What are iCal? Here’s how to use them for your hotel

iCal Slope Airbnb Homeaway

What is an iCalendar?

In general terms, an iCalendar (known to all as iCal) is a file format for computers, usually with the extension .ics (but we can also find it with different extensions, such as .ical / .ifb / .icalendar) capable of representing information aggregated on a time basis, in our case in a calendar.

This tool is widely used in the hotel industry because it allows you to report information on the availability of a type of accommodation for a specific period of time in a streamlined and easily accessible calendar.

The information that can be saved within an iCal file is limited, in this article we will explain what information is useful for managing the availability of rooms and apartments that can be conveyed via an iCal.

Synchronize online sales portals (OTA) via iCal

In some cases the iCal can be used as a worthy replacement to synchronize your PMS with an online distribution portal, agency or tour operator.

Obviously the ideal solution to synchronize availability, rates, prices and reservations between your management and the sales channel involves the use of a channel manager with 2-way connection, however, in the event that the portal does not offer a Channel interface 2-way manager you can use iCal to synchronize availability.

How does iCal work?

As mentioned above, this solution has limitations, for example iCal allow you to save only the availability of accommodation on a specific portal.

Through iCalendar it is not possible to keep track of how many units of a specific accommodation are available for a given day, but it is able to save information on its availability status (available or unavailable).

Let’s take an example:
In my structure I have a type of accommodation called Double room with 3 units available. By inserting my calendar in a portal, the same portal will only receive information about the availability or not of the accommodation (not of the units specifically).

If, for a certain day, I have 3 free of my 3 double bedrooms> the iCal will indicate that there is availability.
If, for a certain day, I have 2 of my 3 double bedrooms free> the iCal will indicate that there is availability.
If, for a certain day, I have 1 of my 3 double bedrooms free> the iCal will indicate that there is availability.
If, for a certain day, I have 0 free of my 3 double bedrooms> the iCal will indicate that there is no availability.

The communication is therefore only one-way (1-way): therefore it is possible to update the availability from my PMS to the portal where I have inserted the iCalendar but I cannot make the portal update the calendar when a booking is received.

What are the practical cases in which it may be convenient to use an iCal?

It may be convenient to use it if you want to synchronize “secondary” portals, ie portals that generate below 5% of annual reservations and on which you do not intend to invest for a two-way connection.

It can also be useful in the case of agencies that do not have an OTA portal, but who intend to know the availability of the structure, in case they want to send a group.

Which are the main portals on which I can synchronize openings and closings via iCal?

The most popular portals that can be updated via iCal are the Airbnb and Homeaway giants, in fact it is possible to use the iCal to automatically update openings and closings on both portals.

Not only iCal Airbnb or iCal Homeaway, but also other portals such as FlipKey, Ownsdirect, FeWo-direkt or 9Flats can be updated through this technology.

How can I import it into the OTA portals?

ICal can be imported into various portals in 2 different ways:

Import via file

An iCal file can be generated and imported from time to time into the portal you wish to update.

This approach is absolutely not recommended, as the file does not have the ability to auto-update itself: it should be imported every time the availability in our accommodation changes, so it is clear that importing by file is highly discouraged because it is not very expandable.

✔️ Import via URL

Some hotel management software offer the possibility of accessing a public address (url) where an iCal is loaded and updated every few minutes.

By entering the URL of the iCal in any portal, the portal can make a request to that address whenever you wish to be updated on the occupancy status of the accommodation. This is a decidedly advantageous automatic process because it does not require manual operations.

It is good to remember how the time frame that iCal takes for self-updating depends on two factors:

  1. from the portal on which it is loaded (how often the portal checks the URL to see if an updated version of the iCal is available);
    2. from the PMS update frequency (how often the management generates the calendar).

To import the iCalendars on the various portals, simply follow the procedures indicated by the same portals about, in fact, the import of calendars.
For example, here is the procedure to be performed on Airbnb or HomeAway:

ICal HomeAway upload guide;
ICal Airbnb upload guide.

Where can I find the iCal of my accommodations?

The most advanced PMS offer accommodation facilities links to the iCal calendars of each accommodation in the management system.

The Slope management software, in addition to connectivity via 2-way channel manager, offers its customers the possibility of generating iCal URLs that can be used at the hotelier’s complete discretion.

For more information on the iCal format or the Slope software, do not hesitate to contact us.

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