Hostel Channel Manager – The Ultimate Guide


Hostel Channel Manager

56% of all hostel managers swear by one company when it comes to channel managers. Do you know which one?

But let’s start a bit earlier in the process: Is a channel manager really worth its salt? And if so, how do you find the best among 32 software providers for your hostel?

If you’re currently asking yourself these questions, you’ve struck gold. In this guide, you’ll learn everything you need to know about channel managers.

Without further ado, let’s dig in!

What Is A Channel Manager?

A channel manager is a tool that allows you to automatically synchronize inventory across all your distribution channels. 

That way you have one centralized platform to easily manage all your channels, instead of updating your available rooms and rates manually on each and every channel.

“Channels” refers to distribution channels such as online travel agencies, social media, your website, meta-search engines etc. The process of managing them is called “channel management” – hence the name “channel manager”.

A channel manager is one of 3 key software solutions that are common among lodging facilities and go hand-in-hand. 

  • #1 Channel Manager (CM): used to manage your inventory across all your distribution channels
  • #3 Property Management System (PMS): needed in order to manage guest details and front desk activities, human resource management, payrolls, point of sale, etc.

Sometimes all three components are combined in one software solution. These kinds of tools often have a generic name like “hostel management software”. But they are also offered as a single piece and are typically compatible with other providers.

Let’s look at an example to see how they work together:

Let’s say you received a new booking through a walk-in. You then enter the reservation details in your property management system.

Your integrated channel manager instantly communicates to all your distribution channels (mainly online travel agencies) that your available rooms have shrunk by 1 for the duration of the booking.

Hence, the person who tries to book the same room one minute later on your website’s booking engine will get a notification that the room is already taken.

What Is A Channel Manager

While using a PMS for a hostel is still a controversial topic among hostel owners, almost all agree that a channel manager is a must-have tool for various reasons.

Benefits Of Using A Channel Manager

20 years earlier, big lodging facilities had to spend endless hours updating all their channels with multiple logins. Experiencing overbookings on a regular basis was the standard rather than the exception.

The development of a channel manager was a game changer in the hospitality industry.

Here are the 3 main benefits of using this tool:

#1 Avoids Overbookings

Who else feels an immediate sensation of unease when the word “overbooking” comes up?

No matter how good your systems are, by using a channel manager you can greatly reduce the chance of overbookings. It’s human to make mistakes. Even in the most sophisticated assembly lines, the failure rate is never zero. 

A good channel manager synchronizes your inventory in real-time. Hence, when two people try to book the same room on different websites at the same time, it will only allow for one reservation.

In other words, the sold room gets instantly removed from your available inventory across all your distribution channels.

A channel manager is not only handy, it’s also a sanity-saving tool!

In fact, I know several innkeepers who are afraid of overbookings to the point that they split their inventory across several different channels to try to avoid them (e.g. 50% of their beds are on Hostelworld, 50% on Booking.com instead of 100% on both websites).

However, this strategy leads systematically to a lower occupancy rate. Potential guests who’re looking for an accommodation on Hostelworld won’t visit other websites when your hostel is booked out – even though you might have some more rooms on Booking.com available. 

#2 Saves Time

Without a channel manager, you have to login to all the different extranets one by one to update your inventory.

If you only have one room across two channels, that might not be a big issue. However, managing 100 beds across 17 channels is a huge and extremely time-consuming task.

Hostel Channel Manager Benefits

Example:

Let’s pretend you have 10 rooms across 5 channels. Over the course of one year, you will have to maintain the availability and prices of 18.250 listings!

Whenever changes appear (e.g. a new booking, a cancellation, a change of reservation, etc.) you will have to manually update all other channels.

A channel manager can save you thousands of hours in the long run up to the point that you need less staff to run your hostel.

Furthermore, imagine you had your own systems in place to reduce the failure rate to 0.5%. This still means you’ll have 91 booking mistakes per year! 

This hassle-free tool frees up mental space and allows you to spend your time more wisely.

#3 More Bookings & Revenue

What might sound illogical is actually a reality: using a channel manager can lead to more bookings, i.e. revenue, in various ways.

Due to the huge time investment needed to manage availability and rates manually, many innkeepers limit themselves to only a few channels.

However, the more visible you are online, the higher the likelihood of receiving bookings – indirectly as well as directly! This effect is called “billboard effect”.

