If you run a hostel, and you feel that you never have enough time, you may want to consider some new tools to help you streamline hostel management and improve your marketing strategies.
Receiving bookings from channels and managing them manually in a notebook, or on an Excel sheet is very old school. And old school isn’t always a bad thing, but errors and wasting time are definitely bad. No one likes arriving at a hotel or hostel where they booked a bed, just to find out that it's overbooked. When you track bookings manually, it takes a lot of time to maintain and can end up in errors far too frequently!
Front Desk Platform
Front Desk Platforms, like BananaDesk, will solve this for you. Your bookings will be imported automatically into one Reservations Calendar, and the availability at your front desk will always be the correct availability on your sales channels / OTAs. A Front Desk Platform is a Property Management System + Channel Manager - that means you can manage your business and connect to your channels, all in one single place. So, you'll be able to manage all your reservations (from your different online channels + direct + any others), and you'll be able to receive payments, make changes to bookings, cancel them and anything else you might need to do management-wise. Basically, with a Front Desk Platform you get everything in one central place. Everything works in one way and you don't have to learn how different channels work.
Another alternative, is to build your own Front Desk Platform by picking a Channel Manager and a Property Management System. We'll break those down below:
So, Channel Managers help you get your bookings and availability / rates into one place. I like to think of Channel Managers as like a central Database. With a Channel Manager, you can connect to all the channels you want to, and you'll receive the reservation details into one place. But it finishes there. Just like a Database, a Channel Manager is "dumb" without any kind of added logic. So, you can see the reservationd details in one place, but you can't manage them. You can't move them to another room, you can't take a payment, you can't manage your direct bookings. Basically, you can't manage your business with just a Channel Manager. You need something else to help you there: an Excel sheet, a Notebook, or a Property Management System.
You can find lots of Channel Managers out there, but some examples we know are: Myallocator and Siteminder. We also integrate with Myallocator, so you could build your Front Desk Platform by connecting BananaDesk to Myallocator. This would allow you to receive all your bookings into Myallocator and BananaDesk, and would allow you to manage those reservations directly in BananaDesk. Whenever there are changes to your availability, those changes will get sent to Myallocator and then the channels. We generally recommend connecting BananaDesk to the channels directly (without another Channel Manager, like Myallocator), as your life will be easier when everything is in one single login, and everything works in just one way.
Which brings me to a small tangent: Since Channel Managers connect to so many different channels (generally 100's), it's impossible for those integrations to all work the same way! And this can generate some confusion... Every channel has its way of doing things, along with its strengths and (technological) limitations. What that translates into for you is a fragmented solution. So, if you have 10 channels connected to a Channel Manager, you need to remember which ones support Non Refundable Rates or this new custom Cancellation Policy that you've come up with, and how they are all connected. It can very easily get out of hand and become a headache. That's why we recommend connecting with only the most important channels that bring you a big amount of bookings. And then spending the rest of your energy on direct bookings. Talk to other hostels in your area (or region), and find out what is working best for them.
Property Management System
A Property Management System (or PMS as most call it) is just that: Software to help you manage your property. With a Property Management System, you'll be able to manage reservations, add your guests' payments, sell them extras like Beer or a Tour around the city, etc. But you won't be receiving reservations from your online channels unless you connect to a Channel Manager, or have it baked inside the PMS (like BananaDesk).
Social Media Tools
It's no secret today that social networks are essential to promoting your hostel. Nowadays, lots of hostels and hotels are using social networks, but some still don't! In any case, you don’t want your social media work to suck up your entire week. So, to help you manage your social media efficiently, it is super useful to use a social media management tool, like Hootsuite or Buffer. Tools like Hootsuite or Buffer will help you schedule posts and tweets easily in one place.
Understanding what happens "behind the scenes" at your hostel is important. The same is true for your website! Imagine if you couldn’t see when, where or who was in your hostel. That’s what your website is like without analytics. You need to know how people arrived to your website, how much time they spent, where they are from, what pages they spent time on, etc. This valuable information might help guide where you should spend your marketing budget. It will also be useful in correcting any problems with navigation on your website.
There are several tools for this, but Google Analytics is definitely the elephant in the room, so to speak. And it's free! ;)
As a hostel owner or manager, you know how important customer reviews can be. Travelers often choose your hostel or another nearby because of online reviews. For this reason, it is essential that you know who is talking about your hostel and where they are taking about it. No matter if reviews are positive or negative, you should join the conversation.
Use a tool that alerts you when your hostel's name appears somewhere on the Internet. And this tool is Google Alerts. Just enter some different queries that you want to be alerted about, and you'll start receiving those alerts by e-mail!
General Administrative Tools
This one is pretty general one, but very powerful! At this point, I can't believe that I used to live without Google Drive. It's easy to use, it's easy to share and best of all, it's pretty hard to lose your data.
Use Google Drive to document your processes so that the next receptionist that you bring onboard knows where to look to answer "frequently asked questions".