A channel manager and iCal are both online tools that can help you overcome your double-booking challenges when managing your property’s availability. Each of these solutions is a much better option than any current offline methods you may be using, such as excel spreadsheets or pen & paper.

But what are the differences between them and what’s the best solution for your property?

Let’s find out!

Key considerations for comparing channel managers and iCal

A channel manager and iCal both give you greater control over your distribution, by allowing you to reduce manual data entry and updating of your inventory. They can be used to share your availability between your website and other booking channels, such as Airbnb or Booking.com, which is updated automatically when a reservation is made by a guest.

The key benefit here is that your availability is up-to-date across all your sales channels and you don’t have to do the manual work each time you take a booking.

What exactly is a channel manager?

A channel manager software is a cloud-based tool that will enable you to sell your rooms on as many channels as you want at the same time, with real-time updates and two-way communication between your website, channels, and property management system (if you have one and choose to integrate the systems). 

This means if you want to advertise all your rooms on Airbnb, Booking.com, and Expedia at the same time, you can do so with ease and have no worries about manually updating your inventory or risking double bookings. It also ensures all shared information is accurate, reducing the possibility of human error.

What exactly is iCal?

iCal is a computer file format for storing calendar information. Don’t get it confused with Apple’s calendar app which was also previously known as iCal. Your property can use iCal to synchronise your bookings across all third-party channels that you connect to.

iCal is free to use and can be an easy step for those wanting to move away from manual methods of management.

Channel manager comparison with iCal

There are a few key differences between a channel manager and iCal that should be aware of, and should clear up any confusion.

Most notably is the fact that iCal is free and a channel manager is usually offered on a monthly subscription basis (or occasionally by commission-fee). This is because iCal has a number of limitations on its functionality, while a channel manager is a more powerful and useful tool.

Check out the table below for a full comparison between a channel manager and iCal.

FeatureLittle Hotelier’s channel manageriCal
AvailabilityShared and updated in real-timeShared and updated periodically
– delays can vary between
minutes and hours
Rates and roomsShared and updated in real-timeNot shared
Channel connectionsUnlimitedAdding more than 2 or 3
can create complexity and confusion
within the calendar
IntegrationFull integration to other systems
such as OTAs, property website,
online booking engines, and
property management systems
OTAs and website only
Reservation detailsRecorded and updated in real-timeNot recorded
Channel performanceFull insights and reports
available instantly
Not available
PriceSubscription model
with free period available
Free to use

Should you choose a channel manager or iCal?

As you can see, a channel manager provides a much broader range of features and capabilities for your property. Another benefit is that when you invest in a channel manager you’ll then have access to full training and support from your vendor, as well as a wide range of helpful resources.

However, iCal is also a useful tool that you can use for free if you are looking to switch from offline to online inventory management. 

We may be prone to bias but if your property is looking to grow and thrive, and you want more control over how you run your business, then you will be better served by using a channel manager solution.

Interested in what Little Hotelier has to offer? You can try for free today or click below to watch our product demos.

By Dean Elphick

Dean is the Senior Content Marketing Specialist of Little Hotelier, the all-in-one software solution purpose-built to make the lives of small accommodation providers easier. Dean has made writing and creating content his passion for the entirety of his professional life, which includes more than six years at Little Hotelier. Through content, Dean aims to provide education, inspiration, assistance, and, ultimately, value for small accommodation businesses looking to improve the way they run their operations (and live their life).