Using a channel manager at your B&B: Everything you need to know

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How a hotel channel manager works

What is a channel manager?

A channel manager is a technology solution for accommodation providers such as B&Bs, hotels, and motels that will dramatically help the way they sell rooms online, via online travel agents or their own direct website and/or booking engine. It’s power lies in automation, two-way integration, and real-time data sharing.

With travellers continuing to move online to book travel, B&B operators need to react and manage this trend with a channel manager. It’s the only way to effectively and efficiently stay on top of incoming online reservations.

This blog will tell you everything you need to know about channel managers for your small property, including how it works, what the benefits are, and how to better sell rooms online.

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Small hotel channel manager

A channel manager will help you increase the number of distribution agents you partner and distribute your rooms with in the most effective way possible. 

Essentially, a channel manager works with your property management system (PMS). From OTAs to independent retail travel agents, a channel manager gives you an opportunity to form a relationship with the agents who are most likely to book your rooms. It broadcasts your live rates and availability via two-way connections and allows travellers to book your B&B from a multitude of possible locations.

When a reservation is made, the channel manager will automatically update your availability on your PMS and booking channels in real-time. This simplifies the booking process for everyone involved.

A channel manager is a tool that you can use to steadily increase your profits while improving your brand recognition around the globe.

Here’s what you need to know:

  • As your network increases, your reach in the industry expands

You will notice an organic growth in your bookings. You can also sell more rooms during your peak season at a higher rate, and still sell out during the slow travel times. As your bookings increase, your revenue will grow as well.

  • A channel manager eliminates logistical issues, such as overbooking your rooms

A channel manager connects with your property management system, instantly updating your availability so that everyone has access to the most recent and most reliable information. This minimises the need for the staff to complete manual booking entries and subsequently eliminates the risk of overbooking the rooms at your B&B.

A channel manager is an essential piece of technology for B&B operators who want to succeed in the instant, global travel industry. 

So what should you look for in your channel manager?

  1. Live rate and availability updates

An all-in-one online booking solution (like Little Hotelier) will combine your booking engine, front desk system, and channel manager, meaning you only have one place to manage your hotel from.

You can update your rates and apply stop-sells at a click of a button. The channel manager will automatically reduce availability when a room is booked on any one of your sales channels.

All your booking sites will display the right inventory without you having to adjust a thing! There’s no lag time in inventory updates, so double bookings are a thing of the past.

  1. Connection to hard-to-reach markets through a variety of online travel agencies

Making sure international travelers can easily book with you is a top priority for small hotels. Your channel manager should help you do this by allowing you to partner with a variety of OTAs that can allow you to reach markets you could never access directly.

Think about all the different kinds of travelers you would like to reach, and make sure that your channel manager connects with sites that cater to that niche. For example, a channel manager that connects you to a last minute accommodation website would be perfect if you want to target deal-seeking travelers.

  1. Solid reporting on which channels work

It goes without saying that in order to manage your revenue successfully, you need to be able to see all your revenue streams – from the online booking websites where you advertise your property, to your marketing and sales efforts.

A good channel manager will allow you to easily track and measure which online sales channels are working. This gives you the knowledge you need to negotiate commissions and end partnerships that aren’t working for you.

  1. Training and support

As something that manages your room rates and availability, your channel manager is an integral piece of software that will sit at the heart of your day to day property management agenda.

This is why getting everyone to use it quickly and easily is going to be key to your success.

Benefits of a channel manager for a small boutique hotel

There are tonnes of benefits to using a channel manager at your small boutique hotel. Here’s a whole list of the advantages:

  • You can manage as many channels as you want simultaneously
  • You can setup multiple room types for each channel you connect to
  • You can manage availability many months in advance
  • How many of the channels that you use are they connected to? You will need to know how many you will need to manage separately.
  • You can connect to hundreds of global distribution channels 
  • You’ll be able to access reports on which channels are bringing the most reservations
  • Multiple staff can use a channel manager at the same time
  • It can be supported in multiple languages and timezones
  • It should be available as a plug and play product – that costs you only a flat monthly fee
  • Channel managers can usually be trialled for free
  • You can integrate a channel manager with your online booking engine

Booking engines, which are commonly known as ‘book now’ or ‘booking buttons’, are another vital aspect of amplifying your online presence. They consolidate and convert your direct web traffic into actual bookings. The capability to add a booking engine to Facebook and other social media sites is a standard feature that will provide another direct booking avenue for your business, so make sure it is on your list.