A study from Cornell University in 2017 showed an increase in direct bookings ranging between 9-26% by using online travel agencies. [SourceOpens in a new tab.]

Advantage Of0 Channel Manager Hostel

Furthermore, it turns testing new marketing strategies into a breeze:

  • You’re unsure if Airbnb is really worth it? – Within a few minutes, you’re in the game.
  • Dynamic pricing seems to be superior? – You’re just a few clicks away.
  • 2 or 3 days minimum length of stay? – Let’s set it up using split-testing.

By reducing overbookings, you are also able to increase your overall rating which directly influences the number of bookings you receive.

In fact, travelers are willing to pay 35% more for a hotel with a 4.4 rating over one with 3.9 stars. [SourceOpens in a new tab.] If you want to see more awesome stats, check out my blog about the 6 reasons why online reviews are crucial for your hostel.

Okay, gotcha. But what are the drawbacks of using a channel manager?

Disadvantages Of Using A Channel Manager

Of course, this service comes with a price tag. 

Depending on the functionality and complexity of the software and the size of your hostel, a channel manager typically costs between $25 and $350 per month.

Don’t worry, there are several awesome low-budget opportunities available.

That said, I advocate you look at your hostel holistically and through your business glasses: If a $25 investment can bring you $100 more in revenue and reduce your staff’s time by 15 hours, it’s well worth its salt, right?

One additional booking per month has the potential to redeem the full price. This is probably one of THE best investments a hostel owner can ever make. Period.

Why do I want to reiterate that so much? – It’s because of my survey results. 

I recently surveyed hostel managers. One of the questions was: “Do you use a channel manager?”

Here’s the result among 91 hostel owners:

Hostel Channel Manager Statistics

Yes, you read that right. Only around 55% of hostel managers use a channel manager as per October 2019.

Phew!

I was paralyzed from shock.

I can only think of one single scenario in which no channel manager could be an option: you only use ONE single distribution channel to receive bookings for your hostel (e.g. solely walk-in traffic).

However, I don’t know any successful hostel that works like that. Hence, this is for the ones among you who belong to the 45% group:

That said, there are a few things to look out for when choosing your channel manager. Let’s dig a bit deeper.

How To Choose The Best Channel Manager For Your Hostel

There are 6 key factors you want to look at when doing your research.

#1 Available Channels

Let’s start with a no-brainer.

If you’re getting the most bookings through Hostelworld.com, your channel manager should be compatible with this OTA, right?

However, if you’re just starting out and you’re not sure yet which online travel agency is going to be the best distribution channels for your hostel, you definitely want to check out my complete guide about OTAs.

I’ve analyzed the top 41 hostels worldwide to see which OTAs they’re using to get bookings. In total, they use 18 different websites, but only a few are used by all of them. Hence, make sure your channel manager includes as many as possible of the most common OTAs for hostels

Many channel managers focus on hotels. Hence, they might not include all hostel-specific OTAs like Hostelculture.com, Dorms.com, Hostelsclub.com, etc.

#2 Pricing

Don’t get dazzled by “free” or abnormally low price tags. The last thing you want to do is to enter a “free” subscription contract with many hidden fees.

Hence, spend some time analyzing the pricing model:

  • Is there a setup fee?
  • Are the prices fixed or do they vary depending on the number of sales or your inventory (“pay as you go”)?
  • Can you quit monthly?
  • Do you have to pay extra for every additional channel you add?
  • Do you have free access to support? Or does it come with costs?

You typically get this information by going to their individual website and the category “pricing”. However, some websites have mastered the art of hiding their fees.

#3 Support

The level of support is typically what separates the low-price options from the more expensive ones.

If your channel manager is down, your bookings may stop. Even though this is typically not an issue when you choose a good provider, good support can save you from losing thousands in missed revenue.

The optimal solution is a 24/7 support to make sure any issues can be solved as quickly as possible.

#4 PMS Compatibility

If you opt for a property management system (PMS), you need to make sure that your channel managers offers a two-way connection to your PMS. Otherwise, you’ll still have to manually copy-paste or type in reservation details.

I also recommend you stick to a popular brand that seamlessly connects with heaps of other providers in case you want to change your PMS down the road

#5 User Friendliness

Since your staff is probably going to use the channel manager as well, it’s worth choosing an easy and intuitive tool. It shouldn’t take longer than 15min to get the hang of it.

Hence, make sure it’s available in your language and has a simple and clutter-free interface. 

