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e4jConnect channel manager synchronization

In the Accommodation/Hotel Industry, Channel Manager is a software for connecting and syncing multiple online travel agencies and distribution channels, where your rooms or accommodations are available for booking.

Nowadays we can find several companies that state to be including Channel Manager functionalities in their software.
There exist many "fake" Channel Manager systems, that use this name just to mask a simple yet unreliable connecting function.

What’s the real job of a Channel Manager and what tasks should be guaranteed to help your business?

Let's take a closer look to how to recognize "true Channel Manager" software from "fake Channel Manager" software and what changes from one service to another.

Who needs a Channel Manager, and why?

This type of software can be subject of interest to any kind and size of accommodation, from a small rental property to a medium size B&B, or to a large Hotel with several rooms. Smaller properties with just one or a couple of rooms/accommodations may think they don't need a Channel Manager. They might believe they can manually update the availability across multiple booking channels, hoping to not get overbooked.

Actually, those who are right by saying that a Channel Manager is not needed, are those properties that don’t need to manage sales across multiple booking channels because they only have just one source of income for their reservations.

However, if a smaller property would like to save some money on commissions, by investing on their own website that offers a Booking Engine for direct bookings, then a Channel Manager is pretty useful to centralize all management functions and to sync the availability/reservations to avoid overbooking.

Just like how investing on your accommodation can result into a higher revenue for the time ahead, maybe by installing a TV or by renovating some services, investing on the online business tools can turn into an even higher revenue maker.

What's the ideal software-suite for Accommodation Properties or Hotels?

Those properties who would like to invest on their online business tools, should probably adopt the following suite of software:

  1. Booking Engine

    The also called Internet Booking Engine (IBE) is software that is supposed to let you save money in commissions, by collecting direct bookings from your clients, usually through your website, and so without relying on external booking/distribution channels.

    Adopting a Booking Engine for your own website means establishing a direct point of sale between your property and your guests. It's like taking bookings on the phone or via email, but in this case you automatize the whole booking process, and you give an immediate payment receipt or confirmation to your guests for their stay.

    It is fundamental to choose a Booking Engine that can sync with a Channel Manager, or you will end up having a static system that doesn't receive updates on rates, availability or reservations.

    Moreover, companies who develop both Booking Engine and Channel Manager software can provide more efficient and reliable services, as the software was studied and coded to work together.

    Most of the times, adopting a Booking Engine from one company and a Channel Manager from a different company, may lead to connectivity issues or system bugs.

  2. PMS

    Property Management System is software that provides tools (mainly) for accounting purposes.

    A PMS software usually lets you generate invoices and reports, sometimes to export sensitive data to local authorities, from the guests information to the calculation of the Tourist Taxes/Tourism Levy.

    In order to comply with your national legal requirements, a PMS software can help you obtain, export and transmit the necessary data for the various authorities, and it does a job that, otherwise, the property manager would need to do manually.

    Sometimes, Booking Engine or Channel Manager systems come with built-in PMS features, and so it is not necessary to adopt a dedicated software, unless in case of large properties with hundreds of rooms that require a specific PMS software for their needs.

  3. Channel Manager

    This is the key software for your business, because as a minimum result, it will expand your sales to some booking channels (even one) as well as to your own website. You can increase your online presence without any risks.

    Any existing marketplace, OTA (Online Travel Agency) or distribution channel that makes your rooms available for booking, will be synced and controlled by the Channel Manager. In order to expose the visibility of your property to various distribution channels, and to nullify your efforts for manually updating the availability or the rates across multiple channels, adopting the right Channel Manager software is the key to your online business investment.

How do Channel Manager systems sync data across multiple channels? (iCal vs API)

A true Channel Manager software is developed by a so called "Connectivity Provider" company, and the whole functioning of the service is guaranteed by some central servers that can communicate directly to the various distribution channels like Booking.com or Expedia.

This means that a partnership between the Channel Manager Provider and the Distribution Channel often exists to allow this communication, but this also depends on the syncing technology used.

There mainly exist two types of technology for the data communication and the synchronization: iCal and API. Basically, your Channel Manager software can sync data with a specific distribution channel/OTA via iCal or via API.

