Working with Calendar Channels (Vacation Rental Sites) - Everything you need to know

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This article will discuss everything you need to know about working with Calendar channels (otherwise known as Vacation Rental Sites) such as:

  • AirBnb
  • FlipKey
  • VRBO
  • Etc.

Please be aware that myallocator will not adjust availability when importing existing reservations on first connection, if you do not have a PMS managing your availability then availability needs to be manually updated prior connection with calendar channels.

Topics to be Covered

We will cover the following topics:

  • What is different between a Calendar channel and a "normal" channel
  • How Availability is updated
  • How Bookings are Imported
  • Calendar Channel Update Delays
  • How to handle Cancellations
  • Which Calendar channels myallocator supports natively
  • Marketing multiple units per accommodation type
  • Two-Way versus One-Way Calendar Channels
  • Connecting a Calendar Channel that is not natively supported in myallocator
1. What is a Calendar Channel?

Calendar channels, otherwise known as Vacation Rental Sites, have become very popular in recent years as the typical traveler has become more internet savvy.  These channels provide travelers with many options, from renting low cost bedrooms to booking stays at palatial estates.  These channels have tapped into the public's desire to stay in "real" places away from tourist areas.  

If your property is not marketed correctly, calendar channels can become a real competitive threat.  Thankfully, myallocator by Cloudbeds has you covered as we can integrate with any calendar channel that uses the standard iCal format.

 

2. How are Calendar Channels different from normal channels?

With a typical channel (such as with booking.com or Expedia), myallocator has a direct connection where we can send many values, such as:

  • Rates
  • Availability
  • Restrictions (such as MinLos, Closed to Arrival, etc)

Calendar-based channels work differently from those channels.  With calendar channels, we provide them with a special calendar file that contains "appointments".   This is similar to placing an appointment on your personal calendar, but in this case, the appointments lasts an entire night.  Dates that are not booked are "empty", so they remain Available for booking.

With Calendar channels, myallocator can only send Availability.  All other values must be set directly in the channel's extranet, such as:

  • Rates
  • Restrictions (such as MinLos, Closed to Arrival, etc)
3. How Availability is Updated

Your Availability is contantly updated based on the reservations and other data that is sent to myallocator.  With this information, myallocator updates the calendar file in real-time with your updated Availability.  

Although these files are constantly updated by myallocator, the calendar channel itself only "asks" for new information in the file approximately every 6 hours.

For Airbnb

For Airbnb specifically, they "pull" data from myallocator every hour.  This is their native update timeframe.

Example Calendar File Data

Here is an example of a calendar file URL and what it looks like:  https://api.myallocator.com/callback/ota/air/v201/ical?pid=123456&rid=123456&hash=123456dfd7&

The data within this file looks something like this, and this is how Airbnb knows which dates are booked versus which dates are open:

BEGIN:VEVENT

DTSTART;VALUE=DATE:20160304

DTEND;VALUE=DATE:20160311

DESCRIPTION:

STATUS:CONFIRMED

SUMMARY:Blocked Date

END:VEVENT

BEGIN:VEVENT

DTSTART;VALUE=DATE:20160319

DTEND;VALUE=DATE:20160322

DESCRIPTION:

STATUS:CONFIRMED

SUMMARY:Blocked Date

END:VEVENT

BEGIN:VEVENT

DTSTART;VALUE=DATE:20160323

DTEND;VALUE=DATE:20160327

DESCRIPTION:

STATUS:CONFIRMED

SUMMARY:Blocked Date

END

4. Calendar Channel Delays and Turning off Instant Booking

The 6 Hour delay mentioned above is inherent with using Calendar Channels, and it's outside of myallocator's control.  

That is why we always recommend to turn off "Instant Booking" when using Calendar Channels.  

When Instant Booking is turned off, the property is always asked to "confirm" the booking.  

Since the property has the opportunity to verify that the room is still avaialble, this is how overbookings are prevented.

5. Two-Way versus One-Way Calendar Channels

While myallocator can always send Availability to a Calendar Channel that uses the iCal format, only certain channels send us their bookings.

When a Calendar Channel supports both Availability and Bookings, it means they are a Two-Way Channel.  Two-Way calendar channels include:

  • 9flats
  • Airbnb
  • Ebab
  • Housetrip
  • VRBO

All other Calendar Channels are considered One-Way channels.  If you choose to use any other calendar channels not listed above (such as FlipKey), you will have to manually adjust inventory for any incoming bookings coming from that channel.