Hostel Channel Manager Features

#6 Other Factors

Pooled inventory: This feature allows your channel manager to show all your available rooms on every single channel instead of having to split up your inventory. This has become the standard in great channel managers.

Booking engine: Some channel managers come with an integrated booking engine or booking widget that allows travelers to book your hostel directly on your website. It’s typically a simple HTML code that you can copy-paste on your website within a few seconds.

Dynamic pricing: If you’re an established hostel with a stable and proven business model, you might be interested in pricing strategies like dynamic pricing to further increase your occupancy rate. However, I do not recommend this at the very beginning of starting a hostel.

Payment methods: The availability of different payment methods has been an issue in the early stages of channel managers. In the meantime, a good tool should offer all common transaction methods.

Free trial: I am personally very skeptical when a software provider doesn’t offer a free trial. The costs of offering such a service are almost zero to them.

Hence, those who do not offer this premium are often companies whose software is “too weak” to convince you to buy. Of course, there are exceptions to this rule but the low number of exceptions confirm the rule.

If you’re reading through this list thinking “Goddammit, that sounds like a lot of work”, I’ve got you covered. The following analysis will answer all your questions.

Channel Manager Recommendations For Hostels

My job at TheHostelHelper is to make your life as easy as humanly possible. Hence, I’ve compared all the available channel managers for hostels – from the whacky to the downright awesome.

I’ve studied their features & pricing and went through their free trial (if available) to create a ranking for you.

To further help you navigate through these tricky waters, I’ve conducted another survey among hostel managers in which I’ve asked which channel manager they use. 

Let’s start with the latter before we get to my actual recommendation.

The Most Common Channel Managers Among Hostels

Here are the survey results among the 51 hostel managers that use a channel manager.

Channel Manager Hostel Statistics

Boom!

In point of fact, a total of 56% of hostel managers use “MyAllocator” by Cloudbeds.

To be honest, I actually expected this number to be even higher. Almost every single hostel that I visit relies on MyAllocator.

Best Hostel Channel Manager

TheHostelHelper is all about using successful concepts and proven tools rather than reinventing the wheel.

I’ve ranked the channel manager “MyAllocatorOpens in a new tab.” from Cloudbeds on place one.

Here are the primary reasons why I’m confident telling you that this is literally THE best – a statement that you almost never see on this website:

#1 Variety Of Channels

MyAllocator can seamlessly connect to more than 300 channels (including the most important OTAs for hostels).

Furthermore, if new channels are coming up (which happens several times a month), you can be sure that CloudbedsOpens in a new tab. is already trying to add this new channel and will be one of the very first adopters. They are BEYOND proactive when it comes to embracing change.

#2 World-class Support

Cloudbeds offers a “free” 24/7 support, i.e. you do not pay any extra money for it.

I’ve been in contact with them several times and all I can say is that they answer within a short time and I’m talking to real humans instead of robots. Their claim “we are crazy about our customer support” is true!

Cloudbeds service knows no limit when it comes to generosity: In addition to a free 30 days trialOpens in a new tab. you can also sign up for a free consultationOpens in a new tab..

Even if you’re currently using another channel manager, I encourage you to make a go of this free demo to experience the magic of MyAllocator first-hand.

Best Hostel Channel Manager

#3 Low Costs

Typically the more functionalities a channel manager offers the higher its costs. Well, MyAllocator is an exception to this rule.

They still belong to the cheapest channel managers available:

  • NO setup costs
  • NO extra costs for adding additional channels
  • NO commission
  • NO variable hidden fees
  • ONLY a fixed monthly price depending on your hostel size & number of properties – starting at $25 per month

Furthermore, you can cancel anytime (no long-term contract). Again, we’re talking about costs that are covered with the revenue of ONE single booking per month!

I literally talked to the market manager of Cloudbeds for half an hour attempting to organize a special deal for you if you opt for MyAllocator but my efforts were fruitless.

He said that they try to keep the overheads of MyAllocator as low as possible in order to be able to offer one of the industry’s lowest prices. And I respect their decision.

Hence, they really can’t afford any special deals. That’s the bad news.

Now the good news: I was successful when negotiating  a deal for Cloudbeds property management system which includes their channel manager FOR FREE!

I’m happy and proud to announce that TheHostelHelper is now an affiliate of CloudsbedsOpens in a new tab.’ property management system. This means that I will earn a commission, at no extra cost to you, if you use the following link to make a purchase.

