The road, the car, and the fuel are three components necessary for a journey, and in the absence of anyone, the journey cannot begin. The same can be said of front desk software, a booking engine, and a channel manager. The three combined are essential to the function of a modern hotel, and in the absence of any one of them, the hotel cannot operate at the level of competitiveness needed to succeed in the current era.
Unfortunately, many hotel owners and operators mistakenly confuse a hotel front desk system with its cohorts, but there is a huge difference between them all. Using the analogy of the road, car, and fuel (none even similar to the other), is an ideal way to look at a booking engine and front desk system, working alongside a channel manager.
Hotels must get bookings to thrive. They can get them via traditional “walk-in” clients, through their own websites, and via OTAs (online travel agencies) or “channels”. There are, literally, hundreds of channels or OTAs, and some of the most famous are Expedia, TripAdvisor, and Booking.com.
They have distinct benefits and are often part of a distribution management strategy. They are the outlets through which a hotel makes its inventory available, and they can help to keep occupancy at higher rates. However, they can demand a lot of manual updating unless a “channel manager” is in use.
Channel Managers 101
A channel manager is integrated with a hotel’s front desk system or hotel management software. As soon as a booking is made or a rack price change is entered into the system, it disperses it throughout every channel. In other words, it provides real-time updates on room rates and inventory on all aspects relating to the hotel’s management.
So, as one expert noted, “no matter where a booking is made… inventory is always up to date and you are never overbooked” with a channel manager in place.
Naturally, it must be integrated with the front desk software to provide premium functionality. So, the channel manager and front desk system are not the same but will be integrated with one another. This is something to double-check when choosing any sort of software for hotel management operations.
Web Booking Engine 101
A hotel’s website often uses a booking engine. This is an application or specialized software capable of taking and managing online reservation processes. A majority of modern hotel bookings are done online, and frequently through a hotel’s official website. It is a way to generate the highest revenue because there are no fees associated with the use of the hotel website.
It should be able to process credit card transactions through any number of merchant services and offer integration with a payment portal that enables deposits and payments. It must be able to handle all of the data associated with a reservation, including special requests and the booking of ancillary products or services.
As an example, if a hotel upsells spa treatments or extras like flowers or candy upon arrival, the booking engine must be able to accommodate. Few guests want to make a reservation and then phone in requests of this kind.
The booking engine must integrate with the hotel’s management software in the same way that the channel manager can, and this is to prevent overbooking or flawed booking processes. It must be able to determine the available rooms, the current rates, and gather information needed, along with processing the transaction.
Booking engines are not limited to hotel websites alone and will work well with third-party spaces like Facebook. In this way, the high percentage of travelers using social media to research travel options can remain on the Facebook page for a hotel and book a room as well as pay for it or make a deposit.
And most importantly, the integrations between the WBE, channel manager and front desk system guarantee no overbooking and optimal customer experience.
Having said that, we must note that in addition to a booking engine and channel manager, a hotel requires front desk software to operate most effectively.
The Hotel Front Desk System
Last, but certainly not least, is the hotel front desk system, and this is frequently referred to by an array of names, but most especially a PMS or Property Management System. This is the overarching umbrella software that handles the daily operations of a hotel. It is what creates that essential integration that makes the other two components so useful.
It is the software that ensures a hotel owner can process all of their reservations, handle the entire checking in and out process, manage bookings and availabilities, do accounting work, housekeeping and maintenance schedules and updates, communicate with customers, and more.
It is the thread connecting all channels and pools inventory. The important thing to note about the use of a channel manager, booking engine and front desk system is that they are all able to integrate. At least, they should be, if they are to ensure the best results.
As an example, a channel manager and front desk system will work together to keep all of those online listings at sites like TripAdvisor and Expedia up-to-date and accurate. Should a booking occur through that OTA, it channels through the front desk software and then (in real-time) manages to update all of the different spaces where reservations are made.
The potential guests type in their travel dates and their accommodations requirements and then get accurate information about what is available. They can get specific rates, and the hotel front desk system can then accept the booking and enter the details into the heart of the system.
The booking engine and channel manager, both operate in the same, integrated manner. The engine might be right on the hotel’s website and “talk” immediately to the hotel front desk system. It can also be on social media and send a new reservation and payment into the system.
Looking for Solutions
Clearly, the use of channel managers, a booking engine and front desk system ensure the smoothest operations possible. While some may feel they have to use individual systems, i.e. a separate channel manager, front desk system and WBE, this is not the case.
A hotel PMS or property management system, which is frequently described as front desk software, will pull all of the threads together and ensure that the hotel’s many channels and methods of taking bookings function smoothly.
However, the booking engine and channel manager integration are not all that a PMS can offer. Systems like Hotelogix offer comprehensive hotel management tools, including a channel manager and front desk system, booking engine integration, and even housekeeping, communication, accounting and marketing tools.
Seamless operations are possible for hotels of any size, and a system like Hotelogix helps with distribution, prevents junk leads, halts any risks of double bookings, and works to make any hotel a success.