How to Choose the Best Channel Manager for Your Vacation Rental Business (5 Quick Tips!)
In recent years, the growing popularity of channel managers in the short-term vacation rental industry has led to:
> A robust marketplace with more channel manager products than ever before
> More vacation rental property managers scratching their heads and wondering, “What is the best channel manager for vacation rentals?”
Before we answer that question, let’s quickly recap: what is a channel manager, and who should use one?
A channel manager is a software tool that consolidates property management responsibilities into one place. It enables you to manage all your vacation rentals listed on third-party websites from a centralized location. Channel managers automatically update listings, rates, availability, and calendars across all the channels you’re listed on in real-time, allowing you to simplify and automate many of your property management processes.
The best channel manager for vacation rentals and your business will not only save you incredible amounts of time, but it will also:
- Eliminate the risk of double-bookings & overbooking
- Ensure information remains up-to-date on all listing sites
- Allow you to easily track which OTAs are producing the best ROI
- Boost bookings, occupancy, and revenue
- Maximize the visibility of your listings
And if that’s the case, who should use a channel manager?
Whether you’re an entrepreneurial host renting out your personal vacation home or a short-term rental property manager with numerous properties, chances are you can benefit greatly from using the right channel manager solution for your business. Here are five quick tips to help you navigate the robust marketplace and choose the best channel manager for your needs.
Tip #1: Know what OTAs connect to the channel manager
Your channel manager should have a strong, seamless connection to the top online travel agencies (OTAs), including Airbnb, Vrbo, Expedia, Booking.com, Tripadvisor, and in some cases, private listing sites such as RCI.
A reliable connection ensures quick (and smooth) communication between the channels and the channel manager; with poor connectivity, you run the risk of losing bookings. To that end, channel managers with impeccable connections might even feature OTAs you aren’t currently using to distribute inventory. That could be a great opportunity for you to expand your reach and visibility, connect with more travelers, and implement a true multi-channel strategy.
Tip #2: Understand the strength of the connection
Staying on the topic of connections, it’s important for vacation rental property managers to understand the different types of connections and their connectivity strength.
- iCal and one-way connections are the most basic. They can only push data in one direction (from your property management system to the channel), making them pretty limited in capability.
- Two-way connections are exactly what they sound like. Channel managers with this type of connection allow property management systems and channels to share data back and forth, meaning rates, availability, and other pertinent details are going one way and reservation and guest data is coming back the other way.
One-way connections are typically less expensive and work well for certain types of businesses. Generally speaking, though, vacation rental property managers need a steady, reliable two-way connection to all the top online travel sites—without that stable foundation, you could end up juggling double bookings, dissatisfied guests, and myriad other issues that spring from weak connections.
Tip #3: Recognize potential limitations
The best channel manager for vacation rentals will save you countless hours of manual work. But what does that look like in practice?
Leading channel managers not only feature reliable two-way connections to the top OTAs, they also feature extensive API (application programming interface) mapping with every channel. So while a basic channel manager communicates rates and availability with OTAs, an advanced channel manager can map cancellation policies, titles, photos, amenities, listing descriptions, and more—meaning you won’t have to spend time completing all those tasks manually from one channel to the next.
Ultimately, the more that is mapped via the channel manager’s API, the less work you’ll have to do. A channel manager with API and connectivity limitations might mean more manual labor on your end, so that’s definitely something to keep in mind while you shop around.
Tip #4: Get some perks!
Connectivity is at the core of every channel manager, but that doesn’t mean it’s the only thing you should consider. Some channel managers come with extra perks and features that can make your life as a property manager even easier than just a strong connection alone can. A few add-ons you might consider include:
- Advanced analytics tools so you can easily track which avenues are producing (and which ones aren’t)
- Reporting functionality to help you stay on top of your entire business
- A contact center to help you manage guest communications, inquiries, bookings, and reviews
- Other tools, such as guest messaging, task automation, and whatever else you think you might need to operate efficiently
Tip #5: Book a demo
The best way to know for sure that a channel manager solution is right for your business is to book a demo. During a demo, you’ll be able to see the tools in action and ask questions, such as:
> How user-friendly is the interface?
> How quick is implementation and onboarding?
> Is there a qualified support team if you need help with something?
It goes without saying, but technology has truly become an integral piece of the leisure and hospitality industry. That’s probably more true now than ever before, especially during this time of the Great Resignation as many property managers struggle to hire, train, and retain good employees. Finding the best channel manager for your vacation rental business will not only help things run more smoothly, but it can also ensure that you continue to thrive if ever your team becomes understaffed or strapped for bandwidth.
If you’d like to learn more about VacayHome Connect’s state-of-the-art Channel Manager Plus product—which features everything mentioned above and more—please click the button below for a free 15-minute demo with one of our experts.