Most hotels use a combination of different distribution channels in order to sell their hotel rooms. However, while a wider spread can assist you in optimising demand, it can also make the management of these different channels more complicated. This is why investing in a hotel channel manager is important and in this article, you will learn more about the value of these software solutions, including what they do and what their main features are.
- What is a Hotel Channel Manager?
- Why are Hotel Channel Managers Important?
- Hotel Channel Managers: What Are the Benefits?
- What Are the Most Important Features of a Hotel Channel Manager?
- Which Integrations Should a Hotel Channel Manager Have?
- The Most Important Distribution Channels for Hotels
- The Best Hotel Software Solutions
What is a Hotel Channel Manager?
A hotel channel manager is a software solution, which allows hotel owners and other individuals working in hotels to manage their property across various distribution channels from a single place. This provides the option to adjust pricing on third-party hotel booking websites, without having to visit each individual platform.
Crucially, a hotel channel manager will also update the available inventory in real-time, meaning no matter where you sell a hotel room, all channels will have up-to-date information about how many rooms are left.
Additionally, when using a hotel channel manager, you can update important information about your hotel across the full range of third party websites you use. For example, if you add new features to your hotel rooms, or offer new services to those who book rooms, you can add this information to your hotel descriptions very easily.
Your hotel channel manager should be able to work with all of your main online distribution channels, including online travel agencies (OTAs), global distribution systems (GDS) and other booking channels, such as Airbnb.
Why are Hotel Channel Managers Important?
The modern hotel industry is hugely reliant on third parties, including online travel agencies, hotel metasearch engines and even platforms like Airbnb in order to sell rooms to customers. On top of this, offline travel agents usually book hotel rooms for customers using global distribution systems, and your hotel must connect to these.
All of this means that, in order to optimise demand, it may be necessary to have many different distribution channels active at the same time. Updating the information on each of these in turn can be extremely time-consuming and mistakes can also easily be made, especially if you forget to update one channel, but not others.
This is why it is so crucial that you have a system in place for managing all distribution channels at once.
Hotel Channel Managers: What Are the Benefits?
Now that you are equipped with an understanding of what a hotel channel manager is and why it is important, it is worth taking a closer look at some of the specific benefits one of these software solutions can offer.
1. Greater Efficiency
One of the biggest benefits of using hotel channel manager software is the greater efficiency on offer. If you need to update hotel information on various platforms, you can do so from a single location and the change will apply across the board. A good hotel channel manager will also offer the ability to customise which channels the changes will apply to and all of this will result in significant time savings when compared to the manual approach.
2. Revenue Management
Another significant advantage associated with using a hotel channel manager is linked to the practice of revenue management. A key part of revenue management involves optimising prices across your various distribution channels, in order to sell for the right price, at the right time, based on demand. Hotel channel management software allows you to do this easily, because pricing and availability information is all updated in real-time.
3. Improved Reliability
When hotel channel management is carried out manually, human error is inevitable. In periods of high demand, this could lead to issues such as over-booking your hotel, which can then lead to disappointed customers and damage to your reputation. With a hotel channel manager, inventory information is updated in real-time, across all channels, which eliminates one of the biggest potential areas for human error, leading to significant reliability benefits.
4. Performance Metrics
Finally, a major part of successful hotel management involves gathering data and analysing it, in order to identify trends. A hotel channel manager can make this significantly easier, because many of your key performance indicators will be available from one place. This avoids the need to gather data from your various channels. Having the information at hand can also allow for more timely decision-making too, which could improve your overall performance.
What Are the Most Important Features of a Hotel Channel Manager?
1. Support for Major Distribution Channels
For a hotel channel manager to be useful, it needs to cover the full range of online distribution channels you use. With this in mind, you should make sure the software solution you opt for provides support for everything from online travel agencies and hotel metasearch engines, to global distribution systems, Google Hotel Ads and much more. You should also be able to manage direct bookings through the system too.
2. Provision of Up-to-Date Information
Arguably the single biggest plus point of using a hotel channel manager is the ability to update information or make changes to multiple distribution channels at the same time. This is perhaps the most important feature that your chosen software should offer. Using your application, you should be able to update hotel descriptions, make adjustments to pricing and provide inventory information and this should be presented to all channels in real-time.
3. An Ability to Access Key Performance Data
While the main purpose of a hotel channel manager is to make sure all distribution channels are provided with the most up-to-date information, you also want to be able to see key performance data too. Having this information available in a single place can be invaluable for your revenue management and hotel channel management strategies. As a general rule, the more ways your software is able to present this information, the better it is going to be for you.
