If you are a hotelier or a vacation rentals property manager you’ll be very familiar with the marketing problems we all face. You have a few options: Either you work with a company that brings you plenty of sales and it costs the earth, you do your own marketing which is a non-core activity and detracts from your main focus of serving customers, or you work with many smaller travel agents who are less aggressive with their pricing.
The third option appears the obvious choice. Option 1 is too expensive and option 2 is too labour intensive and requires great bursts of inspiration which is taxing at times and is often just down right impossible. However even with option 3 there are significant problems in working with multiple agents or sales channels as they are known in the jargon. Let’s take a look at them.
First of all, working with many channels means you need a business relationship with each one of them. That means a contract, a contact, and an invoicing relationship. This can become time consuming if you want to work with many agents to maximize your exposure.
Secondly each of these agencies will expect you to keep your availability and pricing correct up to the minute. Manually updating many calendars is very time consuming. Many companies I know have staff which do nothing else.
Thirdly with each of these agencies it’s necessary to upload full descriptions of each property to their websites so you can start doing business with them. Fortunately this only needs to be done once, but failure to do a good job can result in customers who expected something different or worse still, poor sales.
Channel managers would have you believe they are the answer to your prayers. They solve the problem of calendars and pricing by giving you a single place to fill the information. They will do the rest with their automated connections to your favourite agencies. The more advanced channel managers, like Rentals United, the one I’m involved with will also allow you to optimize the presentation of your properties and they will do the rest, forwarding those details onward to the agencies, relieving you of a significant burden.
But anyone who has tried working with a channel manager will know that this is only half the battle. Once you log into your channel manager you will see a big list of companies you can work with, but if you don’t have a business relationship with those channels, the channel manager cannot do it for you. Until now it’s still necessary to contact each agency one by one, agree terms and sign contracts, and you’ll need to settle with each of them separately.
The End Game
So what is needed then? Automated contract signing and a payments hub right? This way you can work with many more agents and just get one invoice a month from the channel manager for all the dues you have to pay to (or receive from) each agent. Whilst this might seem a trivial matter, it’s not. The reason for this is that each agent will handle payments a slightly different way. Some will take their commission up front. Some will invoice you. Others will take all the funds from the customer and transfer your share to you. This is a significant barrier to a friction-less economy, and limits the number of agencies any property provider can work with.
These problems are not insurmountable. If property managers are willing to deposit funds as security they will be able to work with agents that invoice their commission. If agencies which send funds after arrival will also deposit funds reducing risk for the channel managers then costs can be kept low and the benefits can be passed to both sides.
In a short while it may be as simple as clicking a box to have your properties displayed on a partner’s website. Let’s see how it works out!