Have you ever accepted a booking on VRBO - only to realize that it was for a date that had already been booked by another guest through Airbnb?
I feel for you. It happened to me several times in the past.
Since then, I’ve created a system that lets me prevent double bookings and manage my short-term rental business in an efficient, automated way.
And today, I’m going to share that system with you.
I’m proud to announce that Host Tools, the software I built to make my own life easier and help other short-term rental hosts, is evolving into a multi-functional channel manager.
The new functionalities I recently added will help you automate not just your messaging and pricing, but also your channel management.
You can now sync your availability across all your channels, view all your reservations in a multi-calendar, and access all your guest messages from a unified inbox.
And best of all, you don’t have to upgrade your plan to get access to the features. It’s all included in the price!
Read on to find out more about the story behind Host Tools and the new features I just launched.
The Story of Host Tools
Host Tools was born as my personal quest for a reliable Airbnb automation tool. I was managing a handful of properties when I realized I was spending too much time on messaging guests and managing my cleaners.
I had to wake up at crazy hours in the night to respond to guest queries, and if I didn’t answer fast enough, I’d lose guests. I didn’t need anything too fancy—just a tool that was reliable, didn’t glitch, and could let me focus on other parts of my business.
I looked for solutions on the market but couldn’t find any that was easy-to-use, dependable and inexpensive.
Since I’m a software developer, I decided to create my own automation tool. My goal was to help my Airbnb business, and maybe make other hosts’ lives easier, too.
At first, I uploaded Host Tools to GitHub as an open-source project that anyone could contribute to. When no one did, I decided to close the code and create a monetized version of the platform. That’s how Host Tools was born.
Later, as I identified areas in a short-term rental business this tool could automate, I added a pricing tool to help hosts optimize their rates.
To this day, I’m still manning the ship alone as the sole founder, developer, and customer service representative. If you use Host Tools, you’ll know that I’m always there to personally answer your questions and fix your issues.
As I add new features to the platform, I’m determined to keep it easy-to-use for non-tech savvy hosts but sophisticated enough for short-term rental managers with many listings. My ultimate goal is to make Host Tools accessible for all Airbnb managers.
Currently, thousands of short-term rental managers use Host Tools’ messaging and pricing features. As a result, they’ve saved a lot of time, improved guest reviews and increased their revenue and occupancy.
And now, with the help of Host Tools’ new channel management feature, hosts can also automate their listings across multiple channels, saving even more time and getting even better returns.
I’m very proud of how far my venture has come and I’d like to share my excitement with you. Let’s see what’s new on Host Tools!
Introducing the Host Tools channel manager
The new channel management feature that’s now live on Host Tools has the potential to make a huge difference in the lives of short-term rental hosts.
Channel managers are tools that let you manage your listings on all the booking sites you use from one place.
They are extremely useful because they allow you to automatically update calendar information across all your channels, like Airbnb, Vrbo, Booking.com and even direct booking sites.
This means that you no longer have to log into all your accounts separately when you want to make changes to your calendars or message guests - your accounts will be synchronized and you control everything directly from Host Tools.
Let me explain how it works, and how Host Tools’ new features will save you a lot of time and headaches.
Availability syncing and iCal support
If you’ve ever had a guest double book your rental while you were waiting for your manually uploaded iCal calendar to sync, you know how much of a pain it is.
With a channel manager like Host Tools, you no longer have to worry about any of that.
Host Tools directly integrates with Airbnb and Vrbo through an API. This means that by connecting your Airbnb and Vrbo accounts to Host Tools, you can keep your calendars in sync at all times.
Whenever a guest makes a reservation on one channel, the other channel’s calendar is automatically updated to block those dates.
API connections allow for synchronization to be instantaneous, so you don’t have to worry about a potential lag wreaking havoc.
The result: no more double bookings!
But what if you advertise on more channels, not just Airbnb and Vrbo? Host Tools has a solution for syncing your other calendars, too.
All you have to do is export your iCal calendar from Booking.com, TripAdvisor, Agoda, or any other booking site you’re listed on, and import it into Host Tools. Thanks to the new iCal support feature, your availability will sync across all your calendars.
You can also block dates in your calendar on Host Tools, and those dates will be automatically blocked on all your connected channels.
The new setup allows you to add multiple accounts to Host Tools and manage all your listings from one place.
What’s more, the new multi-calendar allows you to view all your reservations – regardless of which platform they were made on – in one, easy-to-browse calendar.
This is a huge perk because you no longer have to pore through your channel calendars one-by-one to monitor your availability.
You can also see at a glance when your rental is unoccupied, so it’s easier to manage your cleaning schedule.
Unified inbox for Airbnb and Vrbo
As I said, the point of these new features is to help you manage all your listings from one place. And not just your calendar, but your guest communication too.
With the new unified inbox in Host Tools, you’ll never have to log in to each one of your accounts separately to see and reply to guest messages.
You can access all your guest messages from Airbnb and Vrbo from a single inbox. When you try it, you’ll see just what a huge time-saver it is.
The future of Host Tools: smart lock automation coming soon
Update: the smart lock automation is now live. We looked at the 7 best smart locks for short-term rentals.
In the near future, I’m coming out with a new feature that will make hosts’ lives even easier: smart lock automation.
As you can see on this comparison chart I created, Host Tools will be the first channel manager on the market to support smart locks. (Let me know in the comments if you know of any providers I missed!)
When this new feature goes live, you’ll be able to send guests unique smart lock codes based on the guest's phone number from the Host Tools platform. And, it will serve as a way to create new triggers for automated messages that you can use to improve your guest communication.
For example, you can set up a new message rule so that you’ll be notified when a guest uses their unique code on the lockbox. This way, you can send them a welcome message at the exact moment they check in.
You can also give your cleaners a unique access code and get notified every time they use it to lock the lockbox. You can set up a message rule that will trigger an automatic message to be sent to your guests, letting them know that the rental is ready for them. You can even alert yourself if the cleaners have not entered the rental on a cleaning day.
While these may seem like small tweaks, they will increase the safety of your listing and they’ll save you lots of time in the long run. And, most importantly, they’ll make you look like an attentive host who’s constantly at their guest’s beck and call. Ultimately, these gestures will earn you better reviews.
At first, Host Tools will support August Smart Locks, one of the most popular smart lock companies in the US. Later on, I’ll be adding more smart lock providers to the platform.
Of course, Host Tools users will be able to take advantage of this new feature at no extra cost to them.
I hope you’re as excited about Host Tools’ new features as I am. Let me know what else you’d like to see me add!