Which Integrations Should a Hotel Channel Manager Have?
Aside from the features mentioned, to get the most from your hotel channel manager software solution, it is also essential that it can be integrated with the following software applications used by hotels:
Revenue Management System
The first integration that any hotel channel management software you use will need to have is with your revenue management system. After all, a huge part of revenue management is connected to your distribution channels.
For example, to optimise revenue, you need to use the right channel to sell to the right customer, for the best possible price. This can be quite complicated, but the entire process becomes a lot easier when data can be shared easily between your revenue management system and your hotel channel manager software.
Property Management System
Your property management system is an all-in-one solution, which could potentially allow you to carry out a wide range of tasks related to sales, day-to-day hotel operations, hotel facility bookings and more.
The comprehensive nature of your PMS means it needs to have access to data from a range of sources and your hotel channel manager should be one of these. Similarly, it is important that anything you update via your property management system can be transmitted to your hotel channel manager, and vice versa, in order to avoid confusion.
Finally, it is absolutely critical that your hotel channel manager integrates with your hotel’s booking engine and the central reservation system (CRS), so that up-to-date information can be passed between the two.
While modern hotels tend to use a wide range of different distribution channels, it should never be forgotten that direct bookings are the number one priority. After all, these are bookings that do not require your hotel to pay commission fees to third parties. If your channel manager does not integrate with your CRS, you could miss out on sales.
The Most Important Distribution Channels for Hotels
There are a number of online distribution channels that are important for hotels to focus on, and they each allow access to different customers and can collectively make it easier maximise the level of demand the hotel is able to generate. Below, you can find more information about five of these online distribution channels.
Online Travel Agents (OTAs)
Online travel agents sell a range of products to their customers on behalf of businesses in the travel industry and this includes hotel rooms. As a result, they are likely to be one of the main channels you will need to manage via your hotel channel manager. In most cases, hotels selling rooms through OTAs are required to pay a commission fee for each sale generated, and this is usually a percentage of the amount paid by the customer.
Check out “12 Online Travel Agents (OTAs) to Increase Your Hotel Bookings” for further information.
Google Hotels Ads
Another important distribution channel you will need to monitor and manage through your hotel channel manager is Google Hotel Ads. Today, when many travellers look for a hotel online, the first thing they do is carry out a Google search. Google Hotel Ads will display relevant results to these users from hotels using its service. This will include information on availability and how to book, and this is usually paid for on a cost-per-click basis.
Read the “Google Hotel Ads: How Hotels Can Increase Bookings Through Google” article to learn more.
Global Distribution Systems
When a customer books a trip via a travel agent, the agent will access availability information through a global distribution system. There are a number of popular GDS options available, including Amadeus, Sabre and Travelport, and connecting your hotel to one of these systems will mean travel agents around the world can access inventory information and sell hotel rooms on your behalf. Information can be easily updated through a hotel channel manager.
For more, read our “Global Distribution System (GDS): What Are the Benefits for Hotels?” article.
Hotel Metasearch Engines
A hotel metasearch engine is an online platform, which draws its results from other search engines and allows users to see hotel availability. In practice, they often function as rate-shopping platforms, where travellers can easily compare prices for hotels across various platforms, in order to find the ideal hotel for the best price. These can also be managed via a hotel channel manager and payment options range from commission-based models to advertising models.
Read “List of Hotel Metasearch Engines to Grow Your Hotel Bookings” for further details.
As the name indicates, corporate travel agents function in much the same way as conventional travel agents, but they place a primary focus on business travel and corporate customers. This is a particularly important distribution channel for any hotel that targets this particular demographic and corporate travel agents can work wonders in terms of generating demand for business packages. Again, they tend to operate on a commission-based model.
Take a look at “8 Corporate Travel Agents for Hotels to Gain More Business Travellers” to find out more.
The Best Hotel Software Solutions
Aside from a hotel channel manager, there are a number of other software packages that can be beneficial for employees within your organisation. These include property management systems, revenue management systems, reputation management software, website building software and much more.
Read “Hotel Software: The Most Important Software Solutions for Hotels” for further details about each of these software types, along with information on how they can assist you with your hotel management efforts.
Hotel channel manager software is an important investment, because it allows you to manage multiple distribution channels from a centralised location. The benefits of this are numerous, but include greater efficiency when updating information and fewer errors related to inventory, while a hotel channel manager can also help you to optimise pricing.