Finding the best Channel Manager for vacation rentals – or switching to a new one – can be a daunting task. 

How do you know which providers will deliver on their promise and increase your conversions from OTAs?

The quality of channel connections is the best indicator of a Channel Manager’s reliability. 

Whether you can trust a Channel Manager with your distribution hinges on the provider’s ability to constantly update and maintain strong API connections.  

Let’s look at ways to identify truly superior channel connections that can help property managers rank better on OTAs. 

Channel Managers: the core of the vacation rental tech stack

The vacation rental industry owes a lot of its growth to technology. 

Tech has enabled property managers to manage their units efficiently, streamline various operational and marketing processes and leverage the power of data to scale their businesses

Tech startups and innovative B2B providers are in fierce competition to develop the best software solutions on the market. Some of them provide hybrid software solutions that cover all the bases, others swear by focusing all their efforts in one area to create specialised tech tools. 

Property Management Systems and Channel Managers are the two most commonly adopted software solutions. These are the two tools that property managers see as their core tech. 

According to the findings of the Global Short-Term Rental Tech Report, which was based on the largest survey conducted on vacation rental tech, 81% of property managers use a PMS, and 57% use an external Channel Manager on top of their PMS. 

This means that, when it comes to distribution, property managers are increasingly looking for specialised solutions that can provide something more than the built-in channel management functionalities of a PMS. 

But what makes a specialised channel manager so… special?

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Better channel connections: the key to effective online distribution

Connectivity is the glue that holds the vacation rental industry together. In order for technology to work, different platforms need to connect and communicate with each other. These connections must be stable and they need to be constantly maintained. 

Good channel connections are the single most important feature to look for in a Channel Manager for vacation rentals. 

According to our research, good connections are a top priority for property managers.

48% of property managers say they would be convinced to pay for an external Channel Manager if it had better channel connections, and 47% say they would change Channel Managers if the new Channel Manager had better channel connections. 

But how do Channel Managers connect to booking sites? And what makes a channel connection superior? Let’s get techie for a minute. 

How do API connections work? 

In order to ensure reliable and stable connections, a Channel Manager must have a valid contract with each service that it connects to. Connections must always be official and they must undergo a certification process before going live. 

Specialised Channel Managers connect to listing sites via API connections

API stands for Application Programming Interface. API connections allow services to communicate with each other. Their purpose is to make it easier for developers to integrate new components into an existing software architecture. Thus, they facilitate the collaboration between businesses, who can provide each other with Partner APIs. 

When connecting a Channel Manager to an OTA, API connections are used to automatically sync rates, availability, content, images, promotional prices and more. 

How to know if you’ve found the best Channel Manager for vacation rentals

Choosing the best Channel Manager for vacation rentals is not as difficult as it may seem. There is a trick that you can use to identify ones that are reliable – in other words, ones that provide strong API connections.  

Major OTAs run programmes to recognise and promote their best software partners. They evaluate the providers they work with to make sure that they meet the highest tech and service standards. 

For example, tech providers who partner with Booking.com must meet a set of strict requirements:

Powerful Connection: Synchronisation must run smoothly at all times.

Adaptability: Partners must adopt upgrades to provide property managers with the latest features and functionalities.

Service: Partners must provide an exceptional level of service, tools and solutions that help take full advantage of the integration.

Commitment: Partners must be dedicated to knowledge-sharing, educating and helping property managers grow. 

HomeAway/VRBO also considers many factors when evaluating software providers, including the quality of the integration (version currentness, technical performance and reliability) as well as an understanding of customer needs. 

When a tech provider meets an OTA’s criteria, they are awarded a badge. These badges are good indicators of how professional and sophisticated a provider’s tech is. 

Checking whether a Channel Manager has been recognised by the major OTAs as a trusted partner is a great way to tell whether it has the strong channel connections you’re looking for.

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How to tell if your Channel Manager has updated API connections

OTAs are laser-focused on conversions and how to generate higher quality ones. They are constantly developing new tools and services for property managers to help them market their properties better.

For you to be able to take advantages of these new tools and services, the API connections that your Channel Manager uses to connect with OTAs must be up-to-date, too. It takes a professional and dedicated Channel Manager to always keep up with the changes OTAs make yearly.

So if you’re already using a Channel Manager, check if you have access to the following:

  1. Do you have the Booking.com Promotions and Opportunities API?
  2. Do you have the Booking.com Guest Reviews API? 
  3. For HomeAway/VRBO, do you have the 4.2. standard implemented with LOS pricing and price consistency? 
  4. Do you sync extra fees and taxes on Airbnb? 

If the answers to these questions are ‘no’, there’s a good chance that your API connections are not up-to-date. 

Rentals United: The Channel Manager  

Rentals United is the only Channel Manager that has been recognised as a Premier and Preferred Partner of the 4 global OTAs – Booking .com, TripAdvisor, HomeAway/VRBO and Airbnb – for the second year in a row. 

In 2020, we achieved Elite Partner status with HomeAway/VRBO: an honour that is only granted to the highest-performing software providers. As a part of this partnership, Rentals United may receive early access to new VRBO tools and features for integrated partners. 

We excel in channel connections because we work tirelessly to update them. Our tech team invests a lot of time and effort into making sure that property managers who partner with us always have access to the latest tools and services built by OTAs. For example, last year we made 6 updates to our Booking.com API.

At Rentals United, we funnel more than 56 billion APIs and 150 complex connections to allow property managers to connect with OTAs, rank better and increase their conversions. 

Besides major OTAs, we also work with a large variety of niche channels to help property managers diversify their marketing mix. 

If you want to find out more, talk to one of our distribution experts!