By using this linkOpens in a new tab., you’ll get a starter credit of $50 and a 10% lifetime discount for their PMS – which is an exclusive TheHostelHelper deal. That means you will not find this offer anywhere else other than on my website.

#4 Integrates With All Common PMS

No matter if you’re using Bananadesk, Loventis, Sirvoy, HappyBooking, WebRezPro, Mancloud, Inngenius, etc., this channel manager is compatible. You can see the full list of compatible PMS hereOpens in a new tab..

This is a major difference compared to most other channel managers. By choosing MyAllocator you’re able to switch to other PMS down the road without changing your channel manager.

That said, I highly recommend you choose the right PMS from day one! Hence, I recommend to sign up for your PMS and channel manager at the same time.

By the way: If you opt for CloudbedsOpens in a new tab. property management software “MyFrontDesk”, this channel manager is already included!

#5 “User-Friendly” Is An Understatement

MyAllocator is cloud-based. Hence, you don’t have to install any software and can manage your availability from anywhere and anytime. 

To get started you simply choose the room types you offer including their rates, add the distribution channels you’d like to use and boom – you’re ready to go!

It’s really that simple.

By the way: If you use CloudbedsOpens in a new tab. property management system, you won’t have to deal with the interface of MyAllocator. The channel manager is integrated in the background so that you only have to login to ONE tool to manage everything.

#6 Free Booking Widget

In addition to all that, MyAllocator comes with a free “BookNow” widget for your website and your Facebook page.

That means you’re able to use the billboard effect to your advantage and are able to receive more direct bookings.

#7 Proven Success

Lastly, if you’ve been following TheHostelHelper for a longer time, you’ve probably noticed that I’m a fan of copying successful and proven concepts.

My own survey among hostel owners showed that more than 50% of hostel owners associate MyAllocator with a system they truly trust. The results couldn’t be clearer.

In addition to that, Cloudbeds channel manager ranks #1 among 32 channel managers on Hoteltech Report. [SourceOpens in a new tab.] It’s also responsible for a sales volume of more than $3 Billion per year and shows an uptime of 99.9% (which is as high as Google’s uptime!)

Bottom line: With MyAllocator you’ll get all the functions you need for just a few bucks. What makes me confident in my recommendation is the fact that I’ve already ranked it on place one BEFORE I saw my survey results.

Also note that I do NOT participate in any way if you opt solely for their channel manager. At TheHostelHelper, your interests are my priority #1.

Let’s see what other hostel managers say:

Best Channel Manager For Hostel

 

Channel Manager For Hostel

 

Cheapest Channel Manager For Hostel

 

Other Hostel Channel Managers

In case you want to try different channel managers, I’d go with the two most-used channel managers that line up right after MyAllocator:

FrontDesk Master

6% of hostels use this channel manager (Rank #2).

  • Costs: start at $15 USD depending on your hostels size
    you can calculate your costs hereOpens in a new tab.
  • 30 day free trial
  • Complete PMS incl. channel manager and booking engine available
    → Channel manager is ONLY compatible to their own PMS!

Out of the 18 most commonly used OTAs, it does NOT directly connect to:

  • Ostrovok
  • TripAdvisor
  • Hostelz
  • Traveloka
  • Hostelculture
  • Gomio
  • Ostrovok*
  • Ctrip*
  • BedandBreakfast.eu*
  • HRS*

*they can connect to it with a third party app

Beds24

6% of hostels use this channel manager (Rank #2).

  • Costs: start at 2€ (~2.2 USD) depending on how many channels you add
    you can calculate your costs hereOpens in a new tab.
  • 30 day free trial
  • Complete PMS incl. channel manager and booking engine available
    → Channel manager is ONLY compatible to their own PMS!

Out of the 18 most commonly used OTAs, it does NOT directly connect to:

  • Hostelz
  • Dorms
  • Hostelculture
  • Gomio
  • Airbnb
  • HRS

STOP! 🤚

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Which channel manager are you using for your hostel and why?

Share your opinion in the comment section below!

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Kevin

Kevin is the founder of TheHostelHelper and a former German engineer in his late twenties. In the middle of his grad school studies, he started a consulting business and broke several branch records within the first six months… until he finally quit this venture to pursue his passion for hostels. Kevin is known for his super black humor – yet, super black might still be an understatement. He also LOVES dogs and drinks too much coffee. When he’s not obsessing about hostel topics you’re likely to find him at the gym – where the heavy weights are.

