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What is a Channel Manager? How Do You Choose the Right One?

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Jordan Hollander in Revenue Management

Last updated February 21, 2024

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Without a channel manager, hotels must manually update inventory and availability on each channel -- a tedious, time-consuming process that often creates inconsistencies across channels.

A channel manager also empowers hotels with greater control over the channel mix. Revenue managers can set specific targets on a channel-by-channel basis, and then adjust inventory and/or pricing on individual channels to optimize revenue. By using this dynamic approach, Revenue managers can more precisely manage a hotel’s distribution and prioritize the most profitable channels at any given time.

Presently, only about 50% of hotels worldwide employ dedicated channel managers to help them automate, manage and optimize online distribution. If your hotel is considering a channel manager, here are the top criteria to use when choosing the best channel manager for your hotel.

What is a Channel Manager?

A channel manager is a simple yet powerful piece of hotel technology that increases occupancy, saves time, boosts direct bookings and maximizes online sales. It allows a hotel to expand its reach and online bookings, as well as more easily manage its rates, availability, and reservations.

With a channel manager, hotels can connect to hundreds of online distribution channels in real-time. This allows the hotel to boost visibility (and ultimately reservations) with almost no risk of being overbooked.  Channel managers can connect to any of the following:

  • Online travel agencies (OTAs): Booking.com, Agoda and Expedia, also any metasearch channel that has direct booking functionality (think TripAdvisor and Google Hotels)

  • Vacation rental platforms like AirBnB and Homeaway

  • Brick and mortar travel agencies: Channel managers allow you to sell inventory via GDS

  • Direct: this is through your hotel website and booking engine

Real-Time Connectivity and Pooled Inventory

One of the major benefits of hotel channel managers is real-time connectivity; without it, the risk of overbooking remains. The best way to accomplish this real-time synchronization is through two-way XML connectivity.

Instant sync ensures that room rates and availability are current and accurate across all chosen channels. Without that assurance, a channel manager will be less effective in increasing your bookings and resulting revenue.

Effective channel management also requires a pooled inventory model, which means that your room inventory is shared across channels, rather than allocated manually on a channel-by-channel basis. Pooled inventory ensures accurate availability so that rooms can be advertised across all channels at the same time, without fear of overbooking (or double bookings).

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Channel Optimization

To distribute inventory on the most optimal channels for your hotel, you'll first need to know which channels matter most. Look closely at which channels a potential channel manager supports. If any of your most important channels are missing, consider another vendor.

Channels vary dramatically by region.  Also: refer to your guest personas (or take the time to do that critical work!) to determine which channels help you reach those kinds of guests. It's also revealing to consult your CRS reports to surface the popular booking channels among your target demographics.

“If you’re a hotel looking to attract Chinese travelers, for example, you will want access to the booking channels that Chinese travelers use most, like Ctrip or Fliggy. The makeup of travelers is constantly evolving, so gaining access to these more niche channels, as well as the top global ones, will allow you to broaden your distribution strategy and attract new types of guests.”

SiteMinder director of product Gregor Vogel, in TravelDaily

The best channel manager allows you to leverage your most productive channels, as well as experiment with less-obvious channels that might bring you untapped demand from hard-to-reach markets. And it doesn’t hurt to ask vendors for recommendations on which other channels you should consider -- the answer will show you how the company approaches customer service.

Training, Support, and Implementation

As with any new system, users will have questions and encounter issues that require troubleshooting, so training and constant support is a must. Depending on the size of your property, this could be a make-or-break item. You need to know what training is available, how much it costs, and if it's offered in the appropriate time zones and languages for your business. The same goes with ongoing support -- you should be able to get a response via chat, e-mail, or phone within a few hours at the most.

There are five milestones on the path to implementing a channel manager. These include an introduction, group training, setup, private follow-up, and set live. Free trials typically last about 2-weeks where the hotelier can test out the full feature set and upon completion can immediately activate their subscription or choose not to invest at no further cost.

Deep Integrations with Pricing Rules

A good channel manager should have the ability to integrate with all the hotel’s existing core systems, such as the PMS, RMS, and CRS.

  • PMS: The property management system is the central hub for hotel management, so data from the channel manager must flow back and forth.

  • RMS: To accurately and effectively manage revenue and profits, the revenue management system and channel manager need to share data.

  • CRS: For seamless operations and a single unified view of property management, the channel manager must feed data to the central reservation system which then links with other systems.

An effective channel manager eliminates content inconsistencies by making it easy to update room inventory, availability, and rate plans through a simple interface. This interface should also facilitate cross-channel content updates, you can update your property’s photos, descriptions, room types, and related content all from one central location. No more endless manual updates, or forgetting to update content on a rarely-used channel.