The main difference between these two technologies lies in the update/syncing timing, where API connections support real-time updates, while iCal connections cannot technically support real-time updates.

API technology

The API technology is the most reliable and advanced one, as it's supposed to provide all possible syncing features with the OTA/Distribution Channel.

For example, thanks to an API connection with a specific channel, you can remotely obtain all of your guest reviews, update rates or restrictions, set availability or retrieve new bookings, all of this in real-time.

Technically speaking, your Channel Manager reads or writes data from/to the OTA/Distribution Channel directly (like Booking.com), by using the APIs methods to perform certain tasks.

Certain Channel Manager software may support API connections with some booking channels, but they may not support the so called "Full API connections", which provide all the existing connecting/syncing features with a distribution channel/OTA, such as the possibility of managing your Promotions, Guests Reviews, Photos, Contents, Property Profile, Scores etc...

For this reason, it is important to know what are the API features supported by the Channel Manager software for a specific booking channel.

iCal technology

The iCal technology instead works on a completely different level, and it's based on data available on some "remote calendars".

If you look at the native Calendar App in your smartphone or tablet, you will see nothing less than an iCal synchronization. If you ever needed to sync your computer's calendar with your smartphone calendar, then this was a perfect example of iCal synchronization between two systems.

The iCal is a standard format to include information about "events" into a calendar file. Channel Manager software can read the information from a remote calendar in iCal format to synchronize the availability or the new bookings across multiple booking channels.

Real-time synchronization is technically impossible with this technology, as the "remote calendars" would need to be constantly monitored, and this would generate a huge traffic as well as a waste of software/server resources.

In fact, the synchronization through iCal calendars usually takes place at fixed intervals, like once every 30 minutes, to read the new bookings or availability from a distribution channel. The main limit of this technology is that you won't be able to manage certain information, such as rates or restrictions, because this "calendar format" can only transport information about "events", which equal to "reservations".

However, to avoid overbooking and to nullify the efforts for manually updating the availability across multiple channels, this is still a valid and reliable connection technology for a Channel Manager, as long as the synchronization is guaranteed by some dedicated servers made available by the Channel Manager software provider.

This is the only way to ensure that the communication will work efficiently by constantly monitoring the new availability and reservations in all iCal calendars.

What's a "fake" Channel Manager? How do I recognize such software?

After talking about the two types of technologies that Channel Manager software can use to do their job, it is now time to identify the software passed off or sold as "Channel Manager", when they actually provide no such functions at all.

Such "fake" services are pretty popular in the world of CMSs, and so we are referring to open-source platforms for building websites like Joomla or WordPress.

Around the 70% of the existing websites worldwide is using one of these two platforms, usually called Content Management Systems or Web Software, meaning that the engine behind these websites is either Joomla or WordPress, and the usage of these systems, expecially WordPress is growing always more, as we can see from this graph.

Percentage of usage of WordPress in the world websites(Source, Builtwith)

If you have a dedicated website for your property, you may not be aware of the fact that it has been developed with one of these two
popular and powerful system.

There are several benefits for adopting one of these two popular CMS for your website, and among many reasons that any web-agency, designer, webmaster or programmer could have, we definitely find the possibility of extending the framework by installing specific plugins, maybe dedicated to collecting bookings from your website.

Thanks to the popularity and ease of use of WordPress and Joomla, no technical skills are actually required to build a website with these platforms. This means that you could also build the website for your property/accommodation without the help of any professional.

All you need is to register the domain name for your website and choose a proper hosting plan: most hosting companies include WordPress or Joomla in their services.

In fact, there are many hotel booking plugins for WordPress or Joomla, and most of the times they sell also a simple manual synchronization of external calendars as a Channel Manager service. Such software can be defined as "fake Channel Manager", when the proper name or adjective should probably be something like "manual synchronization of availability calendars".

Where's the technical difference though?

As we discussed until now, a reliable connection technology is fundamental for a Channel Manager software.
A "fake" system will never be able to provide API connections through any channels, as their system is not certified or recognized as "valid" by any distribution channel. This is the first difference from a true Channel Manager, but also the iCal technology is extremely different in these plugins.

