A vacation rental channel manager is an essential tool for hosts who want to strategize their business, increase their bookings, and optimize their work. However, not all hosts are ready to commit to (or have the budget for) a paid channel manager. So, what then?
The solution lies in a free channel manager for vacation rentals that you can use as a test run to see how you get along with this type of tool. It can be a budget-friendly alternative to a paid, more extensive channel manager.
Read on to find out more about the best free channel manager systems (with no strings attached) for property managers and vacation rental owners.
What Is a Channel Manager?
A channel manager for vacation rentals is a distribution tool that displays properties across different vacation rental channels, listing websites, and online travel agencies—such as Airbnb, Booking.com, TripAdvisor, Expedia, and so on.
Hosts can manage all the information on each site from the channel manager tool. The calendar, bookings, and property information are updated in real-time and synchronized to prevent double bookings.
Why Do Hosts Need a Channel Manager?
A good channel manager can be a life-changer for hosts. Here’s how it benefits vacation rental owners and managers:
Listings Visibility – You can post and manage your listing on various channels which ensures you a wider reach and increases your rental’s visibility.
More Bookings – Since the listing will be present on multiple platforms, you’ll increase your chances of getting more bookings.
Saves Time and Effort – You won’t need to cross-check bookings or manually update listings (which can be time-consuming and nerve-racking). A channel manager automatically updates listings across all platforms and keeps your bookings streamlined. By investing that extra time in promoting your listing and improving your marketing strategy, you can further increase your revenue.
No Double Bookings – If you have multiple properties, it can be hard to keep track of reservations and bookings. A channel manager synchronizes the availability across all rentals and makes sure that there are no double bookings.
Higher Revenue – With an up-to-date calendar, you won’t need to worry about losses caused by overbooking and double booking. You can have your listing on as many platforms as you want which will increase your income. On top of that, having all the information about your bookings in one place can give you insight into which channels are the most popular, and you can adjust your pricing and availability accordingly.
What to Look for In a Channel Manager
If you’re looking for a free channel manager, that ‘no-cost’ factor will be the key criterion, but to make an informative decision, it helps to know which other factors are relevant.
We’ve covered in detail what characteristics make an efficient channel manager for hosts in this article, but here’s a quick summary of what to check when considering a channel manager:
- Native/API integrations with channels you want to list your properties on
- Information on channel manager synchronization (whether it synchronizes just calendar availability, or also booking details, rates, and property details)
- Additional features like direct booking, a website builder, automated messaging, owner commission statements and payouts, Quickbooks accounting integration, etc. (depending on what you need and want)
- Number of properties you own and whether the channel can support what you need—some may offer too many unnecessary features (if you have 1 or 2 properties) or not enough (if you manage multiple properties)
- The value that the channel brings to your business and how much you can gain by investing in a comprehensive tool (if you decide to go with a paid channel manager at some point)
Is a Free Channel Manager Really Free?
Often you’ll find a list of ‘free’ channel managers that actually aren’t free at all, but they just offer a free trial. We did manage to find completely free tools, but there are also some great paid channel managers you can test out for free and see if they’re worth the money.
In fact, there are many paid channel managers that offer free trials. There’s our favorite channel manager Uplisting, for example, that offers a 14-day free trial, and you won’t even need a credit card to give it a try. GuestHug has one of the longest free trials (30 days) and after that one of the lowest prices (just 1.99 pounds per month if you have 1 listing).
Some channel managers offer plans with no sign-up fees and no subscriptions like Lodgify (you pay only when you get a booking). New hosts might find this useful.
If you find vacation rental software with a free plan, you should also pay attention to what features are available. Smoobu, for example, is a bit tricky in that they offer a free plan, but it doesn’t include the channel manager feature.
Free Channel Managers for Hosts
If you want a free channel manager without limited trials and with no strings attached, we’ve picked out these completely free tools that you can use as long as you want without spending a penny:
Lodgable – This is an all-in-one software for vacation rentals. It can work for both property managers and hosts with a single rental. All you need to do is sign up and you’ll get access to their channel manager, property management system, custom website builder, listing optimization, dynamic pricing, and cleaning management tools.
Bookfull – While Bookfull offers paid plans, there is also a free plan that has no time limitations. Compared to other free plans, this one comes with quite a long list of features, including a channel manager, calendar synchronization, updated rates, in-app messaging, credit card processing, and more.
Hostex – Here’s another free channel manager that only requires signing in. With this software, you’ll get pretty much all you need to manage your property smoothly—a channel manager, check-in management, guest management, multi-calendar, unified inbox, and analytics, to name a few.
Free channel managers aren’t just a myth and don’t just refer to the free trials that some paid channel managers offer. You can find free tools that will do all the work you need without an extra cost. However, paid channel managers do offer more features (they have to justify the price, don’t they?), so they’re also worth considering especially if you manage several properties.
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