By Jeff Zabin, Managing Editor
Guests have always expected star treatment. They have always wanted to be treated like celebrities. This is particularly true of hotels and resorts in upscale categories. Today those guest expectations are through the roof. Guests now expect superior service, frictionless interactions, and personalized experiences throughout their stay, and anything less with simply not do.
For hoteliers, this means, in part, streamlining operations, from check-in to housekeeping, and delivering fast and accurate responses to guest inquiries. It means ensuring that requests for service — when guests place an order with room service, for example, or book a reservation through the concierge — are immediately fulfilled. It means ensuring that every guest receives the hotel’s undivided attention, no matter that the guest may be one of hundreds staying at the hotel.
At the same time, guests are becoming accustomed to self-service options through mobile apps, kiosks, voice-activated chatbots, in-room digital displays and other devices that leverage big data and artifical intelligence to address their needs. Hoteliers need to give guests control of services and information — far beyond just being able to check in and check out via their smartphones.
With such high guest expectations, coupled with the need to continuously improve operational efficiencies and optimize revenue performance, hoteliers are under more pressure than ever to leverage the right set of enabling technologies to their advantage. First and foremost among these technologies is an advanced property management system (PMS).
The PMS is engineered to automate operations across all hotel functions, all departments and all parts of the property while improving the quality of the guest experience through faster, better, more accurate and more personalized guest engagement. This helps explain why so many hoteliers today are parting ways with their legacy systems.
In fact, according to research conducted for The 2019 Smart Decision Guide to Hotel Property Management Systems, nearly one-quarter (23 percent) of hoteliers who have not upgraded their PMS within the past 3 years plan to do so in the next 12 months. According to another survey, 87 percent of hoteliers at large and full-service hotels indicate that recent upgrades to their technology capabilities have enabled them to be either “successful” or “very successful” in improving the overall quality of the guest experience.
The leading systems on the market today have evolved at lightning speed in recent years. Beyond developments in various areas of technology innovation, including areas related to technology interoperability, mobility, personalization, performance reporting, business intelligence and predictive analytics, the advances are reflected in the expanded scope of capabilities previously handled either semi-manually or by standalone software programs.
Seamless data integration is driving force in this evolution. Just as the smartphone has evolved to incorporate countless standalone utilities, from the clock, calendar and camera to the video player, voice recorder and music player, to name just a few, the PMS has evolved to incorporate multiple standalone, function-specific software programs and platform capabilities to create an integrated, end-to-end system.
Needless to say, there is much value to be had in a system in which all component parts centrally connect, with no need to manually import data (or, even worse, re-key information), and which offers a unified view of both hotel operations and guest relationships. A fully integrated PMS serves as a perfect example of the whole being greater than the sum of the parts.
While all hoteliers are bound to benefit from some of the latest developments — PMS interface access from a tablet or other mobile device being a good example — other features and functionality of a next-generation PMS are going to be of greater value to some hoteliers than to others. After all, different hotels have differing technology requirements.
A full-service hotel will likely require a far more robust, sophisticated and comprehensive system than a small, limited-service or budget hotel, which may need only to streamline basic functions like guest bookings, housekeeping, guest charges and maintenance management. A full-service hotel will likely have complex reservation, group scheduling and inventory requirements. It may also need to manage concierge and function space operations as well as golf, spa and other facilities, with a host of guest-facing features essential to facilitating exceptional guest service.
A small, limited-service hotel may have none of these requirements. It may need nothing more than bare-bones platform for managing front office, bookings and reservations functions, from assigning guests to rooms and maintaining guest folios to coordinating profile changes, posting room charges and maintaining housekeeping status.
In all cases, the PMS needs to support all hotel functions, no matter how extensive or limited these may be. This can be done either through built-in capabilities or by allowing seamless integration with add-on modules and/or third-party software solutions. Given the ability to add any combination of modules, with minimal integration hassle, hoteliers can readily create a property- or chain-wide system.
Many systems readily integrate with guest response programs, accounting software, keycard and access control systems, self-service kiosks, internet and telephone systems, in-room refreshment (minibar) and entertainment applications — and even, in some cases, dry cleaning and transportation shuttles. Increasingly, hoteliers are testing the waters with AI-enabled smart devices, including voice-activated chatbots. Some major brands are dipping their toes into Internet of Things (IoT) “connected room” technologies that include sensor-activated thermostats, digital room keys, and in-room streaming/casting services.
Hoteliers are acutely aware of the need for mobile access, technology interoperability, data integration, operational efficiency, guest personalization, etc., even if they haven’t yet transitioned to a next-generation PMS that provides these platform capabilities. They are also acutely aware of the fact that their competitors have likely already upgraded their capabilities, or are currently in the process of doing so, and that waiting too long may mean missing the boat.
Are you an industry thought leader with a point of view on hotel technology that you would like to share with our readers? If so, we invite you to review our editorial guidelines and submit your article for publishing consideration.