Automating for success: Next-generation hotel property management systems

pms-technologyAs Bill Gates once observed, automation applied to an efficient operation will magnify the efficiency. That is certainly true of hotel operations, where next-generation technology is magnifying the efficiency in unprecedented and extremely valuable ways.

In fact, according to The 2016 Smart Decision Guide to Hotel Property Management Systems (currently available for complimentary access), today’s property management systems (PMS) are automating all of the different functions that take place at a hotel or resort. Indeed, the systems are enabling hotel operators to drive ever-increasing levels of efficiency in ways that may have been difficult to imagine only a decade ago.

The scope of the platform capabilities has expanded beyond core functions like guest registration, room inventory maintenance, financial accounting and housekeeping assignment to encompassing virtually all aspects of hotel operations. With many systems, the capabilities have also become increasingly sophisticated and flexible, and even more easy to seamlessly integrate with third-party technologies.

To that point, next-generation systems now generally offer integrated channel management capabilities, including connectivity with web booking engines and global distribution systems to automate transactions with booking agents. Many systems now integrate with third-party point-of-sale (POS) software for retail and restaurant operations. Many systems also integrate with accounting software, keycard and access control systems, self-service kiosks, internet and telephone systems, including voicemail, and in-room refreshment and entertainment applications.

Some of the advances in features and functionality now often include specialized marketing and sales capabilities for running targeted promotions and campaigns. Some systems tout robust data analysis tools and performance dashboards for generating business intelligence, including insights into emerging trends and guest behaviors by segment. Some systems have guest relationship management and personalization features that engender higher levels of guest satisfaction, leading to more repeat stays and higher volumes of positive brand advocacy — e.g., favorable feedback on TripAdvisor and other popular review sites.

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Simply put, a next-generation PMS streamlines operations across the organization and provides better management controls. It reduces overhead and minimizes costs through increased efficiency while increasing occupancy rates, RevPAR and overall profitability through better data accessibility and process efficiency. In most cases, the solutions also provide hotel operators with better analytical reporting, allowing them to gain deeper insights into guest behaviors. These insights make it possible to enhance the overall guest experience and drive continuous performance improvement.

Different hotel operators are bound to have different expectations of a next-generation PMS, given the differing requirements of their properties. A full-service hotel or resort, for example, would likely require a far more robust and comprehensive system than, say, a small, limited-service hotel or motel, which may need only a system that can automate basic functions like guest bookings, housekeeping, guest charges and maintenance management.

A full-service hotel or resort would likely need a PMS that can support complex reservation, scheduling and inventory needs, with a host of features designed to support an exceptionally high level of guest service. The system would also need to integrate with hotel restaurants and cocktail lounges along with spas, banquet rooms, dry cleaning and other facilities, and perhaps even such guest services as bed turndown service, newspaper delivery, room service and transportation shuttles.

The “must-ask questions” that hotel operators will have of solution providers are sure to vary depending on the specific needs of the hotel or resort, including its category, size and typology. Hotel operators should gain a clear understanding of their own requirements and priorities and weigh them accordingly using an assessment framework, such as the one included in The 2016 Smart Decision Guide to Hotel Property Management Systems.

Does the system need to interface with self-service check-in kiosks? Does it need to handle corporate expense account management? Does it require a casino comp module and need to integrate to a player tracking system, or require gaming commission recognition?  Does it require its own activity booking system or need to integrate with spa and dining reservation systems?

If a hotel has a high contribution from government and NGO business, how well does the system handle tax-exempt reservations?  If group is a significant portion of the hotel’s mix, are the group block allocation and contracting capabilities up to the task, and any required sales and catering integration in place?

Yet while hotel operators at different properties will invariably have different requirements and priorities when it comes to PMS buying considerations, there are also a number of requirements they are bound to have in common. These center, first and foremost, on the desire to improve operational efficiency across all parts of the organization.

According to new research, 91% of hotel operators agree that streamlining operations is one of the biggest benefits one can expect to gain with the right property management system. The most important buying consideration, therefore, may be the degree to which core hotel functions can be fully automated — or at least substantially streamlined. In most cases, the answer will be: a lot.

About the author

Jeff ZabinJeff Zabin is Research Director at Starfleet Research, which benchmarks best practices in hospitality technology. Recent titles include The 2016 Smart Decision Guide to Hotel Property Management Systems, The 2016 Smart Decision Guide to Hospitality Revenue Management and The 2016 Smart Decision Guide to Restaurant Management and POS Systems. A globally-recognized market research executive, Zabin’s bestselling business books on data-driven marketing improvement have been translated into more than a dozen languages. His has also written hundreds of popular benchmark reports and articles in leading trade publications across multiple industry sectors, including hospitality.

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