Few things are as tedious to small hotel owners as managing all of your booking channels. Making sure your listings are consistent on every single OTA is a thankless timesuck of a chore, but it’s one you can’t avoid if you want your small hotel to be easy for your guests to find wherever they prefer to look.
You may not be able to ignore channel management, but you can make it easier—way easier. No more sitting behind a screen for hours uploading images, updating rates, and managing your room inventory—with channel manager software, you can handle all of these tasks from a single platform, then roll out your changes to every one of your OTAs with just the click of your mouse (or tap of a trackpad or phone screen).
In this post, we’ll dig into the topic of channel manager software to help you understand everything you need to know about hotel channel management systems. We’ll cover:
- What is channel management?
- What are hotel channel management systems?
- How does hotel channel manager software work?
- Benefits of channel manager software for small hotels
- What’s the best channel manager software for small hotels?
Let’s get started.
What Is Channel Management?
“Channel management” in the hotel industry can refer to two types of activities:
- Using hotel channel manager software to list and manage your hotel’s inventory on every booking channel, including all major OTAs, global distribution systems, and your direct booking channel.
- The strategy of managing which booking channels you want to list your property on, how you analyze channel performance, and how you optimize your connections with different booking channels to increase your revenue.
Broken down like this, channel management may sound simple. But for small hotels, channel management can be anything but. With fewer staff and often smaller budgets to rely on, it can be especially hard for small hotel owners or property managers to find the time to manage all their booking channels manually, leading to fewer bookings and lost revenue.
Enter hotel channel management systems.
What Are Hotel Channel Management Systems?
Hotel channel management systems are software packages that enable hotel owners or property managers to update key information on different booking channels from a single platform, making it easy for guests to find your property and book their stay from wherever they prefer to book.
Channel manager software typically offers three key functions:
- Making reservations via OTAs
- Setting room rates
- Managing inventory and room availability
Without a hotel channel management system, you would have to manually update your inventory and room rates on each booking channel individually. If you list your property on more than one or two OTAs, that’s one heck of a time-consuming task that, let’s face it, owners or managers of small properties don’t always have time to tackle.
With channel manager software for your small hotel, you can list and manage your inventory on all of your key booking channels, as well as analyze top-performing channels and update rates across every channel from a single platform. When your channel manager software is integrated with an all-in-one property management system (PMS) like innRoad, room availability will even be updated in real-time on all sites whenever a booking is made. And with powerful reporting features like surge and occupancy alerts, you can even make changes to inventory or room rates on every channel from your PMS’s single dashboard.
How Do Channel Management Systems Work?
Hotel channel manager software works by setting up a two-way communication pathway between your property and your OTAs. With small hotel channel manager software, information flows in two directions:
- PMS → OTAs: Key information like room rates, room availability, and types of rooms available will flow from your PMS directly to your OTAs. With channel manager software, you can update rates and availability in real-time using your PMS, and the updates will sync automatically with OTAs and other booking channels.
- OTAs → PMS: Reservation details like guest name, number of guests, duration of stay, and payment method will pass from an OTA into your PMS any time a guest makes a booking. Confirmed reservations will be added directly to your PMS.
This means that if a customer books a room using your website’s direct booking engine, availability will be automatically updated on every OTA. Or, if they book a room on their favorite OTA (say, Expedia), your channel manager will send the reservation info directly into your PMS’s reservation management dashboard, and it will also automatically update inventory on other OTAs.
Automating this process can significantly streamline your operations while also maximizing your online presence and increasing bookings.
Benefits of Channel Manager Software for Small Hotels
Channel manager software offers a number of key benefits to small hotels:
1. More online bookings
Listing your property on more channels, focusing on the channels that perform the best, and syncing your room rates across every booking channel will help your small property get more bookings from OTAs—and maybe even more direct bookings as well.
It’s common for potential guests to discover a property on an OTA, visit your website to learn more, then book directly with you, especially when you have an easy-to-use booking engine and your rates are the same on every channel. This saves you from paying commission to OTAs so you can earn more revenue from these bookings.
