iCal or a channel manager: what’s best for your property?

It’s crucial to keep track of all your reservations when running a property. And things can get complicated when you’re selling rooms on a number of different platforms. To avoid overbooking and increased workload, it’s key to implement a technology that syncs all your calendars together – and this is where iCal and channel managers come in. They’ll save you time, reduce the chance of errors being made, and ultimately allow you to run your property more efficiently.

To help you decide which technology suits your property needs best, we compared the pros and cons of iCal and channel management systems so you can make the most informed decision.

What is iCal?

iCal is a tool that allows you to synchronise your bookings and availability on all your calendars. For example, say you sell rooms on Booking.com and Airbnb, iCal can sync both these calendars together. This means if someone books a room through Booking.com, your availability will be changed on your Airbnb calendar, preventing overbookings and keeping you organised. And if you usually update paper calendars or spreadsheets manually – using iCal will eliminate this task, saving you time and eradicating the risk of human error.

The benefits of iCal

There are plenty of ways iCal can improve your property. Some of the benefits include:

  1. You’ll save time. You won’t have to manually update your availability across channels – iCal will do that for you.
  2. It reduces the risk of overbookings. By syncing the availability of your property on all your calendars, your rooms are less likely to be overbooked.
  3. It won’t affect your budget. You don’t have to pay a thing to use iCal technology.

The limitations of iCal

Although iCal can help your property in many ways, it’s not perfect. Here are some restrictions to be aware of:

  1. Sync times can vary. This depends on what platform the guest makes the booking on. For example, if a hotel reservation is made on Booking.com, it could take just two hours for your availability to be blocked out on your Airbnb calendar – but it could also take up to 12 hours. However, by manually pressing the sync button on the Booking.com extranet you can pull all your reservations from other channels into your Booking.com calendar at any time.
  2. Booking details aren’t updated. iCal will update your availability – and sometimes give you the guest name –  but it won’t give you all the booking details. For example, if a room is booked on Booking.com, iCal will make sure your availability for that room on that day is blocked on other channels – but it won’t tell you how many guests are staying or what time they’re due to arrive.
  3. It’s not equipped to deal with bigger properties. That’s because bigger properties tend to have multiple rooms of the same type. For example, if you have ten double rooms, on Booking.com this will be a single listing with a drop down menu. However, on Airbnb, these ten rooms would need to be listed as ten different properties – and each property would need a separate calendar.

What’s the difference between iCal and a channel manager?

channel manager is another tool that helps manage your reservations. The biggest difference from iCal is that a channel manager syncs in real-time. So when a guest reservation is made on one channel, there’s no delay in updating the availability on all your other calendars. What’s more, a channel manager will also update the booking details – so at a quick glance you can see how many guests are staying, which rooms they’re staying in and when they’ll be arriving.

So, what’s the catch? Channel managers aren’t free. They work on a subscription basis, where you pay monthly or yearly, or on a transactional basis, where you pay per reservation. On top of that, it sometimes charges you a fee for every cancellation made. This might not be a major concern for bigger properties as they can make up the difference. But if you’re a small business with only a few rooms, this can be costly.

What technology is right for your property?

The priority for smaller properties is likely to be making sure their property isn’t overbooked. iCal will allow them to sell rooms across channels by blocking availability whenever a booking is made, albeit at varying rates of time. Using iCal will also reduce the risk of human error –  and it’s totally free, which may be important for properties with a smaller budget. Implementing iCal is often an evolutionary step taken by businesses before they invest in a channel manager.

Bigger properties are most likely accepting a much larger amount of bookings across many channels. That means it’s crucial that their calendars sync automatically to avoid overbookings and include all the reservation details. In this case, it would be beneficial to invest in a channel manager straight away.

Ultimately, no matter what size your property is, starting to use technology that helps align your guest reservations is a great step to take. You won’t have to worry about constantly updating your availability and it’ll make sure your rooms are blocked out when they need to be. It’s that helping hand you need to give you a bit more breathing space.

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