Calendar channels (ical connection) - Everything you need to know

Calendar-based channels, such as Flipkey, Homeaway, Airbnb iCal* and VRBO ical*, work differently than normal distribution channels. For example, only availability can be updated, no rates or any other stay restriction.

*Cloudbeds PMS can be connected to Airbnb and VRBO via ical (limited connection through ical file) or API (normal connection, just like with Booking.com). Airbnb iCal and VRBO connection which is mentioned in this article is considered to be calendar-based. 

Overview

  • Calendar channels sync using calendar files. Cloudbeds PMS sends the channel an iCal file that contains an "appointment" for the days with no availability, which blocks those dates from being booked. All other dates are unscheduled, so they remain available to reservations.
  • To import bookings, Cloudbeds channel manager in turn needs a calendar file from the channel, that indicates which days have scheduled bookings.
  • In general, the information in these files is pretty limited, which is why calendar reservations often do not have many details displayed. To view the full details you'll need to check them within that channel's extranet.
1. What is the difference of calendar channels and API channels?

The connection of calendar channels is limited. Most of the information, except availability in both systems (Cloudbeds and the channel), needs to be updated manually. Find here the main differences:

  1. Calendar channels do not support synchronizing rates. You must enter rates directly into your channel's extranet.
  2. Calendar channels do not support sending cancelation and reservation updates - you must update/cancel them manually in Cloudbeds PMS.
  3. You must turn-off the Instant booking options.
  4. You need to upload their bookings manually for one-way channels.
  5. For two-way channels, you must not add the manually, since existing bookings will be imported to Cloudbeds PMS, and if you add them manually you will find duplications.
  6. For two-way channels, bookings will be imported with 6 Hour delay, this is inherent behaviour of calendar channels, and it's outside of Cloudbeds PMS control. That is why we recommend to turn off "Instant Booking" when using calendar channels to prevent overboookings. This way, the property is always asked to "confirm" the booking in advance.
2. Two-Way versus One-Way Calendar Channels

There are two types of calendar channels: Two way and one-way.

Two-way channels: when a calendar channel supports both availability and send us their bookings.  They support availability updates, booking downloads, and automatic adjustments.

Two-Way calendar channels include:

  • GlampingHub
  • Pitchup
  • Housetrip
  • Airbnb (ical)
  • VRBO (ical)
  • Riparide

One-way channels: they support availability but do not send us bookings. All other calendar channels are considered one-way channels.

It means that 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: If you connect FlipKey to Cloudbeds PMS, those are the steps to be taken to prevent availability mismatches:

  1. Cloudbeds 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, Cloudbeds does not have that information.
  5. The property must access to Cloudbeds to manually add the reservation to the calendar for the rooms and dates that have been booked.
  6. Once the availability was closed, the property can confirm the booking in Flipkey to the guest.
3. Which channels can be connected to Cloudbeds PMS through ical?
Channel Name Degree of Connection* Parent Channel (for secondary degree of connection)**
9Flats
Direct

Abritel
Secondary HomeAway
Airbnb (ical) Direct
Algue Temporada
Secondary
HomeAway
FeWo-direkt
Secondary
HomeAway
FlipKey
Secondary
Trip Advisor Vacation Rentals
GlampingHub
Direct
HipCamp
Direct
Homeaway
Direct
Homelidays
Secondary HomeAway
HouseTrip
Secondary Trip Advisor Vacation Rentals
Pitchup
Direct
stayz
Secondary HomeAway
TripAdvisor Vacation Rentals
Direct
VacationRentals.com
Secondary HomeAway
VRBO Secondary HomeAway
Wimdu
Direct
*Degree of connection can be direct (OTA gets connected through ical file directly to myfrontdesk) or secondary (OTA can be connected to myfrontdesk through another channel).
** This is the channel, through which OTA with secondary degree of connection can be integrated with myfrontdesk
4. How bookings are imported for two-way channels?

Similar to how Cloudbeds PMS provides availability in our calendar file, Cloudbeds PMS needs a calendar file from the channel that indicates which dates have bookings.

In general, not many details are sent in those files, so to view the full details, you need to check with the channel's extranet.

Example of 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 Cloudbeds PMS 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 the import delays.

For Airbnb

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

You can also connect Airbnb (API) which allows to download bookings in normal way.

5. What information is imported when bookings are downloaded

Airbnb iCal does not display certain guest information reservation details via their iCal feed. This change was made as part of Airbnb’s ongoing efforts to minimize exposure of guest information.

When a booking is downloaded from a calendar channel, 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)

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 Cloudbeds PMS
6. How to handle cancelations?

Cancelations from a calendar channel cannot be transmitted to any 3rd parties (including Cloudbeds PMS).

Since Cloudbeds PMS is unaware of any calendar channel cancelation, the property must manage the cancelation (and inventory) manually.

7. Room Type Compatibility

Because of how the calendar URL system is designed, calendar channels are only able to connect to one of the rooms of a Cloudbeds PMS room type at a time.

8. Can multiple units be booked for one room?

No, since each listing is only for one room and one unit. As soon as one booking is made on a calendar channel, it won't be bookable again for that day. Other channels (even other calendar-based channels) will of course still be bookable if there is availability.

Creating multiple listings for each room is also not a solution, since you cannot assign multiple channel listings to a single Cloudbeds PMS room type.

Because of this, calendar channels are not designed for dorms.

If you only have calendar channels (Flipkey, VRBO, Airbnb which you plan to connected through ical), the alternative mapping described in our Distribution Channel Mapping Guidelines may be an option for your property.

9. How to connect a calendar based channel to Cloudbeds PMS?

Access this article to learn how to connect one-way calendar based channels to Cloudbeds PMS.

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