A Channel Manager is a feature offered by many booking systems on the market, including TrekkSoft. It's a term widely used in property management systems for hoteliers, but the term has yet to catch on in the tour and activity sector.
So this article aims to break down what a Channel Manager does, and how it can seriously help you run your business better.
Let's go back to the beginning, to when you first started selling tours and activities online. As a new business, you would sell your trips on your website and on a couple of popular OTAs. Once approved to sell on these platforms, you'd have to manually enter information for each trip, like start times, prices, trip descriptions and availability, onto each platform.
Capacity management without a Channel Manager is a headache
A common issue that arises when working with OTAs is managing your capacity and availabilities for each trip. Without a live inventory, your agents, resellers and OTAs cannot directly check your system to find out if you've got space for two on Tuesday.
Instead, you have to manually confirm each booking via email or phone call.
Some operators resort to allocating a fixed number of spots per trip for each OTA which isn't always a great thing. What if the OTA doesn't sell all your available spaces and/or you're getting higher demand on another platform? The rigidity of this arrangement, while it makes capacity management a lot easier, can cost you a few bookings each day. Over time, that can add up to a lot of lost revenue.
The booking process without a Channel Manager
Say you currently sell trips on your own website, on Expedia and on Viator.
When you receive a booking from one platform, say from Expedia, you get a notification email from Expedia and you'll have to reply to let them know if you have space for two on your Tuesday 3pm canyoning trip.
Then, you'd have to manually update the availability for that trip on your website and on Viator.
As your business grows, you'd have more trips to sell, more availability to track, and you'd probably want to sell larger volumes on more global platforms like Hotelbeds.
Let's just take a minute to think about how much work all that would entail.
Where the Channel Manager helps you out
A Channel Manager automatically updates your changes made, for example, changes to price during the high season. It also automatically updates all your sales channels, effectively removing the manual and repetitive data entry you need to do.
With a booking system like TrekkSoft, once you've setup a trip in the system, the availabilities for your trips and the details of each trip is automatically uploaded to the platforms you're connected to.
Currently, TrekkSoft's Channel Manager allows you to connect to Viator, Expedia, Musement, Get Your Guide, Hotelbeds, Veltra and TourRadar. We are happy to welcome Project Expedition to our growing network of distribution partners.
It is important to note that the Channel Manager only uploads your availability to these platforms. It does not give you access to the trips and the availabilities that are resold on these platforms.
How to set up Channel Manager connections
Before getting started, take note that each marketplace has built its own internal system. Therefore, suppliers and operators need to match their products and prices to the way the marketplace is setup. This matching process is also known as mapping.
In this example, we'll take a look at how to set up your account with Viator, which to date, has the most sophisticated API connection with TrekkSoft and made up almost 75% of marketplace bookings in February 2018.
To get started, you'll first need to come to a contractual agreement with Viator, a process TrekkSoft is not involved in. When filling out the application form, make sure to select TrekkSoft as your reservation system.
You will then be shown a list of terms and conditions about the marketplace integration. Read through it carefully, it's not very long, before accepting the terms of service.
In the following page, you'll be asked for your Supplier ID, which can be found in your contract with Viator.
Click on Manage to start mapping your trips on Viator.
Select the activities you would like to sell on Viator, and then map your price categories.
For example, if your TrekkSoft price category is listed as "Adult", you will need to select an equivalent Viator price category. Whenever you add a new price category to your trip, you'll need to remap the activity.
If you have any changes in your schedule, you will need to contact your TrekkSoft account manager or email firstname.lastname@example.org to get this done.
To learn more about the Viator integration and how to set it up, feel free to check out our Support pages.
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Published by Nicole Kow
Having graduated from the UK, Nicole travelled around Europe before joining TrekkSoft's marketing team. She is now based in KL and regularly blogs about her travels at Next Train Out.