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Making Sense of Channel Management

Charlotte Gannon • June 6, 2024

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Channel management is fundamentally changing how tour operators do business. But what exactly is it, why does it matter and who’s it for? Let’s take a look.

What is a channel manager?

A channel manager is a piece of software, or “plug-in”, that connects tour operators with resellers and OTAs via an API. This connection helps tour operators unlock more streams of revenue by making their products available to more people – and the beauty of it all is that the moment you make a sale through one reseller (or your own website), your inventory updates automatically across all the resellers you work with.

Let’s say you run boat tours on the Amazon and only have two spots left on a particular day. The moment you sell those spots, everything updates. So if a customer then goes to your website or anywhere else you’re selling the boat tour, they’ll see that it’s sold out. This connectivity isn’t limited to inventory: it lets you do all sorts of things instantly wherever you sell your products, like updating your prices, altering availability or moving the cut-off time for making bookings.

Basically, a channel manager is a live connection that makes your life as a tour operator so much easier. And by opening doors to a whole new marketplace, it can help you scale fast.

What’s the big benefit of a channel manager?

Most tour or activity operators sell their products through resellers or OTAs because it’s a great way to expand reach and make more sales. The problem is that, traditionally, linking with resellers has been time-consuming and prone to manual errors.

Before channel management came along you basically had to create a bespoke connection with a reseller, either through an API or an extranet, to manage bookings. So if you wanted to sell through ten resellers, that’s ten different channels to manage.

With multiple channels taking bookings, your teams need to be on top of everything all the time, constantly updating inventory to make sure it’s aligned. It’s a reactive process and tours can easily get overbooked by accident. This costs money, wastes time and can really hurt your reputation.

By getting all your bookings in sync, a channel manager can help you bid good-bye to overbooking.

Do I really need a channel manager?

If you already have a reservation system in place then you’ll need to build a plug-in – and this obviously requires an investment on your end. Depending on resourcing, that could take a few days or a few weeks. Either way it’s an upfront cost you need to consider.

Here are the main reasons why you might want to make that investment and build channel management into your business:

You’re planning on selling through multiple resellers or OTAs

If you want to drive revenue long-term through an expanding network of resellers, a channel manager will help you do that. With one connection, you can plug into as many resellers as you want.

You’re entering international markets

There are so many international resellers out there! But if you want to sell your products to customers visiting from overseas, how do you know you’ve found the right one? The right channel manager will give you immediate access to an international marketplace – and be able to advise which resellers are right for you.

Your current process is inefficient

If you’re already working with various resellers, is the process as seamless as it should be? Managing multiple channels and making sure bookings are always up to date isn’t easy. A channel manager will do that for you, freeing you up to concentrate on other parts of your business.

Sounds good… but why Bókun?

You can access our channel manager in two ways: either by using Bókun as your main res tech or by keeping your existing res tech and connecting to Bókun through the channel manager API.

Our channel manager delivers a truly frictionless way of managing your bookings, but where it really comes into its own, is the strength of our network. According to Arival, online booking, specifically via OTAs, is set to overtake traditional offline bookings by 2025, so establishing a connection with as many resellers and OTAs as possible is critical for growth.

With the Bókun channel manager, you can put your products in front of millions of travelers every month and this can have a big impact on your bottom line. We’ve seen tour operators triple their gross booking value when they move from 4 sales channels to 5. The strength of our network is supported by Bókun being named a Premium Connectivity Partner with GetYourGuide, as well as a Top Viator Connectivity Partner.

Alongside the connectivity we offer our clients, our API is known industry-wide for being robust, secure and flexible. (Plus it’s really easy to navigate for developers.) We also offer a deeper level of support than many channel managers. Our technical and account management team won’t just help your developers build the plug-in – they’ll still be available once you’re up and running.

“We chose Bókun to connect live availability and pricing to agents globally. Rather than having to send regular manual updates on pricing and closeouts for availability, now it’s a seamless connection. (And) we’ve been able to connect with agents from different countries to reach a completely different customer base which has led to huge growth.” – Natalie Truman, Business Development Hub Manager at International Friends

Let’s talk!

Our channel manager is making a big difference to our cusomers. Helping them streamline bookings, scale faster and reach further. We’d love to show you how we can do the same for you too! To book a demo, get in touch with us here.