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Channel Management Overview

OwnerRez started as a way to centralize booking calendars between listing websites so you don't get double-bookings. Our Calendar Sync functions still offer an effective way to do that, and only that.

But there's a lot more to listings than just syncing calendars.  Your listings need to stay up to date with many things - rates, rules, photos, amenities, etc - and it's a pain to have to manually make those changes by hand on multiple channels and for multiple properties.

We've built a large suite of Channel Management features that allows you to make those changes in one place - OwnerRez - and have them replicated onto the major listing sites.  Our Channel Management methods also collect information gathered by the sites, like guest contact info and reviews, and pull it into OwnerRez.

As you can imagine, Channel Management is a broad topic with a lot of nuance and variation.  What type of user you are, and how you run your vacation rental business, will have certain ramifications.  Please read the following sections to dig deeper into our Channel Management feature.

Integration differences for users of different size ('Mom and Pop' owners vs. PMs)

We love individual owners, and OwnerRez was designed for them!  Unfortunately not everybody feels that way and sometimes we're stuck with limits imposed by the channel.

For example, we support a full-featured automatic API connection with HomeAway/VRBO (that also distributes to Expedia). Unfortunately, HomeAway does not allow owners with fewer than 5 properties to use this.  Instead, small owners must use our manual Channel Bridge tool to push rates, and iCal to do automatic calendar syncing.  These work perfectly well, just not quite as smoothly and completely as the API integration.

We are constantly pushing our channel partners to allow smaller operators to use the best features, but ultimately, they have control of who they will allow to use what in their own systems.

For larger operators who meet these minimums, the API integrations make channel management far more automatic - but still not 100%.  For example, the AirBNB API integration does not support propagation of financial data.  The only way to get that into OwnerRez is by using Channel Bridge, no matter how many properties you have.  This is a limit of the Airbnb API and it does not matter if you have 100 properties or use a different channel manager/PMS - Airbnb would still not provide the financial data.  Again, here at OwnerRez, our Channel Bridge tool was built to get around that.

You can read more about specific functions and differences between the various channels below, and in this table.

Our own code versus using Third Party Channel Managers

Some of our older users know that it took awhile for our Channel Management to get off the ground.  This is because our channel integration code is built entirely in-house.  We do not support or integrate with any "third party channel managers".  Why not:

  1. With our own code, we directly control and are responsible for the integration with each channel. This means that we can deliver our trademark power and reliability rather than having to play telephone through a third party to get to the channel.
  2. Channel managers are extremely expensive. Some charge 3-5% of the gross booking amount on top of the already large commissions that each channel charges. Others charge $50-100 per month per listing.  As vacation rental owners ourselves, we know how steep of a price that is. They justify it by saying, "just build it into your rates", but that means your booking volumes go down. Building direct integrations takes longer but lets us price on a simple per-property flat rate (see below).
  3. Many channels require a minimum of 5 properties to access any direct integration. For smaller folks, we've developed the Channel Bridge tool to bypass that limit.
  4. The promise of being on "hundreds" of channels rings hollow. The key is to be on the big 5 or 10 channels in your area and the rest are a distraction. More channels means more work and more things that can go wrong - even with a channel manager you still end up running around doing little one-off fixes... and you end up being limited in pricing and policy decisions to what is supported by the lowest common denominator channel.

Technical terms like "API" and "synced"

As you read about Channel Management, and start to configure the connections, you'll see terms like "API" and "synced".  In fact, our list of channel connections in OwnerRez is broken up into those two categories.  So what do they mean?

"API integrated" channels means we have a partner level agreement with the channel, and our servers talk directly to their servers. The property content (photos, amenities, house rules, descriptions), rates, rules, and availability are automatically pushed back and forth and there's nothing you need to do manually. Bookings are sent over to our system automatically as well.  As properties, rates and rules change in OwnerRez, they will automatically change on the channel - typically within a few minutes or seconds.

"Synced" channels is where we support basic calendar integration (iCal) and inquiry parsing.  We do not have a partner level agreement with the channel, but we support open standards that all channels adhere to (like iCal) and import/export what we can. We also have a tool called Channel Bridge that works with "synced" channel settings. For instance, in the synced channel settings, you can map property/listing #'s and set other settings (like whether tax is included in the rate) and then Channel Bridge checks that when it's importing data. There is a rate push part as well on synced channels which also uses/requires Channel Bridge.

Unlike the API channels, Channel Bridge must be run manually by you at your computer, typically once or twice daily.  The iCal calendar sync connections do run automatically, to prevent double-bookings, but for the rest of the data captured by Channel Bridge, that occurs only when you manually run it.

API integrated channels are definitely preferred as they sync a lot more details and run automatically in the background.  But API integrations are harder to build and take a lot of time in partnering with each channel one by one.  They also come with limitations on the user as discussed above, which are outside of our control.  If you are a small/Mom-and-Pop type owner, you will only be able to use some API integrations but not all.

You can mix and mingle API and synced channel connection and most users will need to do that.  For instance, you may have API integration in place for AirBNB but only have a synced calendar for TripAdvisor because you have only 3 properties.  In some cases, you may have had a synced connection for a channel, and then move to API, and the synced connection stays in place (though isn't used).  This is common and perfectly fine.

