Difference between a PMS, a Channel Manager, and an Online Travel Agency

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This article is written from a perspective to the hotel owner

What is the difference between a PMS, a Channel Manager, and an Online Travel Agency (Channel)?

Understanding the systems and their roles

Online Travel Agencies (Channels)

The easiest system to understand is the Online Travel Agency (OTA), otherwise known as a “Channel“.  

These channels are where you have listed your property for sale, and where many of your guests search for and book your property.  Great examples of these OTA channels are:

  • www.makemytrip.com
  • www.expedia.com
  • www.booking.com
  • www.airbnb.com
  • And many others

Channel Roles

Your channels fulfill many roles, and here are the most common ones:

  • Listing your property for sale on their website
  • Providing a method for your guests to book accommodations at your property
  • Sending your guest bookings to the appropriate system (such as a connected channel manager, directly to your email, to a Property Management System, etc.)
  • Fulfilling their part of the contract you signed when listing your property with the channel

Channel Managers

Channel Manager is a system that broadcasts your property inventory to multiple channels, and keeps all of the information in “sync” between the channels.  This way, when a booking is made at one channel, the inventory is reduced across all of your channels.  This “sync” allows you to market all of your rooms to every connected channel, while at the same time helps to prevent over-bookings.

The Channel Manager maximizes your opportunity for revenue, and reduces your risk of overbookings to a bare minimum.

Your channel manager is responsible for fulfilling the following roles:

  • Sending Rates to your OTA’s
  • Sending Availability to your OTA’s (including restrictions such as Closed to Arrival, etc).
  • Receiving Bookings from your OTA’s
  • Reducing Availability counts when a booking is made and broadcasting your updated inventory to all of your connected channels
  • Receiving inventory (Rate* and Availability) updates from a PMS system, if connected to one, and then broadcasting those updates to your connected channels

Property Management Systems (PMS)

A Property Management System (abbreviated as PMS) is a robust and powerful system that helps you manage multiple aspects of your property.  While each PMS is different, most PMS systems perform the following functions:

  • Stores Availability and Rates* for all of your accommodations in a calendar format, allowing you to see your open rooms and Guest bookings at a single glance
  • Provides an easy to see and utilize method for room/bed assignments
  • Takes in reservations from your connected source(s) and populates those reservations into the calendar, thus updating your Availability in their system
  • When connected to a channel manager, the PMS sends Availability (and usually Rate) information to the channel manager.  The channel manager then sends the inventory updates to your connected channels.

The above functions are basic and apply to almost every PMS.  Many PMS systems also introduce other functionality, such as:

  • Online interface for direct website bookings
  • Housekeeping optimisation
  • Amenities
  • Reporting
  • Payment Gateways
  • And many, many more

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