Giving the PMS a Competitive Edge

The property management system. Is it under-appreciated? Is it over-worked? Is it simply misunderstood? The PMS has become the true workhorse of hotels, pulling in and pushing out data from a myriad of places, and increasingly expected to do more on both enterprise and customer-facing levels. Despite this, 18% of hoteliers believe they lag competitors when it comes to property management technologies. With almost half of hoteliers (48%) planning on upgrading their PMS in 2017, according to Hospitality Technology’s 2017 Lodging Technology Study, hoteliers are tasked with identifying system must-haves. 

To help hoteliers map out PMS priorities, HT queried hotel and technology experts to identify the top capabilities that will be vital for systems to have and maintain a competitive edge. 
1. Going to the cloud 
Operating systems in the cloud will become the de facto way of doing business. More than half (57%) of hotel operators already have or plan to migrate the PMS above property within the year. Many PMS providers currently offer cloud-based services, providing significant benefits to hotels. For instance, hotels — especially startups or smaller properties — that begin with a cloud-based PMS could save money because they won’t have to buy and integrate a server, says Brendan Stonestreet, guest services & revenue manager, Pinnacle Hotel at the Pier. For properties that already have servers up and running, moving systems to the cloud could save the hotel on server upgrade costs.

Mark Zipperer, president and CEO of Pride Hospitality, LLC, is one hotelier that found himself in that very situation. In the past, he said he paid $50-60K for branded server-based systems which would then need to be upgraded "all the time" at a substantial cost. After working with Agilysys and switching to rGuest Stay, a web-based PMS, Zipperer saw significant cost savings. Instead of running on servers, rGuest Stay runs natively in a browser on either desktop or tablet devices. For Zipperer, it's currently running on a Chromebook which he will be able to upgrade for significantly less than the thousands of dollars required to upgrade a server.  
Since a cloud-based system does not require onsite hardware, hotels become less dependent on internal IT specialists at each location, notes Floor Bleeker, chief information officer, MÖvenpick Hotels & Resorts. In addition, security liability is transferred to the supplier, allowing the hotel to shift costs from capital expenditures to operating expenses.
2. Mobile way of life
As guests become more mobile dependent, they will expect and demand the ability to use smartphones for all experiences, including those at hotels. HT’s 2016 Customer Engagement Study found that 62% of guests want mobile check-in, but only 39% of hotels offer it.
Beyond mobile check-in and check-out, a mobile PMS can offer other benefits for guests that prefer a self-service model, such as booking reservations and excursions or ordering room service.
Mobility also increases staff efficiency. On the corporate side, staff members no longer need to remote desktop in to each individual service for a specific property, says Will Song, vice president of revenue management, Vine Hotels & Resorts. On the operational side, staff members such as housekeeping can directly interact with the PMS on a mobile device to notify front desk personnel that a room has been cleaned. 

“Legacy systems by their very nature are fixed systems, meaning employees are tied to a fix point,” says Manoj Lad, managing director and founder, Keswick House Apartments, which uses Hotelogix. “Technology has evolved to the point where it has the capability to deliver any type of data to any type of device, at any given moment.”

Josie Kilgore, vice president of brand services, Cobblestone Hotels notes that giving associates the flexibility to work from home, or somewhere else remotely has been one of the biggest benefits of its teaming with SkyTouch Technology

“Managing a hotel is more hands on than ever, and having the ability to manage your property on the go is no longer a want, but a need,” she says.

MÖvenpick Hotels & Resorts is a brand that is growing simultaneously in four different regions. For this reason, mobility and scalability were top priorities as it looked to upgrade its PMS, ultimately teaming with Oracle Hospitality OPERA Cloud Services.
“We needed a cost-effective, low-upkeep system that was lightweight enough to provide the same responsiveness to island resorts in Asia as it does to city hotels in Europe,” Bleeker said. “We achieve the same speed in Bali as we do in Amsterdam. Plus, the mobile dashboards are accessible from any device and on a very low bandwidth.”

3. Integration
More and more PMS systems are offering integration or compatibility with central reservation systems and channel managers. For Song, this was a key reason why he chose RMS.

“I knew they were increasing their connections to these different systems and this would give us the flexibility to change our strategy in the near future if need be,” he said. 

PMS integration with online tools such as web reservations, booking engines and OTAs, can be critical for hoteliers, Zipperer adds. Not only is it inefficient when a GM has to update OTAs separately with inventory counts, but it prevents the GM from seeing snapshots of the OTAs all at once. And when GMs are forced to work with a PMS that doesn't interface well with booking engines – for instance taking hours instead of minutes to update OTAs on inventory counts – the hotel might find itself in a situation where the hotel is oversold.

"rGuest interfaces seamlessly with our chosen booking engine and we can manage all of our inventory without any of these types of problems," he notes. 

Integration with other companies’ products can also be a boon for hoteliers. For instance, WebRezPro partners with Guestfolio. When Pacific Crest Hotel found out about this partnership, it was able to work with Guestfolio to improve its TripAdvisor rating from 52/52 to 1/52 in just over a year, said Jennifer Mishkin, owner, Pacific Crest Santa Barbara
4. Guest communication
According to Stonestreet, Maestro PMS allows hoteliers to send guests a text message when a room becomes available. He’s hoping that this messaging feature will soon allow hoteliers to touch base with guests once they enter a room. For instance, it could send a text message that says: “How is your room? Is anything missing?” By touching base with the guest immediately, hoteliers are able to ensure guests are happy and are able to fix a small problem before it becomes a big one.
5. Intelligence gathering
According to Song, one of the major advantages of having a PMS is the data.
“Right now the PMS can show us who is booking, what room category, and how much they’re spending on property,” Song says. “It can even help us understand where we should be spending our resources such as improving the menu at a hotel restaurant or improving the hotel’s marketing efforts.”

RMS allows Song to create customizable dashboards to show real-time data across a multitude of devices. The hospitality industry, like so many others, is dealing with incredible amounts of data, which often hinders its ability to use the information well.  Song believes that in five to ten years, property management systems will become much more intelligent and ultimately will help hoteliers better understand and serve their clientele. 

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