The short-term vacation rental industry can be little intimidating to navigate. There are lots of companies using software as a solution, to help manage and market your rental property. In this article – I’ll cover the role ‘channel manager’ and the differences between channel management software and property management software (PMS) suites. 

In regard to ‘short-term vacation rentals’, a channel manager is a marketing platform – strategized and designed, to allow a vacation rental property the maximum amount of viewer exposure. Companies in the vacation rental industry, took inspiration from the hoteliers’ strong online hotel distribution systems, to develop similar applications for the VR market. ‘Channel managers’ are more concerned with ‘managing’ a host’s ability to take their rental property, and simultaneously host it with a number of different booking sites. Using a channel manager, is the only way to reach a wide-range of booking channels/online-travel-agencies (OTA’s), without risking double-bookings. Because channel managers are primarily marketing based, most of their resources are allocated towards connecting properties to these booking sites, while maintaining the integrity of solid connectivity.

What are the key differences between channel managers?

All channel managers follow the framework of taking VR data, then pushing that data across booking sites, through their network infrastructure. They’ll have differences within the specific booking networks that they connect to, the strength of their connectivity – to those booking networks, speed and network stability (how long does it take for channels to reflect changes you make in the channel manager), platform usability (ease-of-use), level of host-support, and their pricing or subscription model.

So, what are the differences between channel managers and property management software suites?

Property management software (PMS’s), are largely built around the ‘management’ of a property. Notable features of a PMS include property accounting/forecasting, vendor payment systems, cleaning/maintenance scheduling, document storage & submission, hosting websites, and fields to categorize and store information about units and tenants. Channel managers are primarily a marketing tool. They take property-listing field data (like descriptions, availability, rates, and photos), and they synchronize this data across different booking sites. They help diversify where you can host a property; even help you reach markets that are hard-to-reach, or sometimes inaccessible. Some booking networks even have property-count limits, so channel managers could help bypass that.

Can I use a channel-manager, AND a PMS at the same time? 

Yes! It’s not uncommon for channel managers and PMS’s, to integrate with each other. Many large companies will have partnerships that you can you opt to utilize, or not. A formal partnership between a PMS and channel manager will usually mean less work for a host, because the property and reservation data will usually be automated (the level of automation depends on how closely integrated they are). Although, with a little manual input, it is possible to use both without any formal automations. The expectations, features, and level of service, between vacation rental hosts, varies greatly. There is no perfect solution to VR hosting! Some hosts, that don’t have a huge need for the technical features of a robust PMS platform, can still host a vacation rental successfully, only using a channel manager. Others, with added complexity, or a large amount of properties, can’t survive without a PMS.

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