Channel managers for your property

While channel manager programs are nowadays quite common, many motel/resort staff I talk to still have questions such as:

– What is a channel manager?

– Should we use a channel manager?

– What are the benefits?

– How much will it cost?

– How do I select a channel manager?

– What do I have to watch out for?

What is a channel manager?

A channel manager is a software program that allows you to put your excess availability (that is room inventory) on to their website, together with room rates and number of available rooms. The channel manager will then put your inventory out on other Internet booking sites for people to book your rooms. Usually, you can select what other booking sites the channel manager has available to put your inventory on.

Another feature is that you should be able to put a booking button on your own website for guests to book direct (assuming you have your own
website – and you should).

The availability you have put on your selected channel manager usually applies to this option too.

Most channel managers will also allow you to have multiple rates and packages/special deals as well as the usual default rack rate ad stop sell capabilities.

Should we use a channel manager?

The answer is a definite yes as most properties will certainly benefit to some degree by utilising a channel manager. The only exceptions might be a property that has a guaranteed 100% occupancy by virtue of someone making a commitment to utilise all the available accommodation.

An example of this exception could be a construction company in Christchurch that is rebuilding properties after the earthquakes there. Another example might be in the coal area of Queensland with a mining company guaranteeing to take all the accommodation for their staff. These situations are highly unlikely to need a channel manager.

One of the best price/performance options to promote your business is readily available to everyone. The channel manager enables you to present your property on dozens of Internet booking sites for less than $100 a month to the average motel. And, even less for a small property.

So the short answer is that you should get more business.

Also, you now have much more efficient handling of returning guest bookings by using a booking button on your website. Conveniently provided by the channel manager’s booking button option. Don’t have a website? Seriously, I really think you should but this area is a separate discussion.

Putting more effort into marketing the property, particularly in our current tough economic times, would be very high on my list. And, any way you can get more bookings as economically as possible will add to your guest database. Hence the use of a channel manager. The follow on to this is that you can then market to your guests with special offers and suggest (of course) that they can make live bookings direct off your website. Once, they might have booked on another website and you would have paid commission on the booking. And you might have possibly accepted a lower room rate as well.

It’s never been easier to have people booking directly off your website!

Now is a good time to see what costs are involved. Seeing as there is no such thing as a free lunch, there will be some cost for using your selected channel manager for this service. You will be paying either a flat monthly fee or a commission per booking or even both for the channel manager and a bit more for a booking button on your website.

If you are a small property, you might use a fully web based booking system with a built in channel manager facility. Sales people promoting these services are keen to say that these are cloud based as if it’s some new magical new feature – it’s not. In this case you are really just accessing your information over the Internet on someone else’s computer. And, if there is no Internet, you are out of action.

You will not have any real control over your data other than it will be kept backed up and current. The whole system may be seriously feature limited, however it’s often a good starter for small properties and sometimes a good starter for larger properties coming off a manual system.

If you are a larger property, then you might have property management software in your property already so you might only be looking at a channel manager/booking button facility and it’s cost.

Typical costs are from several well known channel managers (prices are per month and exclude GST but include booking button):

A. Free if you only select the “free channels”. Paid for all channels 11-20 rooms $79. 21-50 rooms $99. Or, pay 2.2% commission per booking only.

B. All channels 11-30 rooms $89, 31-100 rooms $118.

C. All channels 11-20 rooms $109, 21-50 rooms $159.

Most channel managers will offer 14-30 days free trial. Not enough in my opinion as it might take a little while to get things working optimally.

Most are month to month contracts. Want more details? Get on to Google and do some searching around. There are many to choose from.
Watch out for the following

When you make any changes to your channel manager, remember that it will take a little while for all your selected websites to be updated. If you have all your availability on the channel manager and get a last minute walk in for your last room, take the availability off the channel manager first. Then wait a few minutes and after this accept the walk in. Some websites (usually overseas ones) charge up to 35% commissions so select your websites on the channel manager carefully.

Also, make sure the availability you put on the channel manager is correct or you might get some bookings when you have no availability or turn potential guests away when you have availability.

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