Hotel channel management tools and solutions not only help manage multiple OTAs but improve efficiencies and boost revenue.
The explosion of online booking systems has dramatically changed distribution for hotel chains. According to research by marketing firm MMGY Global; most travellers are heading straight to an online travel agency (OTA), like Expedia or Orbitz. In the US alone, 58 per cent of travellers turned to online reservation systems in 2013. That’s higher than hotel booking portals (45%), metasearch sites (28%) and travel agency websites (6%).
So how do you get the most from your inventory in the face of the rapid growth of OTAs?
Hotel channel management solutions allow you to manage rates and inventory across all relevant online channels.
“Soon every single hotel, motel, resort or B&B regardless of location, size or budget will need a channel manager,” says Erik Muñoz, executive director at cloud based channel management services provider SiteMinder.
SiteMinder’s very own Channel Manager is a tool that directly links and manages hotel room inventory and rates with booking sites like Wotif, Expedia, Booking.com and many others. Its direct 2-way distribution interface ensures that rates and availability are adjusted in real-time across all booking channels. When a traveller books a room on an OTA, the availability of the hotel is immediately updated and adjusted across all other sites; allowing hoteliers to maximise inventory without the fear of overbooking.
“Hotel operators that continue to manage their channels manually will limit their distribution reach,” explains Muñoz, “Not only that, but manual channel management eats up staff time. He continues “It would be like fishing in a small local pond with a couple of hand lines as opposed to having a commercial boat with a huge net to harvest fish from the deep ocean.”
Without the help of a channel manager to handle multiple online channels, hotels are trading in a vastly smaller sub-set of the huge online booking market.
How a hotel channel manager works
Hotel channel managers also have a number of practical benefits, aside from improved online hotel distribution.
SiteMinder’s Channel Manager for instance features a “dashboard” that allows hotel operators to conveniently manage bookings on a single screen. This avoids long e-mail threads or a messy paper trail when tracking down online bookings. It also allows hoteliers to obtain and track valuable performance results so that they can adjust their direct distribution and channel management strategy accordingly.
Behind the scenes, the channel manager is distributing a hotel’s latest room availability and rate information to all of the relevant online channels. “This ensures bookings are made at the right price,” Muñoz comments.
The way SiteMinder’s Channel Manager solution does this is through a central cloud based application. The technology provides automated integrations with many of the world’s leading Property Management Systems (PMS), Central Reservation Systems (CMS), Revenue Management Systems (RMS) and Hotel Booking Engines. The aim is to maximise a hotel’s online exposure, increase revenue and reduce the time it takes to update rooms.
Like any technology, channel management solutions are still evolving. Muñoz anticipates a natural evolution of the channel manager towards automation and deeper integration with the front desk system and a hotel’s own booking system.
He also sees the development of automated business rules on the horizon. “If a jumbo airplane can fly on auto-pilot, why can’t elements of your online distribution strategy – pricing and demand levers – also run on auto-pilot,” he says, adding that no matter how the technology develops, hotels will be the big winners.