The channels we currently support

Currently, we support connections with the following list of channels:

  • API Integrated channels:
  • Synced channels:
    • Agoda
    • AirBNB
    • Facebook
    • Flipkey
    • FreeVacationRentalSite
    • GetawayDigs
    • Glamping Hub
    • HomeAway
    • HomeEscape
    • PerfectPlaces
    • VacationRentals
    • VRBO
    • Alabama Vacation Home Rentals
    • California Vacation Rentals
    • Carolina Vacation Home Rentals
    • Colorado Vacation Homes
    • Cottages in Canada
    • Emerald Coast By Owner (ecbyo.com)
    • Florida 30A Home Rentals
    • Florida Rental By Owners
    • FloridaRentals.com
    • Hawaiian Island Vacation Rentals
    • MD/DE Vacation Rentals By Owners
    • New York Rental BY Owner
    • RentalBug.com
    • SayulitaLife.com
    • Smoky Mountains By Owners
    • Spain-Holiday.com
    • Tennessee Rentals By Owner
    • TexEscapes
    • USVI Vacation Homes
    • VRLB
    • Virginia Vacation Rentals
    • And any other local or regional listing site that supports iCal and sends you inquiry emails

What about all the other travel sites and OTAs?!

From time to time, we are asked about being on Priceline, Travelocity, and may other travel channels and OTAs.  We do not currently support those.  There are several reasons.

First, the promise of being on "hundreds" of channels rings hollow. The key is to be on the big 5 or 10 channels in your area and the rest are a distraction. More channels means more work and more things that can go wrong - even with a channel manager you still end up running around doing little one-off fixes... and you end up being limited in pricing and policy decisions to what is supported by the lowest common denominator channel.

For instance, some of the major OTAs (like Priceline) are not set up to advertise vacation rentals thoroughly or correctly.  When vacation rentals are displayed, the finer points of deposits due up front, when the second payment is paid, cancellation policies and so on are not shown.  It is common for guests and owners to both be annoyed when the guest expects to cancel and the owner does not let them or when other renter agreements or security deposits are required down the line.  Many users who spend a lot of time trying to "be everywhere" end up turning that off quickly after they realize how the end result looks.

Your focus should be to advertise on channels that specifically cater to vacation rentals well (VRBO, AirBNB, regional listing sites in your area) and do as well on those channels as you can.  Then, build a nice personal vacation rental website and build your own brand and following.

Lastly, if there are channels that do send you great vacation rental traffic, let us know.  We are constantly improving and working on our Channel Management feature, and there are other channels we are working on integrating all the time. 

Channel-specific differences

Our API Integrated channel connections will greatly simplify and streamline your advertising, but you should be aware that there are a number of specific differences between the channels.  Each API Integrated channel has different requirements, restrictions and sets of fields they support with lots of overlap between them.  Even if they support the same setting, there are differences in what the setting means or how you are limited in using it.

We've prepared a detailed list of channel-specific differences and comparison matrix.  Please consult this as you determine what will or will not work or you and as you begin to set up your properties, rules and other things within OwnerRez.  If you run into activation issues, the comparison matrix is also a good place to check.

Messaging and unified inbox

Currently, our Airbnb API integration sends messages from AirBNB to OwnerRez directly and you can answer those, as well as prepare special offers, directly in OwnerRez. You can also send images and everything else that AirBNB supports in their message system - all of from OwnerRez.

However, there is no "unified inbox" in OwnerRez beyond the AirBNB messaging, so your VRBO bookings (for instance) will not send messages through to OwnerRez.

We are working towards a long-term goal of having a global unified inbox, and our goal is to support both direct guest messaging (email and SMS to the guest directly) but also support platform messaging (through VRBO and AirBNB) via the same unified inbox.

You can forward inquiries into OwnerRez, and we have a parsing engine that will turn emails into inquiries and allow you to prepare quotes and sends responses.  However, that uses traditional email as a response to the guest and not the same inbox as the AirBNB integration.  So the AirBNB inbox and the general inquiry system are two separate things.

As it says on our inquiry forwarding support article, we do not recommend forwarding VRBO or TripAdvisor inquiries to OwnerRez becomes the guest's email address is hidden, and any response you send back by email will get stripped by VRBO or TripAdvisor.  We recommend answering those inquiries on the platform or by email directly as you have done before.

Extra costs and fees

There is an extra monthly cost to use Channel Management, in recognition of the large amount of coding work required to create and maintain the API connections and Channel Bridge.  However, we do not take a percentage of the booking revenue or anything like that.  The price for Channel Management is a flat monthly fee, added to your monthly OwnerRez invoice, based on the number of properties.

You can see the exact price by visiting our pricing calculator page or reading our comprehensive Costs and Fees article.  As you add additional properties, the price per property drops quickly.

Our fee for Channel Management does not include any charges or fees from the channel for listing your property.  For instance, if you list on VRBO, they may charge you a few hundred dollars per year as an "annual subscription".  Our small monthly fee is in addition to that and does not include their annual subscription fee.

To be clear, there is no extra cost for basic calendar syncing (i.e. iCal).  That is included for free in the base monthly price.