HOSPITALITY FACT: innRoad customers report seeing a 20% increase to their direct bookings from our high-converting online booking engine and increased visibility through channel management.
2. Increased revenue
More bookings means more revenue, but channel manager software doesn’t stop there when it comes to making you more money. Some hotel channel management systems, such as innRoad, also feature revenue management tools like performance reporting and surge alerts so you can update room rates quickly during busy times. Occupancy and pace alerts are synced with your PMS so you can review your progress and ensure you’re working towards meeting your small hotel’s goals.
Hotel channel management systems will also provide performance reports for different booking channels, making it easier for busy small hotel operators to:
- Identify under- and over-performing channels. For channels where the cost per booking is low, you could consider adjusting your room rates to encourage more bookings. For channels with high commissions or other customer acquisition costs, a spike in bookings may negatively affect a hotel’s Net RevPAR and you may want to adjust rates accordingly.
- Make pricing decisions based on real-time supply and demand and roll these changes out to all OTAs.
3. Fewer overbookings
With real-time automatic channel updates, room rates and availability will be synced across all your booking channels. This can help prevent overbooking or double booking rooms, leading to better guest experiences and less hassle for your staff.
4. Saving time
By automating the process of sharing information between your PMS and OTAs (and vice versa), hotel channel management systems can help eliminate the tedious and time-consuming process of manually updating rates and availability on different booking channels. Instead, with channel manager software, you can update this information in a single platform and push it out to all your OTAs at once.
By removing the hassle of constantly updating and adjusting OTA listings, hotel channel management systems free up more time to focus on other higher-value tasks such as marketing, improving the guest experience, and reviewing reports.
5. Improving workflow
As the owner or manager of a small hotel, you know that you can’t always be sitting behind your computer managing reservations and scheduling tasks for your staff.
When your channel manager software is part of an all-in-one cloud-based PMS like innRoad’s, you can easily sync your hotel channel management system with other key systems, such as your booking engine, reservation management system, payment processing software, and even task management software. This makes coordinating your daily responsibilities and scheduling tasks for your team members even easier, giving you more time to focus on providing a top-notch guest experience. Whether you are traveling between properties, are attending an off-site meeting, or are cleaning a room because your housekeeper is out sick, cloud-based PMS systems keep you in total control of your hotel’s operations from wherever the workday takes you.
6. Better reporting
Some hotel channel managers, such as innRoad, include reporting features that provide full visibility into your highest (and lowest) performing channels. The innRoad reservations by source report, for example, displays your top booking channels so you can manage your OTAs accordingly. With clear, easy-to-read performance reports like these, you can make better business decisions and craft a channel management strategy that prioritizes the most profitable channels.
What’s The Best Channel Manager Software for Small Hotels?
Not all hotel channel managers are created equal, and small hotels will have different needs than larger chains. The right hotel channel management system for your small hotel depends on factors like:
- How many rooms you have
- How many properties you manage
- What room types you offer
- How many channels you want to be available on, and which channels you want to prioritize
- Other tools and applications you’re currently using, such as your booking engine, PMS, or POS
- Your budget
For small hotels, look for an all-in-one, cloud-based PMS system that will integrate all your key property management functions, including channel management, booking engine, and more into one easy-to-use platform. With certain providers like innRoad, you may also get a dedicated implementation advisor, 24/7 technical support, and unlimited training for all hotel staff so you’ll have an expert by your side whenever you have questions or need help.
Small properties in particular can benefit from using channel manager software to organize their listings on OTAs, global distribution systems, and even their direct booking channel. Over 3 million reservations have been created for innRoad customers through our channel manager’s platform and connection to online travel agents!
Cloud-based systems like innRoad’s all-in-one property management system integrate all your daily operations, including channel management, into one easy to use platform, so you can adjust room rates and availability on all channels at any time and on any connected device. With no annual contract, upfront costs, or hidden fees, you can access our all-inclusive hotel check-in software, as well as all the tools you need to position your small hotel for success and achieve your long-term goals.