A sandy beach with palm trees and blue sea

We’re All Going On A Summer Holiday… Hopefully.

This week we’ve been getting to grips with the world of holiday bookings and property rentals.


What’s this got to do with IT?


Well, imagine you have a property somewhere that you want to rent out. How would enable potential customers to find you?

You might start with sharing some photos across social media, or better still make your own website to show it off and maybe even take online bookings.A hotel room with double bed

To really maximise your reach though, you need one of the big boys like booking.com to feature your property, share your photos and description and take bookings for you.

Why stop there?

Why not add your property to booking.com, Airbnb, Expedia, VRBO and everywhere else?
How are you going to manage the photos and description on all those sites when they change?
How do you ensure the availability is up to date and prevent double-bookings?
What if you have more than one property?

As you can see, it all gets very big and very unwieldy very quickly.

That’s where the tech comes in.

How It Works

The ideal set up is that you have what is known in the industry as a PMS, or Property Management System.  This is software that allows you to enter your property name, location, description and photos. You can also define which dates are available for bookings and costs.  Some allow you to sell extra “up sales” too, like tickets for excursions, airport transfers or ski passes, for example. They usually also provide the “after sales” aspect of a booking, like payment confirmations or sending key booking info to your customers.

Once you have your PMS set up with your property, or properties, you need a Channel Manager. This is the software that pushes out your details to the likes of Booking.com. If someone makes a booking, it manages the payment and marks the dates as unavailable. It then tells Airbnb, Expedia and everyone else that your property is no longer available for those dates. Each connection from your PMS to an external site is known as a ‘channel’.

Imagine if you didn’t have a Channel Manager, you’d have to log on to Booking.com, Expedia etc individually and close those dates off manually, hoping nobody else booked the same dates before you’d had a chance to do it. What if a booking was made while you were fast asleep? You could very easily find yourself having to manage double-bookings and upset customers.

The final bit of jargon is OTA, or Online Travel Agency. This is the term used to describe booking.com, Expedia and the rest of the online booking services.

Sounds simple, right?

Well there are a few other considerations.

People with a map and laptop planning travel

You might want to select a PMS that provides you with code or a plugin for your website to allow you to embed a search engine for your customers to search for available dates across your properties. Some will provide you with a separate search engine for each property, some unify search results from all your properties. You might decide not to have your own website and just reply on the OTAs instead.

You need to select what is appropriate for you.

Sometimes a PMS has fully-featured API (Application Programming Interface) code which can be used to integrate your property data with Channel Managers or other PMS systems. Sometimes they output more basic iCal code to keep external calendars updated.

Again, you need to assess your requirements. Sometimes one PMS might provide a great website search engine, but another is better at managing room allocations in your property. You might decide to use both of them and configure them to update each other via API or iCal.

The other consideration is how your Channel Manager works. Some require you to set up a “channel” for each property and you can define separate rooms within that. Some require a channel for each room.

Some will charge you a monthly fee per channel and some will charge a flat rate and allow as many channels as you require.

We’ve discovered this week that getting all this right, and not paying more than you need to, is a fine balancing act.