What is a Hotel Channel Manager? (Guide with Top Providers)

Hotel channel managers are considered to be crucial tools in the modern hotel industry. Most hotels use one, and if you don’t, you will not enjoy all of the advantages and conveniences that one affords you.

In this article, we will discuss hotel channel managers. We will talk about what they are, how they are used in hotels, and which ones are generally considered the best in the industry.

What is a Hotel Channel Manager?

Let’s start by defining this term so you know precisely what we’re talking about when we use it. A hotel channel manager is a system that many hotels use. It enables your establishment to list room inventory on all of your connected booking channels simultaneously. It is also meant to prevent the risk of double-bookings.

Let’s say someone makes a reservation. Maybe they do so via a direct booking website or elsewhere. As soon as that happens, the channel manager automatically updates, assuming it is working correctly. It updates your room availability in real-time on all of the sites you use. 

This real-time updating does not happen only in that scenario, though. It also does it if you decide to make bulk changes to your hotel’s inventory.

The reason why hotel channel managers are regarded as being so essential in the modern hotel management landscape is because more travelers prefer to book their stay online than ever before. It is considered to be common practice now.

They will often do so via OTAs like Booking.com or Expedia. If they do, your hotel channel manager can be there to assist you in easily managing your room availability, not to mention boosting your revenue. 

Now, let’s break down how hotel channel managers are used in hotels. 

The Precise Way That Hotel Channel Managers Work

We mentioned how hotel channel managers update and automate your hotel’s room inventory. They do so by sharing reservation data on a two-way basis. The two entities they straddle are your property management system and booking channels. 

For example, let’s imagine that someone has gone to Booking.com or another popular OTA. You are partnering with it by letting it know your hotel’s room availability. The would-be guest goes ahead and books one of your rooms. That is when the channel manager goes to work.

It will send the booking data to your PMS, shorthand for your property management system. It will also update your room inventory across the other interconnected channels that you’re using, like Agoda, Expedia, and so forth.

If everything is working correctly, this means that your hotel’s inventory will be up-to-date and accurate at all times. Human error is essentially taken out of the equation. Your risk of double-booking is now much less. This means the chances that you will frustrate a would-be customer have been dramatically reduced. You will also have a central dashboard from which to analyze your hotel’s performance and to control any room availability updates you wish to make.

Now, let’s go over some of the specific benefits you should see if you choose to set up and implement a hotel channel manager.

It Acts as Your 24/7 Reservations Department

First, you should understand that a hotel channel manager automates much of your sales. You could look at it as being the equivalent of both a 24/7 reservations department and a global sales team.

You will probably still have some individuals who prefer to call your hotel, speak to a receptionist, and make a booking that way. As we progress further into this century, though, you’ll find this is happening less and less often. 

What’s far more likely is that someone will want to book online via a global distribution system. When this happens, it behoves you to have a hotel channel manager in place. 

You no longer need to have hotel staff members sitting by the phone at all hours waiting to see if anyone will call. Instead, you have automated your reservations department. You have what amounts to a global sales team that’s capable of taking a booking at whatever time of the day or night someone wishes to make one. 

You Can Use It to Set or Update Your Rates

Setting and updating your hotel room rates is obviously something you need to keep on top of at all times. Say you want to adjust your rates because of an upcoming event or because you’re moving away from the year’s traditional downtime and into the tourist season. 

If you have a hotel channel manager, you can do that quickly and easily. As you make these changes, they go into effect almost instantaneously. This is a perk of having a hotel channel manager in place that you shouldn’t overlook. 

You Can Confirm Bookings Without Having to Speak to Guests Directly

Part of why more guest bookings take place online these days rather than the old-fashioned method of calling a hotel is because many guests have an aversion to talking to someone over the phone. They will still do it if they feel it’s necessary, but they would prefer to make their wishes known via a few keystrokes. This way, they can take their time and ponder each booking decision before they make it. 

If you have a hotel channel manager up and running, your guests will not have to speak to your staff, and vice versa. This is useful not just because most would-be customers would prefer not to speak to someone over the phone but also because if a guest inputs data into your hotel channel manager, there is less chance of human error.

A staff member could always misunderstand what a guest wants. If a customer enters that data and sends it to you digitally, though, the possibility of this happening is much less. 

You Can Also Get Comprehensive Reports from Your Hotel Channel Manager

There’s an additional facet of hotel channel managers that’s worth talking about. It’s that you can get comprehensive, highly detailed reports from them. 