“The ability for distribution technology to seamlessly manage and sync content can save property’s time and, more importantly, drive reservations.”

Cloudbeds director of global partnerships Sebastien Leitner

Hotels should also be able to set pricing- and availability-related rules to maximize profitability on each channel. These include: Direct pricing rules to maintain the direct channel’s Best Available Rates, setting stop-sells for rooms and packages when a specific channel has met its targets, setting the minimum number of days a booking can be made (to entice specific behaviors on certain channels), and offering discounted rates prior to a guests’ arrival.

Intuitive, Easy-to-Understand Reporting

Channel managers provide valuable data for revenue managers to adjust their distribution strategy dynamically. The right channel manager for your hotel is the one that gives you the insights you need to optimize your channel mix. It's not enough to just distribute inventory across channels; best-in-class channel managers invest heavily in advanced analytics and easy-to-understand reports that show occupancy, reservations, and revenue for specific periods of time. m.

Armed with this information, revenue managers can make pricing decisions based on supply and demand. The reports will identify under- and over-performing channels for further investigation. For channels where the marketing cost per booking is low, it may be advantageous to address underperformance with price adjustments to encourage more bookings. For channels with high commissions or other customer acquisition costs, a spike in bookings may negatively affect a hotel’s Net RevPAR.

Choosing the Best Channel Manager for Your Hotel

Channel managers are valuable allies for revenue managers as they balance profitability-per-booking with gross room revenue targets. Distributing your inventory to the broadest base of connected channels maintains visibility and increases your chances of bookings. The ability to selectively choose online channels keeps you in control over the optimal channel mix and profitability at the booking level.

When vetting vendors, use the criteria above and ask the following questions to determine the best channel manager for your property:

  • How many channels are you connected to?

  • Are you connected to the most important channels for my hotel?

  • How many channels, room types per channel, and days can my hotel manage simultaneously?

  • How far out can you manage availability?

  • What reports will you provide me? Will you show me which channels deliver the most bookings and which provide the most revenue?

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Hotel Tech Score is a composite ranking comprising of key signals such as: user satisfaction, review quantity, review recency, and vendor submitted information to help buyers better understand their products.
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SiteMinder is the world’s leading open hotel commerce platform, ranked among technology pioneers for opening up every hotel’s access to online commerce. It’s this central role that has earned SiteMinder the trust of tens of thousands of hotels, across 150 countries, to sell, market, manage and grow their business. The global company, headquartered in Sydney with offices in Bangkok, Berlin, Dallas, Galway, London and Manila, generated more than 100 million reservations worth over US$35 billion in revenue for hotels in the last year prior to the start of the pandemic.
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SiteMinder (The Channel Manager) Channel Managers
THE PITCH
RATINGS
100 HT Score
SiteMinder is the world’s leading open hotel commerce platform, ranked among technology pioneers for opening up every hotel’s access to online commerce. It’s this central role that has earned SiteMinder the trust of tens of thousands of hotels, across 150 countries, to sell, market, manage and grow their business. The global company, headquartered in Sydney with offices in Bangkok, Berlin, Dallas, Galway, London and Manila, generated more than 100 million reservations worth over US$35 billion in revenue for hotels in the last year prior to the start of the pandemic.
Learn More
Image
THE PITCH
RATINGS BEST FOR
99 HT Score
Hotel Tech Score is a composite ranking comprising of key signals such as: user satisfaction, review quantity, review recency, and vendor submitted information to help buyers better understand their products.
Learn More
More new channels. More new guests.
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Cloudbeds Channel Manager (myallocator) Channel Managers
THE PITCH
RATINGS
99 HT Score
More new channels. More new guests.
Learn More
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THE PITCH
RATINGS BEST FOR
93 HT Score
Hotel Tech Score is a composite ranking comprising of key signals such as: user satisfaction, review quantity, review recency, and vendor submitted information to help buyers better understand their products.
Learn More
RateGain ranks #3 in the Channel Managers category on Hotel Tech Report and was amongst the 'Best Channel Managers of 2022'. 93% of 346 hoteliers from 30 countries highly recommend RateGain to their peers.
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RateGain Channel Manager Channel Managers
THE PITCH
RATINGS
93 HT Score
RateGain ranks #3 in the Channel Managers category on Hotel Tech Report and was amongst the 'Best Channel Managers of 2022'. 93% of 346 hoteliers from 30 countries highly recommend RateGain to their peers.
Learn More

Every hotel in the world should use channel management software to maximize their online distribution channels, optimize pricing, and avoid overbookings. A channel manager is an essential tool for hotels that want to streamline their online sales channels, including online travel agencies (OTAs), vacation rental channels like Airbnb, and booking sites like Booking.com, Expedia, and TripAdvisor.

