One of the most important pieces of technology for your hotel is a channel manager. Whether you’ve already invested in a channel management solution or are in the early stages of exploring your options, it’s vital you get the best value for money.
The benefits of a quality channel manager are multi-faceted. First and foremost it will help you simultaneously distribute your rooms across online travel agents, travel agents, tourist centres, and anyone else who books rooms on behalf of guests; and it will ensure everyone has access to your live availability and rates, updating your inventory in real-time.
However, not all channel managers are created equal meaning you won’t always see a satisfactory return on investment for your property. The two main functions of your hotel are likely to be to give guests a great experience and to be profitable. To achieve both these goals, you need to research channel managers and make sure you’re choosing the right product.
Here’s what you should look out for when comparing providers to make sure you select the best channel manager for your hotel.
1. Do they offer two-way channel connections?
Two-way XML (allowing data to be stored and transmitted) connections are vital to ensure information is accurate and up-to-date on both the hotel’s backend and the connected channel.
It’s also important the channel manager has a broad distribution range, so you have access to the hundreds of booking channels that exist, including those for niche markets.
Steer clear of any provider that is limited in either of these respects.
2. Do they use a pooled inventory model?
Pooled inventory is arguably the most important feature a channel manager should come equipped with. Using this method of distribution means you can always display your maximum number of available rooms on all your channels, without the risk of double bookings thanks to real-time updates from a channel manager.
Any system that connects your hotel to booking channels without pooled inventory should be avoided.
3. Do they enable integration with your current systems?
Obviously you’re likely to use many different pieces of technology at your hotel including, but not limited to; property management systems (PMS), central reservation systems (CRS), and revenue management systems (RMS). Ideally, the channel manager you choose will have the capability to fit seamlessly with the systems you already use.
If investing in a channel manager requires you to replace or update all your systems, the product probably isn’t worth it.
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4. Do they deliver comprehensive reporting?
Any strategies you implement and any success you have at your hotel must be supported by an ability to measure results, otherwise you won’t know what adjustments to make, or when to make them.
When comparing channel managers, always choose the one which gives you detailed data on channel yield, reservation earnings, booking volume, and average lead time as a minimum requirement. This way, you can make informed decisions for your distribution strategy.
5. Do they have a flexible payment model?
No one likes to be locked into a contract, and for good reason. Nothing could be worse for your hotel than paying for a system that isn’t delivering the results you want, with no escape!
Prioritise a platform that offers a free trial period of at least two weeks, followed by a payment model that is based on a flat monthly fee and no lock-in contracts.
Do they have the X-factor?
There are many other factors which will contribute to your buying decision, including the level of localised customer service and support your provider has, as well as customer reviews.
There is one other significant feature that may influence your choice.
The ability to connect to home-sharing giant Airbnb could be massive revenue generator for your hotel. Very few channel managers can expedite this process, but the ones that can should have your full attention. While Airbnb ultimately decides which hotels are right for its platform, it’s still a huge opportunity worth exploring for your hotel.