Gone are the days when hotels could manage inventory and rates manually on multiple channels. OTAs, which include such channels as Expedia, Hotels.com, Orbitz, Booking.com, and now TripAdvisor, require too much time and accuracy to manage manually anymore.
This has brought about increased use of channel management software. Channel management software allows the hotel to manage the major OTAs and other channels from one point of entry. There are, however, considerations that impact not only the hotel's success online but also the accuracy of the data that flows to and from the OTAs.
The ideal situation is when your channel management program works as an integrated part of your property management system. An integrated channel management program should allow you to either offer live inventory or to be able to close out any or all of your OTA channels when your occupancy dictates that you do not need them.
Some property management systems offer channel management integration that is provided by a third-party add-on. The issue with this occurs if there is a problem. Whose problem is it? Is there an issue with the channel? Is there an issue with the third party channel manager? Is there an issue with the property management system? Is there an issue with data entered by the hotel? There is nothing worse than multiple finger-pointing when it comes to channel management. Consolidating your software to as few vendors as possible tends to reduce errors and will simplify a hotelier's life!
There are basically two ways that channel management software shares rates and availability between the hotel and the OTAs. The most accurate is a direct XML feed between your Channel management software and the OTAs. This provides constant updates and availability to the OTAs. The OTAs have established timed criteria that must be met. This assures rate parity and no overbookings. The second method that is sometimes used is called scraping. Scraping is an automated software program that goes out and pulls your availability and then automatically updates the channel. The problem with this is it typically runs one time a day. This means your rates and inventory may be outdated and that new reservations may not be added to your PMS on a regular basis.
So when shopping for a Channel management software solution make sure you ask the following questions:
1 Which channels pull data directly through an API and which are scraped?2
Is the cost of the channel manager software based on per channel, per reservation or a flat fee?3
Does the channel management software directly connect to a property management system?4
Did the company that you are dealing with develop this channel management software or is it a third-party add-on?5
What channels does the channel management software company plan on adding? Will there be additional costs as new channels are added?
Once you have decided on a specific channel management software make sure you check with your OTAs to determine if a reduced percentage is available. This is often the case depending upon the channel manager that you choose.