By using a channel management software, hotels can ensure real-time synchronization of their inventory across all distribution channels, avoiding double bookings and overbooking. This helps in increasing occupancy and revenue, as well as providing a better guest experience.

The best channel manager for hotels offers two-way API connections to a wide range of distribution partners, including GDS and metasearch providers, as well as rental channels like VRBO and Agoda. This allows hoteliers to optimize their online distribution strategy and maximize their online sales while maintaining user-friendly and efficient reservation systems.

Channel management software provides automation and synchronization of inventory and pricing, allowing hoteliers to optimize their revenue management strategies. The software also allows for direct bookings through the hotel's booking engine, reducing dependency on OTAs and other third-party booking channels.

A channel management system also provides an efficient way of managing room types, pricing, and availability across all connected channels. This helps in reducing the risk of overbooking, cancellations, and no-shows, leading to increased revenue and guest satisfaction.

Hotel channel manager software comes with a support team that assists hoteliers in onboarding, providing training, and resolving any issues that may arise. The software also provides a pool inventory model, which allows for more efficient distribution of hotel rooms across all channels.

A channel manager for vacation rentals allows property owners to manage their listings on multiple rental channels with ease. This saves time and resources for owners and property managers, as they do not have to manage each listing individually.

Using a channel management software is crucial for every hotel in the world. It provides an efficient way of managing online distribution channels, optimizing pricing, and avoiding overbookings. With the help of a channel manager, hotels can improve their revenue management strategies, reduce dependency on OTAs, and enhance the guest experience.

In the hotel industry, leveraging a channel manager is critical for several reasons, all tied to enhancing efficiency, maximizing occupancy and profitability, and improving the guest experience. A channel manager is a pivotal piece of technology that streamlines hotel management by automating the distribution of hotel rooms across various online booking channels, such as OTAs (Online Travel Agencies) like Booking.com, Expedia, Airbnb, VRBO, and Agoda, as well as direct bookings through the hotel's own booking engine. This technology is integral to a hotel's distribution strategy, ensuring room rates and availability are updated in real-time across all platforms, thus minimizing the risk of overbooking and double bookings which can negatively impact the guest experience.

The functionality of a good channel manager extends beyond merely preventing overbooking. It integrates with a property's PMS (Property Management System) and other sales channels, including GDS (Global Distribution Systems), metasearch engines, vacation rental platforms, and travel agents, providing a comprehensive online distribution solution. This two-way integration ensures that any changes made in the PMS are automatically reflected across all distribution channels and vice versa, which is crucial for maintaining rate parity and inventory management. The pooled inventory model adopted by the best channel manager software eliminates the need for manual updates, significantly reducing the risk of human error and the time-consuming tasks associated with day-to-day hotel management.

Furthermore, a hotel channel manager helps hoteliers discover and capitalize on the most performing channels, thereby optimizing their revenue management strategy. By analyzing data from various distribution channels, hoteliers can adjust their room rates and availability in response to market demand, occupancy levels, and competitive dynamics. This level of automation and insight into channel performance empowers hoteliers to make informed decisions that boost profitability.

In addition to enhancing operational efficiency and revenue optimization, the adoption of a channel manager improves the guest experience. With real-time updates, guests have access to accurate information regarding availability and pricing, which helps in building trust and satisfaction. The seamless integration of channel management systems with online travel agencies, booking sites, and direct booking engines ensures that potential guests have a user-friendly experience when making reservations, which can lead to increased direct bookings and loyalty.

The support team behind a channel manager provides invaluable assistance in managing these complex integrations and functionalities. They help ensure that the system runs smoothly, offering solutions and support for any issues that may arise, thus allowing hoteliers to focus more on guest experience and less on the technicalities of online distribution.

The critical importance of utilizing a channel manager in the hotel industry lies in its ability to automate and streamline the distribution of hotel rooms across a wide array of online channels. This not only helps in managing inventory and preventing overbooking but also plays a significant role in optimizing revenue management, enhancing the guest booking experience, and ultimately contributing to the profitability and success of hotel operations.

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Jordan Hollander
CEO @ HotelTechReport Linkedin profile
Jordan is the co-founder of HotelTechReport, the hotel industry's app store where millions of professionals discover tech tools to transform their businesses. He was previously on the Global Partnerships team at Starwood Hotels & Resorts. Prior to his work with SPG, Jordan was Director of Business Development at MWT Hospitality and an equity analyst at Wells Capital Management. Jordan received his MBA from Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management where he was a Zell Global Entrepreneurship Scholar and a Pritzker Group Venture Fellow.