The channel manager component will be able to manage your rates and availability over your booking engine, alongside the other channels you use.

How and where to sell hotel rooms online

There are actually a number of ways your property can sell rooms online.

One of the most popular methods is to connect to online travel agents. These channels have a huge international reach and will put your hotel front and centre for thousands of business and leisure travellers. You can make the connection manually but this becomes hard to handle once you have more than a couple of channels – which is why a channel manager is the best option.

You can also sell hotel rooms directly through your website and social media pages. To do this you’ll need an online booking engine that enables these reservations to be made. Your channel manager can manage the booking engine in the same way as an online travel agent.

Metasearch engines such as Google Hotel Ads are another way to get your rooms booked online. By partnering with Google, you can make your hotel appear to travellers looking for hotels in your city. The reservations will be processed through your booking engine, and your channel manager will update from there.

A channel manager can also oversee a global distribution system. GDS’ are used by travel agents or travel managers to book accommodation and airfares etc on behalf of other parties. They’ll be able to trawl the GDS and book your hotel if you are connected.

How to list your hotel online more effectively

As far as making sure your channel manager is as effective as it can be, integration is vital.

  • Be sure that your B&B channel manager is integrated with your property management system and online booking engine. It’s imperative that these systems work cohesively together to ensure you’re actually saving time and effort. 
  • Without integration, it can be difficult to manage a complex B&B distribution strategy and you may lose out on bookings as well as revenue. In addition, you leave yourself at risk for overbooking or overselling rooms at your property, which is a nightmare for your front desk management team to deal with and also will impact your reputation amongst your target market segment.
  • Integration can also refer to the connection between the channel manager and each of your booking channels. You need to make sure these are all configured properly, with availability, rates, and room mapping all correct.

From a more strategic point of view, you should always work on increasing the number of channels and distribution agents that you use. You need to develop a vast, diverse distribution network filled with a variety of online travel agents to maximise your bookings through your channel manager.

As you connect to different channels, you will uncover new ways that can be used to attract additional guests to your property. When you add new channels to your B&B distribution network, you will be able to increase bookings as well as profit. There’s always room to generate more revenue, so you should never consider your distribution network to be complete.

List my hotel online: Benefits for the business

Listing online with a channel managers offers a few main benefits:

  • Ability to sell the most rooms possible through as many channels as possible (without risk of overbooking) through a pooled inventory model.
  • Reduced admin by managing inventory and room rates from one central place (no need to log into the backend system of each booking site).
  • For travellers, channel managers allow them to instantly confirm a booking from third party websites – typically trusted sites that have special rates, and whom they feel comfortable booking with.
  • Manage your availability and offer advanced bookings – Without live availability, travellers could double book the rooms at your property for any given date, resulting in frustration and cancellations. This is one of the most frustrating circumstances to deal with, so it’s best to avoid it at all costs.
  • Recognise that different types of guests prefer to reserve a room at different points in their booking journey. Millennials, for example, love to grab a last-minute room using their mobile device. Older travelers who are enjoying retirement are more likely to book several months or even a year in advance. 
  • Manage your availability so that you allow bookings from every type of traveller who may be interested in staying at your property.

In the mind of the modern traveller, if they can’t find what they want online it’s not worth their time. Planning a trip is fun, so they want to be able to access and book hotels quickly and easily so they can start anticipating their trip. Their anticipation is often when they’re feeling the most excited.

Online B&B bookings with a channel manager: Key takeaways

  • A channel manager is a technology solution for accommodation providers such as B&Bs, hotels, motels etc that will dramatically help the way they sell rooms online.
  • A channel manager works in cooperation with your property management system.
  • From OTAs to independent retail travel agents, a channel manager gives you an opportunity to form a relationship with the agents who are most likely to book your rooms.
  • It broadcasts your live rates and availability via two-way connections and allows travellers to book your B&B from a multitude of possible locations.
  • When a reservation is made, the channel manager will automatically update your availability on your PMS and booking channels in real-time.
  • A channel manager will also report on your best performing channels.
  • If you have an online booking engine, your channel manager will also manage this in the same way as your other channel connections.
  • You can sell your rooms online via online travel agents, your website, social media pages, metasearch engines, and global distribution systems.
  • Integration between your channel manager and other systems is vital.

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