24 thoughts on “Hostel Channel Manager – The Ultimate Guide

  1. Cloudbeds, Cloudbeds, Cloudbeds, Cloudbeds, Cloudbeds, Cloudbeeeeeds!!!
    Started with it and never thought about switching.
    John D.
    Baltimore, USA

  2. MyAllocator…… but I’m really surprised by the 45% who don’t use a channel manager…..
    What’s wrong with these folks?! 😅

    1. Hi Iminathi,
      well, I don’t think it’s a case of stubbornness but rather a lack of knowledge about the actual benefits.
      It probably belongs to the category of things that you have to try out to really see the value in it.
      – Kevin

  3. I thought about giving Beds24 a shot, but it’s not as cheap as expected once I calculcated the actual costs.
    Gonna go mainstream (cloudbeds) 🙃

    1. Thanks for your comment, Clarence!
      There are already 3x articles in my pipeline in which I’ll go deeper on different solutions: Beds24 is among them.
      I’ll let you know as soon as it is published.
      – Kevin

  4. I’m not a hostel owner, but I’m shocked about the 45% who don’t use a channel manager… I mean, that’s the most central system EVER when operating a lodging facility?! 😳
    How else do they want to manage their channels?! Manually?!?!?!?!

    1. Hi Walter,
      thanks for sharing your thoughts.
      Each hostel has its own way of managing things.
      And in some countries, it’s still cheap to operate inefficient (e.g. large parts of Asia).
      That said, I agree that it would make their life much easier.
      – Kevin

  5. MyAllocator from Cloudbeds PMS system. Can’t think of an easier solution since you only have to login into one system and can make your changes in the calendar itself.
    Cheers, Karl

    1. Thanks for your comment, Karl.
      I like that as well. It’s definitely more convenient than having to buy and connect a separate channel manager.
      – Kevin

  6. We use Cloudbeds channel manager that comes with their PMS software. But we ran our hostel for about 2 years without a property management system and switched our channel manager twice during that time. But the one of Cloudbeds is able to connect to many more channels than all others. I really like this one.

  7. We use MyAllocator and I can recommend it to anyone.
    Once you’ve tested it, you don’t want to use anything else anymore. Trust me.

  8. Where are the hostels located that took part in your survey?
    I can’t believe that 45% do not use a channel manager… that’s insane. Especially for hostels who’re selling single beds and not only entire rooms.
    Or do I miss something?!

  9. Just to make sure I understood it correctly: If I choose Cloudbeds as my PMS system, then I get the channel manager for free?

    1. Hi Eileen,
      yes, that’s right. However, you do not have to sign up for MyAllocator separately.
      If you set up your hostel with their PMS, the channel manager is completely integrated.
      Hope that helps.
      – Kevin

  10. Hi, I see that you recommend Cloudbeds CM, and it seems OK, but when I went to booking and they have a list of different CMs that they work with and how many features they support. And this one doesn’t have Content editing like some other CMs have. For example you can’t edit room info and photos trough the CM. So are you sure there aren’t better ones out there, that can do more?
    Thank you very much in advance!

    1. Hi SK,
      thanks for your comment.
      You’re right – there are dozens of other CMs available.
      However, most of them are designed for hotels and hence, do NOT support hostel-specific OTAs.

      In my opinion, the three most important features to choose the right CM are:
      – 1) Supports as many relevant channels as possible. To see the 18 most common OTAs among the greatest hostels worldwide, have a look at my full OTA list. Hence, if you think another CM might be better, just look at what channels they support and you’ll notice that they neglect most of the hostel-specific OTAs.
      – 2) It’s compatible with your property management software (if you use one… which I highly recommend for various reasons). Cloudbeds does not only offer the most used CM, but also the most used PMS among hostels – BY FAR.
      – 3) The price. If you opt for Cloudbeds PMS, you’ll get the CM for free.
      (in this order)

      These three aspects directly affect your profitability.
      However, content editing & changing images is typically something you do once in the beginning? Maybe adjusting it every few months? In my opinion, this is just a bit inconvenient. But it doesn’t really cost you much time or money.
      So yes, I’m super confident saying this is literally “THE” best CM for hostels.
      If you have further questions, just answer in the comment section.
      Hope that helps,
      – Kevin

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