Using iCal or Channel Manager?
I have been on the wrong side of an overbooking experience, and it is one I would not wish others to endure. It is frustrating and a massive inconvenience for both the guest and the host to find a resolution. So, what is the answer? What about avoiding the overbooking in the first place!
The issue is usually related to using several channels to accept booking simultaneously. The popularity of online travel agencies (OTAs) has made this reality even more prevalent. Implementing the right technology to sync your booking across the different platforms will go far in avoiding overbooking and administrative work.
The two most recommended applications to avoid vacation rental overbooking are iCal, which is free to use, and channel management systems (channel manager) usually based on a monthly subscription model. They’ll help you increase your operational efficiency, no more manual errors, and ultimately reduce overbooking.
We have highlighted the key benefits of iCal and channel management systems so you can pick the application that is best for your property.
In the example used in the video tutorial above the MotoPress Hotel Booking plugin was used to link to Airbnb using the iCal feature. This example is a continuation from the step by step tutorial to build entire hotel booking website from scratch.
What is iCal?
iCal is a computer file format for storing calendar information. It is not to be confused with Apple’s Calendar application, which was previously called iCal. Some of the calendaring information typically stored events, to-dos, journal entries, and free/busy information. As it relates to hospitality, iCal is used to store reservation information. For example, you are operating a hotel with 20 rooms listed on your website, Airbnb, and Bookings.com, iCal can be used to synchronize all bookings across the three channels. As a result, if someone books a room on Airbnb, then your availability will update on all three platforms, reducing manual tasks and preventing overbooking.
What are the benefits of using iCal?
- iCal is free to use on your website and the other online travel agencies.
- Using iCal will reduce the number of manual entries, which will save you time.
- It will help you reduce the inconvenience of overbooking since visitors will see the same availability calendars when synchronized.
What to consider before choosing iCal
- Delays vary based on online travel agencies, which could be as small as 2 minutes or hours in some cases. Therefore, there is a possibility of overbooking during these delays, especially if there is a high frequency of bookings.
- Limited booking details brought over in the iCal information. The availability will be updated, but you are not guaranteed to receive information such as a guest name or number of guests.
- It can be susceptible to mix-ups and can get complicated if you are using iCal to support vast quantities of room inventory. Such as with Airbnb, you will need to add a new listing for each space you want to rent and, consequently, a separate calendar for all rental property listed.
What’s a Channel Manager
A channel manager is a tool that allows property managers and owners to efficiently manage different online distribution channels such as your website, online travel agencies (OTAs), Wholesalers, Global Distribution Systems (GDS) & more.
What are the benefits of using a Channel Manager?
- You can expect to receive faster syncing time or real-time updates between all your channels
- Automatically updating booking details such as rates, availability, and guest information. Therefore, you can see the guest names, dates of arrival, and what rooms they booked all in one place irrespective of the channel they made the reservation.
- You will benefit from increased visibility of seamlessly advertising on a lot more advertising channels while you only have the input your information once.
What to consider before choosing a channel manager
- Channels managers are going to cost you a monthly subscription in most cases. In other instances, channel managers charges on a transaction basis, which incurs a fee for every booking.
- Some channel managers charge a fee for cancellation made, which can add up if you are a small property manager.
- Channel managers may offer just the basics or, based on your needs, can be integrated with complete property management and front office system
Recommended Channel Managers
- Myallocator by Cloudbeds: A channel manager is a go-to option for hostels and manager other rental property owners. It provides features such as synchronization with a wide range of online marketplaces as well as push real-time updates to OTAs and PMS.
- Siteminder (Channel Manager): more than 35,000 hoteliers rely on SiteMinder for unified channel management. Siteminder might be more suited for large to medium site operations to obtain guest and manage property operations.
- Little Hotelier: this is an all-in-one property management system built specifically for bed and breakfast, guesthouses, and small hotels. The package provides an opportunity for property owners to advertise on over 400 channels and comes equipped with a mobile-friendly front desk system.
What tool is best for your vacation rental property?
The primary objective for small properties with a regular stream of bookings is to avoid overbooking. Therefore, iCal might suit them best to facilitate them selling rooms across multiple channels by blocking availability whenever someone books, notwithstanding at various sync times. As mentioned, using iCal will limit errors from manual entries and because it is free will work for owners on a small budget. Implementing iCal should be the next step beyond offline tools like excel and guest books before investing in channel management systems.
Owners of large vacation properties use several channels to accept bookings in higher volumes and various specials affecting prices and additional services. Therefore, their calendars must always be updated with the correct availability to avoid double bookings and miscommunication of deals. Also, having all the necessary reservation details in one place is a massive timesaver, so it would be advantageous to invest in a channel management system upfront.
Irrespective of the size of your property, utilizing tools to ensure a smooth booking process for your guest is a move in the right direction. Both technologies free you up to focus on what is essential, which is running a successful vacation rental property.