Using PMS to integrate the guest experience

Messaging standards play an important role in connecting a hotel’s property management system to other systems on the property. Hotel Management spoke with experts from around the industry to discover how suppliers work to integrate the guest experience.

“The definition of a PMS has changed,” said Dr. Peter Agel, SVP strategic customer relationships at hospitality and retail technology firm MICROS Systems Inc. “PMSs are developing more toward integrated hotel IT solutions where the local administration is just one piece.”

This push toward integration is putting more pressure on the PMS to define its interfaces with third-party systems. “There’s been a shift over the past 10 years,” said Chris Donahue, senior product manager for specialty and integration at hospitality systems and service solutions company PAR Springer-Miller. “Before, we took the stance of developing to the third-party system’s specifications; so imagine, if you had eight or 10 PBX manufacturers, we would have eight or 10 different interfaces.”

With the onset of organizations like Hotel Technology Next Generation (HTNG), the PMS began to play a larger role in defining the interface, Donahue said. All the experts we spoke with cited organizations like HTNG and the Open Travel Alliance as very helpful when developing standards, but even when working with those standards, challenges remain.

“We all try to make standards work for every single integration project, and that is why they become very big,” said Erik Weller, paradigm executive at hospitality software solutions company iTesso. “So for every installation, you start defining what portion of standards you use, and that immediately makes the standard no longer a standard.”

Another approach is handling integration through a piece of middleware, said Warren Dehan, president of hospitality software company Northwind-Maestro. “All a PMS manufacturer has to do is write an interface to the middleware product, and they take care of interfacing with third-party vendors and keeping those integrations current,” he said.

As PMSs become repositories for data for the entirety of a guest’s lifecycle, the need for these interfaces will only grow, said Kerry Brock, VP of sales and marketing at PMS provider RoomKey. “I don’t see people using less technology in the future,” Brock said. “Where integration was probably a request by full-service properties in the past, it’s now the request of limited-service properties.”