Finding the Best Channel Manager for Small Hotels
Small, independently owned hotels can get a leg up on their larger competitors because they provide their guests with an immersive, personalized, local experience. In fact, many travelers are craving these types of experiences, which has increased the demand for small hotels in destinations around the world.
While your independent B&B or small boutique hotel may currently be a hidden gem, obscured by the larger hotels in a popular destination, there are ways to increase your reach and become the newest hot spot. One we think you should definitely consider is working with online travel agencies, often called OTAs, such as Expedia, Airbnb, and Booking.com. These sites spend tons of marketing dollars on bringing in website traffic, so they can be a great supplement to your own revenue strategy.
But managing these relationships can get complicated. Especially when your goal is to spend less time behind your laptop. Not to worry - we have a solution for you!
This is where a channel manager comes into play. There are many channel managers for small hotels available on the market today, but it's important to select the best channel manager for small B&B operators. How do you know which channel manager is best? Read on for tips and useful information to help you find the right fit for your business.
What Is a Channel Manager?
A channel manager is a tool that you can use as a small hotel operator to manage your OTA listings. It’s a gateway that connects your property management system (PMS) to your OTA accounts, sending information back and forth automatically. Once the initial setup is complete, you’ll be able to manage all of your listings, rates, and inventory from within your PMS, saving you time and stress.
The channel manager you choose should allow you to connect with the OTAs your ideal guests prefer and work in real-time to keep your inventory and rates current. And when you use a robust channel manager, you’ll appreciate the peace of mind that comes with knowing double bookings, a common objection to working with OTAs, are a non-issue.
What Are the Benefits of a Channel Manager?
If you have developed an extensive distribution network, then you know how difficult it can be to manage your bookings across all these channels. The amount of administrative work that’s required to maintain and update your inventory levels as well as implement your pricing strategy can be draining. Plus, when you do this work manually, there’s always the possibility of introducing a mistake into the mix that could result in overbooking, underbooking or dissatisfied customers. On top of all that, keeping up with all parties in your distribution network can make it difficult to develop beneficial relationships with the most powerful OTAs.
These are just some of the benefits that you could enjoy if you invest in a channel manager for your small B&B:
You can reduce the amount of time that you and your staff spend on administrative tasks. A channel manager should automatically update your entire distribution network when any inventory or pricing changes occur. Yes, even automated rate adjustments, if you use them!
Have we mentioned double-booking, yet?? You can virtually eliminate the risk of overbooking your rooms, which provides all your guests with a positive experience before they even arrive at your property.
You can increase the size of your distribution network. Many OTAs want to partner only with properties that have the technology that enable them to access your live rates and availability, as well as instantly book your rooms for their clients. The easier it is for the OTA, the easier it should be for you to work with them.
You can likely increase the number of bookings that you receive at any given time. When you have the right channel manager in place, you are more likely to sell your rooms throughout the year, including increasing your bookings during the slow travel season in your destination. (We have lots of great tips on how to manage your OTA relationships to maximize your revenue!)
What Features Should You Look for in a Channel Manager?
Knowing that you need a channel manager for your small hotel is only the first step. Next, you’ll need to find the right channel manager for your business. There are many channel managers on the market, so it's important to be aware of the features that are important to you as you start your search.
These are the features that you should look for in a channel manager for your B&B:
Simple integration: Choose a channel manager that can integrate with your property management system (PMS). The purpose of any software solution is to provide cohesive services that give you an opportunity to reach as many prospective guests as possible. If the channel manager you are considering can’t integrate — or doesn’t integrate well — with your PMS, then it may be time to look at other options. Your best bet is to find an efficient PMS that also offers a channel manager tool. For example, at ThinkReservations, we have our own channel manager that integrates exclusively with our PMS, both specifically designed for the small hotel industry.
Efficiency: Make sure that you invest in a fast and efficient channel manager. While each channel manager may have different features and tools for you to utilize, its main purpose should be to update your inventory automatically across your entire distribution network. With this in mind, it's important to select a channel manager that is known for its speed. You will want a solution that can instantly update your inventory, ensuring that every one of the agents within your network has access to the most accurate information about your hotel's availability and pricing. In other words, you don’t want to sell a room cheaper through an OTA than you would through your direct website because your rates didn’t update right away!
Easy to use: Focus on finding something user-friendly. While your channel manager should be eliminating a lot of the administrative tasks that you would typically have to do, you are still going to need to work with it on a regular basis. This is why it's necessary to have a channel manager that is intuitive and simple to use. Not only do you need to know how to effectively use the tool, but your staff members should also be able to navigate it with ease.
Affordable: Invest in a cost-effective channel manager that can help you reach your short- and long-term business goals. Your channel manager is an investment in your business and, in all likelihood, it is going to help you grow by increasing your bookings.
Because channel managers can be priced using different fee structures, it’s important to understand how each option will work for your business. For example, a flat fee model may sound great, but if you wind up receiving fewer OTA reservations over time (yay for more direct bookings!) you might pay significantly more than you would with a commission-based option.
Tech support: Select a channel manager that is run by a company that can provide high quality customer support. With any type of software solution, there are going to be moments that you may need a bit of help or assistance. So it's important to be prepared by choosing a channel manager that offers convenient support options.
If you’re able to use a PMS that also has a channel manager, even better. This means that you’re not only going to have access to their team when needed, but they understand how the two tools work together, eliminating the need for having yet another party involved if a question arises.
Let ThinkReservations Expand Your Reach
ThinkReservations offers a software solution designed for small hotels and B&Bs and inns. Our property management system enables independent hotel owners to manage their operations as efficiently and effectively as the large chain hotels, allowing them to remain competitive in a crowded market.
In addition to offering an innovative property management system, ThinkReservations also has an optional channel manager. The channel manager works in tandem with the PMS in order to ensure that every booking you receive is automatically updated in your inventory - in real-time. This prevents you from overbooking your rooms and allows you to provide each guest with the stellar customer service that they deserve.
For more information about why ThinkReservations is the best channel manager for small hotels, schedule a call with us today!
We look forward to helping you discover new ways to grow your business!
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