We explain the difference between a PMS and a Channel Manager?

I get this question a lot and I understand why.

Firstly let’s start with understanding the abbreviations PMS (Property Management System) OTAs (Online Travel Agents) and Channel Manager just says what it is. 

channel manager is a tool that will allow you to sell all your rooms on all your connected booking sites at the same time. 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.  Just a few examples of OTA channels include:

Channel Roles

Your channels handle and accomplish many tasks, below are some of the 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

The hospitality industry is full of different technology solutions to assist running your business and confusion seems rife within the serviced apartment sector.  I am sure this is the same for when running a hotel or B&B but today I will focus on my experience with serviced apartments. 

While meeting people talking about Apartbook and our system SAMS, which may I add is an abbreviation for (Serviced Apartment Management System), just to add an extra layer of confusion. I always get asked, “so are you a channel manager?” and my simple answer is no. However, that answer is far too simple,  as we do connect with a Channel Manager. 

SAMS is property management but for the serviced apartment sector… I hope you are still with me, focuses on the day to day running of your business. 

Most PMS systems will have calendars for booking, some form of payment solution and more than likely a report or two, and all will probably have some sort of connection with a channel manager or direct connections. 

Channel managers are the middle man between the OTAs and the PMS that allow you to receive bookings from many different OTAs and there are many, hundreds if not thousands globally.

This is where I think people get confused. 

Most Channel managers will provide a basic calendar function to upload rates and see a booking, now if that is all you need you may not be looking for a PMS, although it does restrict further communication between you and your guests as well as the other functionality a system like SAMS will provide.

A channel manager will not host payment solutions, direct messaging, invoicing, apartment management, maintenance logging etc, or work with you to help streamline your businesses process. 

Of course, that is not where the confusion ends as so many PMS systems also claim to be channel managers and channel managers claim to be PMS systems. With hundreds of different companies claiming to do the same thing, it can easily lead to confusion as to what my business needs. I am guessing this is the point where you need a cup of tea or something stronger to help with the head-spinning confusion.

I like to think of it this way. 

The saying “ jack of all trades master of none” comes to mind when researching the many different PMS systems on the market. 

Which appears to be leaving the hospitality technology industry with a bad name, but I will leave that for another day. 

So to conclude a PMS may not be for you. However, if it is, maybe look at what the system can actually do rather than the promise and see if it works for your business needs, don’t get fooled by the buzz words and tech jargon. And if it is a channel manager you are looking for then remember they are the middle man, you might need a PMS to go with it. 

Of course, if you see an all in one we do everything and we will solve every problem in your business,  you might need to think of the saying.