What is the best channel manager for small hotels?
August 14, 2019
Adopting a channel manager to help oversee the online distribution of your property is a transformative move. Your small hotel business will become much more efficient and drive increased bookings and revenue.
The demand to sell rooms online and through multiple channels means a channel manager is usually the first port of call when small hotels choose to migrate their property management to a technology solution. So if you’re reading this it probably means it’s become too difficult to handle many connections to online travel agents at once.
As you’re aware, constantly juggling the admin tasks of managing and updating the likes of Booking.com, Expedia, Airbnb, etc becomes an unbearable drain on time and resources. Think about how long it takes you to log into the backend of each third party channel and make adjustments. Your new channel manager will resolve this.
There are a lot of channel managers on the market and no single provider is perfect for all properties, so it’s important for you to do your research and make sure you can invest in the right solution for your small hotel.
We believe the right solution is Little Hotelier, and this blog will help you determine what factors are most important before you make your final decision.
Table of contents
Most channel managers you research will make good on the main objectives you want to see delivered:
- You can sell your rooms on more channels simultaneously without the risk of overbooking (pooled inventory)
- You will save hours of time every week that you can put to better use on other tasks around your property
However some are much more robust than others, based on the amount of connections they can offer and the level of integration they provide.
Little Hotelier is a heavyweight for this reason, giving you access to more than 400 booking sites across the globe. The significance of this is that you can put yourself on the radar of billions of travellers, many of whom may be a niche market perfectly suited to your small or boutique property. Your most lucrative booking channel might not be a big player like Booking.com – there are channels that exist solely for adventuring backpackers. Little Hotelier gives you the freedom to explore the possibilities smaller channels can open up as you seek to grow the revenue of your business.
With smartphones such a focal point in society today, Little Hotelier caters to the philosophy of operating on the run. You can use Little Hotelier’s mobile app to manage your reservations with only your phone as company. So don’t feel anxious about taking time out of the office.
Little Hotelier can also offer a channel manager as part of an all-in-one solution with its front desk system, direct booking technology, and payments solution. Operating an all-in-one system gives you total, centralised control over your property management, distribution, and bookings. With an integrated booking engine you can treat your website and social media channels the same as any other channel you have connected via your channel manager – making it easy to accept commission-free direct bookings!
It’s this advanced stack that makes Little Hotelier the best option for small properties. There’s no need to use different systems when you can operate everything seamlessly from one dashboard.
Can you use a free channel manager at your B&B?
The full functionality of a top channel manager doesn’t come free, and that’s because the impact it has on your business is worthy of investment. While a channel manager may not be tangible like new furniture or fittings are, it’s even more important. If you can’t get the back end right, your front end service will suffer in turn.
However, reliable providers offer a free trial period for their products so you can be convinced of their value before you start paying a fee.
Little Hotelier’s trial period extends to 30 days, giving you a full month to analyse the difference it makes to your property. Through this period you should already start to see how much time it saves you and the simplicity it brings to managing your online distribution. You might even notice an uptick in bookings and revenue after the first month.
How much does the best channel manager for small hotels cost?
Little Hotelier’s pricing is quite flexible, and is very competitive within the industry.
Little Hotelier can be secured from USD $109 (GBP £87) per month if your property has five rooms or less. The more rooms you have, the more you will be required to pay. A property with 15 rooms will be charged USD $139 (GBP £111) per month. This is more than reasonable, with some other major providers charging USD $159 (GBP £127) per month for 15 rooms. With Little Hotelier, you can also choose to pay annually for a discount.
To find out exactly how much Little Hotelier will cost for your property, try out our pricing scale here.
Purchasing a channel manager for your hostel: Setup time and training
Once you decide to make a purchase things should move quickly, with your hand being held the entire way. When you sign up to Little Hotelier’s free trial you should be contacted within one business day to begin the setup process.
You’ll be treated to specialised onboarding staff who will guide you through the entire trial, making sure the right channels are connected and your property is configured properly in the system.
Group or individual training is also provided so you know exactly how to use the product. Once you know the basics, it should be easy as many of the functions you perform will be the same each week or month.
Little Hotelier is a very intuitive system, allowing users to quickly find their feet and feel comfortable, meaning there’s less chance you’ll need to contact support or end your relationship.
Questions you should ask your hostel channel manager provider
With so many channel managers on the market to choose from, how do you narrow down your search? You have to pick one that suits the size and type of your property.
When you start discussions with a potential provider there are some key questions you can ask so you have all the knowledge at your disposal to make the right choice.
1. How many booking channels can you connect me to?
Obviously it’s important that your channel manager connects to the booking channels you’re already using and at the end of the day the more channels that are available the better. For example Little Hotelier connects to 400+ channels.
2. Can you integrate with my website’s booking engine?
Your booking engine is essential to your online presence and revenue strategy so it’s ideal if your channel manager can integrate with it, otherwise you’re then managing your third party channels and direct channels separately which is inconvenient and takes more time. That’s why going with an all-in-one solution can often be the best bet, since you’ll get a property management system, channel manager, and booking engine in one package.
3. Can you give me comprehensive performance reports?
Knowing which channels are giving you the most bookings, which channels are delivering more revenue on average, which have the highest cancellation rate, and other data points like these should be non-negotiable. If you want your business to grow and be sustainable you need visibility on performance. If something isn’t working you need to have a clear idea of what changes to make.
4. How much will everything cost?
Ideally you’ll want a plug and play model that charges you a flat monthly fee for full access and use of the technology. This is much preferable to an add-on system where you’ll be required to pay a fee each time you want to add a new channel. A good provider won’t lock you into a contract either, unless you choose an annual contract for discount. Many channel managers also offer a free trial period so you can enjoy the benefits of the product before you commit to a purchase.
5. How far in advance can you manage availability?
Many travellers want to book far in advance, especially if they’re travelling overseas. Properties also want to accept bookings with quite a bit of lead time because it helps their financial planning so the more functionality your provider can offer here the better.
6. How much system training is available?
Being thrown in the deep end might teach some how to swim but it’s not very nurturing. You’ll want your provider to help you every step of the way when you begin using channel management technology at your small property.
7. Is support offered in my timezone and language?
Nothing would be more frustrating than to seek help resolving an issue only to find you have to wait hours for a response or can’t speak to someone in your native tongue.
How to select the best channel manager for your small hotel
Everything we’ve discussed so far needs to be taken into account when selecting your channel manager. Strongly consider all these factors:
- Ensure it operates on a pooled inventory model
- The more OTA and PMS connections the better (ideally the number should be in the hundreds)
- Booking engine integration and two-way communication is vital
- Confirm that it has advanced reporting functions
- Pricing should be a flexible monthly fee
- Training and support has to be comprehensive
- Long-term availability and planning should be achievable
Evaluating channel managers for your small hotel based on reviews
It will help if you look at the reviews for a product. Customer reviews provide great insight since most will come from people just like yourself who have already sought the same solution. Their feedback will give you a trustworthy guide on which provider can give your property what it needs.
Here you’ll find ratings on how likely a provider is to be recommended, the quality of customer support, ease of use, ROI, value for money, functionality, integration, and implementation. Screenshots and videos may also be available where applicable.
You’ll also find written customer reviews where you can see in more specific detail what users think of a product. Make sure you weigh both scores and written feedback up as some people may have concerns that aren’t applicable to you and vice versa.