It's hard, isn't it? Dealing with guest reservations when you're integrated with other channels is challenging, especially during peak season. To make sure you don't make any mistakes with their reservations and to prevent other issues, systems like iCal and channel manager are created. But, which one suits your hotel best?
Using iCal and channel manager will help you with the whole reservation process and avoid overbooking. They are designed to make your daily tasks easier and more efficient. Although they serve the same purpose, both of them have distinct differences.
What is iCal?
A computer file format called iCal is used to store calendar data. Your establishment may utilize iCal to synchronize reservations across all connected third-party channels. Switching from manual management methods may be an effortless step because iCal is user-friendly and free.
It allows users to communicate and save calendaring and scheduling data, including events, to-dos, diary entries, and free/busy information. Some OTA sites allow iCal integration with their site calendar like Booking.com and Airbnb.
How Does An iCal Connect?
A calendar's URL is shared with online booking services to establish an iCal link. These portals connect to them on a regular basis—though not very frequently—to verify and update the status of single lodgings.
What is Channel Manager?
With real-time updates and two-way communication between your selling channels and property management system (if you have one and choose to integrate the system), channel manager software is a cloud-based tool that will allow you to sell your rooms on as many channels as you want at once. It synchronized the availability and room rates across multiple channels.
It is similar to having a worldwide sales force and a reservations office open around the clock in terms of technology.
How Does A Channel Manager Connect?
A channel manager coordinates the allocation of your hotel rooms across all channels at once by integrating with your hotel's PMS. It manages real-time availability and guest data as a "middle software" between your PMS and the channels you sell your room on like OTAs. To deliver real-time availability updates, they draw from a single pool of inventory that corresponds to current rooms. All the reservations coming from your OTAs will then be pushed accordingly to PMS availability
Comparisons Between iCal and Channel Managers
Here is a comparison between the difference in functions of iCal and channel managers. Their functions can help you identify which one is capable to fix the issue that you want to be solved.
The Pros and Cons of iCal and Channel Manager?
There are bound to be advantages and disadvantages when you use either one of these systems. Getting to know about their pros and cons will help weights out which of the system will bring you more benefits. Here are the pros and cons of iCal and Channel Manager to help you decide which one fits you.
iCal or iCalendar
i. Simplicity and flexibility - Using iCal is easy and simple, even for beginners. Its system doesn't require you to take any training or watch detailed demo videos
ii. Export and import reservations - It gets the main job done, which is importing and exporting your guest's reservations
iii. Works with a few variety of platforms - iCal is able to integrate with a few channels and some websites offer integration with iCal
i. Not comprehensive - Since it's not a comprehensive channel, any update will be done automatically on each channel you integrate with
i. Streamlined and efficient process - The interface is more systematic and each data you kick in will be streamlined to all channels, with less risk of data misinformation
ii. Manage from one dashboard - You can handle more than 10 channels using one dashboard which is very efficient since you don't have to manually update on each channel
iii. Easily sync availability and room rates - Unlike iCal, you can sync your room availability and their rates. Any changes made on one channel will automatically sync with the others so don't worry about split inventory
iv. More exposure and higher bookings - Using a channel manager allows you to integrate with many OTAs site which increases your exposure thus giving you a higher chance of an increased booking rate.
i. Higher cost - Compare to iCal which is free, channel managers must be paid either monthly or yearly, according to your subscription. You may get a free trial but it will only last for a short time.
ii. A learning curve - Using a channel manager will need you to learn and research first on how to navigate it. It has a learning curve compared to iCal. Their system is more complex than iCal.
How To Get Started?
To help you understand more about how these two system works, let us guide you thoroughly with a tutorial.
For iCal, start by exporting your iCal from Google Calendar
1. Go to your Google Calendar, and click on the highlighted icon to click on settings.
2. Click on which specific calendar you want to export/integrate.
3. Click on 'integrate calendar'.
4. Copy the iCal URL from the 'Public Address in iCal Format'.
5. Go to the channel where you want to paste the iCal URL and paste it.
For Channel Manager, start with the channel and room mapping
When you want to use a channel manager, you must have a property management system (PMS). This video explains the tutorial in detail.
Read Also: Hotel PMS and Channel Manager
iCal vs Channel Manager: Which One Do You Need?
There are several factors that should be considered when deciding between iCal and Channel Manager for your property.
- Property size and number of selling channels. Consider your hotel's specific needs when choosing. If you're a small hotel with a maximum of two integrated OTA channels, iCal would be a better fit. However, if you're a larger hotel and have multiple OTAs integrated and automation is heavily needed, you need to turn to a channel manager.
- Check the cost and the budget. Evaluate the cost including the subscription fees, setup costs, as well as potential revenue gains.
- Integration capabilities. Assess the compatibility between iCal and Channel Manager, which of them can be integrated with your PMS, booking engine and your other OTAs selling channels. This is crucial to avoid manual updates and prevent overbooking.
If iCal is the one for you then examples include the Calendar applications for iOS and Android and the Google Calendar - these two are commonly used iCals by hoteliers.
If you are more fit with a channel manager, there are tons of providers like STAAH, Softinn, and SiteMinder. Softinn Solutions offer a channel manager as a comprehensive solution for managing all your online channels. They have useful features like automated updates, rate management, and reporting. A channel manager like theirs is designed to streamline your hotel's reservation process.
So, small hotels with fewer OTAs need iCal, and larger hotels with more OTAs need channel managers.
Overview About Softinn Channel Manager
It's evident that both systems are useful and convenient depending on your hotel's situation. Determine which one fits you best so you can start implementing it right away. To recap, remember that for small hotels, a small OTA list equals iCal while for large hotels, a large OTA list equals channel manager.
Whether you use channel manager or not, it's definitely useful to learn more about it. We also have a PMS and OTA Room Mapping Excel Template that you can download for free, in case you need extra help. Visit Softinn's Youtube channel for more tutorials about channel managers and PMS.