In fact, a true Channel Manager will ensure all the iCal calendars are automatically monitored by some dedicated servers at specific time intervals, like every 30 minutes, something that doesn't happen with a fake Channel Manager because they provide no services, they entrust the whole responsibility to your own website, which obviously doesn't have the capability of monitoring or updating iCal calendars like a dedicated server.

A few characteristics to identify a "fake Channel Manager"

These are a bunch of of scenarios that are always present with a plugin that is sold as a "Channel Manager", when it's actually none of this:

  1. No API connections with no channels

    With all the distribution channels/OTAs these plugins say to be compatible, there should be some that are based on API technologies. If all channels are synced through iCal calendars, then this service is probably a "fake Channel Manager".

    Although some booking channels may not support API connections, the sync with the major OTAs like Booking.com or Expedia must always be based on API connections with a "true Channel Manager" software.

  2. The service is free/included

    A true Channel Manager software cannot be free, it is technically impossible, because all connections and syncing are handled and guaranteed by some dedicated servers. This obviously represents a cost for the provider company.

    If the service you are looking at states to be free or included, then it's because they make your website do the synchronization with some calendars, either manually or by scheduling some periodical actions. You have no warranty that this will function properly because there are no servers that do this for you.

  3. Anonymous name

    Channels like Booking.com or Expedia provide an interface (Extranet account) to each hotel/property manager to look for specific Channel Manager providers profiles. If you can't find the name of your plugin or Channel Manager service, then it is not a true Channel Manager.

Properties with a low budget for investments can probably find such "fake Channel Manager" software sufficient, but they are definitely unreliable services that won't serve as a way to boost the revenue of the accommodation.

A brief description of our solution: Vik Booking + Vik Channel Manager and e4jConnect

We have been providing a full solution of Booking Engine + PMS and Channel Manager for hotels and accommodations since 2008.

e4jConnect is the name of our Channel Manager service, it is listed as a Premier Connectivity Partner of OTAs like Booking.com and Expedia.

The service we offer is slightly different from most solutions, as it's entirely installed on your own Joomla or WordPress website, thanks to the two complementary plugins Vik Booking and Vik Channel Manager, the leading solutions for hoteliers in Joomla and WordPress with hundreds of positive reviews and thousands of active installations.

Vik Booking is an all-in-one Booking Engine + PMS plugin, it's a powerful, experienced and certified piece of software that will perfectly fit on your Joomla or WordPress website. You can start collecting direct bookings with no commissions from your website with just a few minutes of setup.

Since our plugins are completely designed to work on your website, customers visiting your website will never be redirected away to complete the reservations.

Moreover, you collect all the information and payments from your guests, and so you own the software as well as all data.

It is not like "renting" an external service that serves as another distribution channel, and that would make your website host a simple booking calendar for then redirecting your customers away.

With Vik Booking you give the highest value to your website, and you invest on something of your own.

Vik Channel Manager is a plugin designed to work next to Vik Booking, and it provides all the necessary connectivity features with various distribution channels.

Once you set up the configuration with your preferred booking channels, this plugin will do the rest by itself, and you can just focus on your business without risking overbooking or wasting time on updating the rates/availability across all sale channels.

e4jConnect is an award winning Channel Manager service, it's basically what we have been calling the "dedicated servers" in this article.

Our dedicated servers will take care of the data transmission as well as of all the daily operations you need to perform, like changing the rates for your rooms or updating the availability automatically due to some new bookings you have received.

e4jConnect Connectivity Partner of Booking.com 2020e4jConnect Connectivity Partner of Booking.com 2019e4jConnect Connectivity Partner of Booking.com 2018

If your website is based on WordPress or Joomla, or if you are willing to renovate your website, then it's time to try an innovative solution like ours.

Having the software installed on your own website will make a difference, especially when your site will rank higher in the search engines to drive more and more direct bookings.
This will let you save money on commissions and you will automatically increase your revenue.

You can build something tailored for your property, whether you have a web-agency that takes care of your website, or if you simply have the knowledge of installing two simple plugins on your existing WordPress or Joomla website.

e4jConnect.com and e4j - Extensionforjoomla.com are not affiliated with or endorsed by the Joomla! Project or Open Source Matters.
The Joomla! name and logo is used under a limited license granted by Open Source Matters the trademark holder in the United States and other countries.
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