If you’re in the independent accommodation business, you may have heard of channel management software for hotels or channel managers. But what is the significance of this software to independent hotels, B&Bs and guesthouses? Does it help properties enough to justify the cost? Or can hotels go it alone and market themselves to customers online effectively?
It’s an industry myth that social media presence impacts online bookings by an equal amount to Online Travel Agents (OTAs). The truth is that you can’t rely on social media alone. A recent industry survey concluded that 3.3% of visitors to an independent property’s website were down to social media outreach, and responsible for only 0.75% of their online bookings. However, a whopping 74% of the bookings these properties receive are down to OTAs, such as Expedia, Hotels.com, Late-rooms, Booking.com and more.
Having a website alone isn’t enough either. You have to advertise to get noticed, but advertising is expensive. Did you know that a quarter page in a regional paper could put you back up to £3,000? And what about online advertising? Pay per click ads on Google mean you’ll be competing against giants like Booking.com and Expedia, who spend billions on digital advertising each year. It’s tough, and costs can quickly mount up, with no guarantee of bookings for your efforts.
Whereas, Online Travel Agents promote your property for free all year round, and they only charge you commission on bookings made through their website. When visitors visit an OTA they often look at the hotel’s own website before deciding to book, and they may even decide to book directly with the hotel instead. Not only can OTAs increase bookings, but they can also act as stand-alone advertising – almost like a price comparison site.
Whilst there are many positive points about working with OTAs, there is a drawback: You’ll need a super-human strategy in place in order to manage the bookings, rates and promotions across every single platform individually. Unless you use channel manager software.
Channel managers work by providing a single point of contact for all your distribution sites. In other words, they are a platform where you can input rates, promotions and availability, and the channel management software will synchronize any updates across all OTAs, in order to eliminate double bookings, offer limited time discounts, add new photos descriptions, and lots more.
How many channels do channel managers manage? Hundreds (and millions of potential guests). How many channels do you think one person could manage if they had to update each one independently? Probably nowhere near as many.
It’s important to have a good channel manager, that’s reliable, cost-effective, and has your back when things go wrong. With this in mind, what are the key functions of a great channel manager?
- Connection to all the major OTAs
- Instant synchronization of your rates, availability, photos, content and policies.
- Easy reporting on declined cards
- Allows you to set your own policies regardless of the travel site’s capabilities –e.g. charging a deposit, and varying the amount required depending on the OTA.
- Customer support 7 days a week
At the end of the day, it’s down to the individual’s preference whether or not to purchase channel management software for a hotel but it is the most cost-effective and time-saving option for maximum advertising with minimum effort.