Example: Let's say you choose to connect FlipKey to myallocator.  Here is the chain of events:

  1. Myallocator takes your Available inventory, and provides that in a calendar file to FlipKey
  2. Every 6 hours or so, FlipKey pulls information from that file and updates their calendar with your Availability
  3. When a guest books your property, FlipKey emails you the booking and places the booking in their Extranet
  4. Since FlipKey does not send us this booking, myallocator has no idea that the room has been booked
  5. The property must login to myallocator and manually reduce the Availability for the rooms and dates that have been booked.
  6. Once the property has confirmed that the room is still Avaialble, the property is safe to "confirm" the FlipKey booking.

It's also important to notice that when connecting to two-way channels, the existed bookings will be also imported to myfrontdesk. Because of that, make sure to not upload their bookings manually - if you already did, you will note duplications, in this case, you can delete the duplications - click here to check how to delete bookings.

6. How Bookings are Imported

Similar to how myallocator provides Availability in our calendar file, myallocator needs a calendar file from the channel which indicates which dates have each booking. In general the information in these files is quite thin, so that's why not many details are displayed within the Incoming Bookings screen. To view the full details you need to check with the channel's backoffice.

Example Booking Download

An example of what we receive from Calendar Channels is below:

BEGIN:VEVENT

DTEND;VALUE=DATE:20150608

DTSTART;VALUE=DATE:20150605

UID:123456--ht9wupf1f72k@airbnb.com

DESCRIPTION:CHECKIN: 05-06-2015\nCHECKOUT: 08-06-2015\nNIGHTS: 3\nPHONE:

+1 (505) 350-3606\nEMAIL: (no email alias available)\nPROPERTY: The Steading with Pool & Hot Tub\n

SUMMARY:Wendy C%$%^ (R1YN8Z)

LOCATION:The Steading with Pool & Hot Tub

END:VEVENT

As you can see, calendar channels do not send us Rates or the number of occupants (PAX).

How often does myallocator import new bookings from calendar channels?

Calendar channel booking imports can take anywhere from 30 minutes to several hours to import.  This delay is because we are limited by these sites on the amount of traffic requests we can make to their servers.  Again - Calendar channels work differently from other channels, and the booking download time is part of doing business with them.

As mentioned above, disabling Instant Booking prevents any overbookings related to these import delays.

For Airbnb

For Airbnb specifically, we have developed a mechanism that enables us to download new bookings every 30 minutes.  

If you find a booking that was not downloaded by our system in that timeframe, there may have been a delay in the import process.  Please create a ticket for support to research why there was a delay.

7. What information is imported when bookings are downloaded

When a booking is downloaded from a Calendar Channel such as Airbnb, the information sent via the calendar file is quite limited.

Typically, only the following details are imported:

  • Guest Name
  • Arrival Date
  • Departure Date
  • Room

As you will notice, the following major items are missing:

  • Rate
  • Occupancy (number of guests)

Managing these bookings in a PMS

If you use a PMS (such as myfrontdesk) you will have to manually update the reservation with the information that is missing, such as:

  • Rate/Price
  • Number of guests
  • Any other details that you track inside your PMS
8. How to handle Cancellations

Cancellations from a calendar channel cannot be transmitted to any 3rd parties (including myallocator).

Since myallocator is unaware of any Calendar Channel cancellations, the property must manage the inventory manually.

Example:  

  1. Guest books your property and the booking is sent to myallocator
  2. Guest cancels the booking
  3. Myallocator is unaware of the cancellation
  4. Property must login to myallocator and add the Availability back for the cancelled booking (if desired)
9. Which Calendar channels does myallocator support natively?

The following channels have direct integration into myallocator:

10. Integrating with a Calendar Channel not listed above

If you wish myallocator to update the Availability for any calendar channel that is not listed on our setup page, you can do so by following the directions below.

Note: This type of integration is a One-Way (Availability) only Integration.  Incoming bookings will not be received by myallocator, so you must manually adjust inventory for any incoming bookings coming from that channel.

Step 1: Obtain the myallocator iCal URL for your room(s)

Step 2: Enter the URL from Step 1 into your Calendar Channel

1. Login to the calendar channel of your choice.

2. Find the page where you can manage your rooms/listings.

3. Locate the specific room/bed that you want to manage.

4. Find the option to enter an external calendar for Import.  This option will vary from channel to channel.

5. Paste the URL that you copied above into the calendar import.

6. Repeat all steps above for each of your rooms/beds.

Have more questions? Submit a Ticket

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