Where can you find free hotel channel management software

Most good providers will offer you a free trial of their hotel channel management software. SiteMinder is one such example that gives you a free period of 14 days. In this time you’ll get to experience the full set of features and functionality of the platform. This will allow you to understand the range of benefits and advantages the software offers.

You’ll quickly learn that the long term ROI more than pays for the price of software once you move from your free trial to a paid subscription if you choose to. Remember that there are no lock-in contracts and no credit card required to get started. If you decide SiteMinder is not the right tool for you, you’re free to cancel anytime. 

It’s as easy as clicking here to get started today.

How to get started with channel management tools

If you complete a free trial for a channel management tool and are happy with the results, you would then become a billed user to continue using the product.

Good providers will operate on a model that only charges a flat monthly fee. This means you pay the same rate no matter how many bookings you get. Ultimately, this is much better than paying a fee per transaction – since the more successful you become the more you would pay. SiteMinder aims to help hoteliers succeed, and we don’t think you should have to sacrifice more than is necessary.

The monthly fee will be preceded by a small setup expense but other than that your ongoing rate will depend on the size of your property and the plan that you choose. You can quickly see your options by visiting our pricing page here.

The good news about setup and training is that it will all be covered during the free trial phase. Dedicated onboarding staff will assist you from the very beginning, helping to confirm your property details, room types, rates, connect your channels, and map your rooms to them.

Through the 14 days of the free trial you will have access to personal training over the phone or via video chat and other training resources such as video tutorials.

Support staff will also be ready and waiting to help with any issues you have once you become a paying customer.

Leading hotel channel management companies

As we mentioned earlier there are close to 100 channel management companies listed on HotelTechReport so your options for leading channel managers certainly aren’t limited.

If you’re a medium to large independent hotel, or a hotel group or chain, SiteMinder has the power that you need to make your hotel an online success. Ranked #1, SiteMinder has very few weaknesses with an average rating of 4.5/5.

For small properties like boutique hotels, B&Bs, and guesthouses, you may be looking for a cheaper alternative. A leading company in this space is Little Hotelier, which is ranked #2 for hotel management software. However, Little Hotelier is designed specifically for small properties but uses SiteMinder’s powerful channel management technology.

If you’re interested in seeing just how effective SiteMinder can be for your hotel, take a free trial today or watch a demo to learn more. 

Fill out the form below and you’ll get access to an instant product demo video