Why Using ical Between Channels to Keep your Calendars Synced is a Bad Idea

So you’ve set up your rental on 3 channels, and you’re getting more bookings than ever. Your property is full and life is good. Or is it?

As many of you might already know, there are 2 ways to keep your calendars across multiple channels synchronized:

  • Option 1: Update them manually (oh the pain)
  • Option 2: Use direct ical connections between your channels 
  • Option 3: Use a channel manager like Hosthub

Now, since option 2 (direct ical) is free, many hosts around the world prefer it, up until the day they get their first double booking. And that’s a real mess.

So why is that? Since most vacation rental channels have an ical sync option, why is it not a good idea?

First of all, let’s see what an ical file is and how it is used to sync calendars between channels

Ical files are small text files that describe all the bookings of a property in a machine-readable format. They’re really small, easy to read by humans and machines, and simple to create and parse. So let’s suppose you list on Airbnb and Booking.com. You first have to visit Airbnb, login to your account, go to your property settings, find the ical url that corresponds to your listing, copy it to your clipboard, and then login to Booking.com, go to your property settings, find the form field that you should use to add a new ical connection, and paste it there. The same process has to be done in order to add your Booking.com ical into Airbnb. After that, Booking.com will “pull” the Airbnb ical into its system every few hours, and Airbnb will “pull” the Booking.com ical into its system every few hours. If each channel finds a new booking in the latest ical file that was not there the last time it pulled it, it assumes there is a new booking and blocks the dates to avoid a double booking. Great huh? Not so fast.

This process is simple, but it is not reliable and can easily cause double bookings, and here are the reasons:

  1. Delays
    As described above, channels usually take a few hours between ical “pulls”. This means that during high booking season, it’s very easy to get a double booking during these few hours. In our years in the industry, we’ve seen delays of up to 48 hours! (ouch)
  2. Broken icals
    Very often, ical files “break” due to channel bugs. We have seen instanses where ical files were broken on Airbnb, Booking.com, Homeaway, and many more channels. You can see a few examples with full details here and here. When ical files are broken, synchronization breaks too and you are open to double bookings.
  3. Crazy mixups on more than 2 channels
    Theoretically, it is possible to exchange icals between 3, 4, or even more channels. However, our experience has shown that this often causes mixups and circular references that cause all your calendars on all your channels to become a big pile of mess, and you don’t want that! We have seen hosts come to us to help them out with calendars that were completely undecipherable, and we had to clean them up before they could start using Hosthub.

Is there a solution? Is there something better you can use?

You bet there is!

Hosthub uses multiple methods of updating calendars on all channels, thus eliminating all the drawbacks of ical files. We offer near-real-time, 2-way sync between more than 200 channels while offering an industry-first Zero Double Booking Guarantee. Setup is as simple as it gets, and we offer 24/7 support all year round. What more could you ask for? All this is available for just $19 per rental per month, and we also offer a free 14 day trial to try us out.

Whatever method you choose, all we can say is Happy Bookings!

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