These reports reveal which of your channels are working the best. It’s difficult to overemphasize how much that matters. 

When you partner with OTAs and various other entities, many of them cost money. They make their money in the form of booking fees that they charge your hotel. 

It is still often worth it to partner with them because of how popular they are. However, if one of the partnerships you have with a particular channel isn’t working out as well as you would have liked, you need to know about that so you can act accordingly.

If your hotel channel manager reveals that some of your channels consistently aren’t bringing you as many customers as you would like, you can consider cutting ties with them. Conversely, if some of your channels are producing for you more than others, you’ll know to focus on them more in the future. 

Now, let’s go over a few of the top hotel channel managers in the industry that you should know about. 

Siteminder

Siteminder is one of the better-known hotel channel managers in the industry. It can manage large hotel groups and chains as well as smaller, independent hotels.

The company boasts the ability to connect to more than 450 booking sites and integrate with over 250 property management systems. Few other hotel channel managers can claim its level of integration and reach. 

Some smaller properties or those with more limited budgets may not find Siteminder a good option. 

Cloudbeds

Cloudbeds is another well-known option within the hotel industry. It offers multilingual functionality, which many hotel owners are looking for these days. It also supports several different kinds of currency, which is another huge plus for hotels that cater to international travelers. 

Most hotel channel managers come with analytics dashboards, but Cloudbeds has one that is considered to be more comprehensive than most. It also has PMS connectivity and two-way real-time integrations.

Like many other hotel channel managers, if you want to partner with Cloudbeds, the cost will depend on the number of rooms in your hotel. 

HotelFriend

HotelFriend has both rate and reservation management. It also integrates seamlessly with a property management system. It supports multiple currencies and has one of the most efficient inventory control methods of any hotel channel manager you’re likely to encounter.

It also lets you do batch updates for improved efficiency. It has real-time two-way integration and streamlined role and user management.

If you’re trying to collect and analyze data, you’re probably not going to do better than HotelFriend. Its dashboard is highly customizable. You can modify it depending on what data you’re most focused on analyzing. 

Hotel Spider’s Channel Manager

This option works with two-way interfaces to local and international connectivity partners, web booking engines, destination management, and two-way interfaces to OTAs. You can also set it up with availability and pricing rules. You can create custom inventory levels per channel and room type.

It has mobile access and pooled inventory, one-click on-and-off functionality, and 365-day rate management. It also has the channel analytics dashboard and multi-currency functionality common to so many of the options on this list.

RateTiger by eRevMax

RateTiger by eRevMax is a hotel channel manager that connects with more than 400 distribution channels, including priceline.com, HRS, Agoda, Expedia, Booking.com, and more.

It has several of the features that we’ve mentioned for some of the others on this list, including multilingual capabilities, support of multiple currencies, an easy-to-use analytics dashboard, and two-way real-time integrations. In addition, it has virtual properties and unlimited channels at no extra cost.

It is certified under ISO, PCI, and GDPR, which you don't get with all hotel channel managers.

A Few Final Words on Hotel Channel Managers

Now that you have some idea of what hotel channel managers are and how they work, you should understand that they are every bit as vital as hotel reservation systems and central reservation systems. You probably realize why you need one, but you may not know what to look for from the one best suited for your particular hotel. 

You want one that you can easily customize and use to set restrictions on your rooms and bookings. You should also get one that prevents overbookings. You want one that will allow you to add channels to your portfolio without costing you anything.

In addition, your hotel channel manager should use a pooled inventory model. This is another way of minimizing the possibility of overbookings and maximizing room sales. You will certainly want one that gives you comprehensive reporting. The data that your hotel channel manager brings in from all of your channels lets you know which ones are underperforming and which you should zero in on because they’re generating a lot of revenue for you.

You should also get one that integrates seamlessly with all of your current systems, such as your RMS, CRM, and PMS. You need one that supports all of the current booking sites with which you have partnered, such as Trip Advisor, Expedia, booking.com, etc. 

Most hotel channel managers on the market today should have all of these functionalities, but you’ll need to compare them carefully before you pick the one that seems best for you. Remember that you’re going to be relying on this software for so much as it relates to your business, and you don’t want to choose one that’s unwieldy and has useless features. 

Once you have set up and activated your hotel channel manager, you should start seeing its benefits immediately. You can also train your high-ranking hotel staff in its use so that they can give you their opinions about your property’s performance.  

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