The need for automated solutions in hotels is higher than ever before—and there are operational gains to be found when automated guest services are enabled. Hotels today are implementing modern, intuitive property-management systems with features like automation and guest/staff mobility to help them do more with less.
By allowing guests to book activities and amenities when they reserve their room, they are freeing up staff members to focus on service levels at the property and are helping the hotel prepare for their stay, said Prabuddha Biswas, chief technology offer at Agilysys. “In addition, by offering mobile solutions like mobile check-in, ID verification and mobile key access along with automated checkout, they are taking the pressure off the front desk and allowing the guest to interact with the property the way they feel most comfortable,” he said. “In the past, training could take four to six weeks; today, these modern PMSs involve much quicker onboarding—now less than a day in many cases.”
Not only is the labor shortage putting pressure on hotel operations, but many hotel staff members are new to the industry, said Tanya Pratt, vice president of Opera Cloud strategy at Oracle. With fewer employees being on property, staff often need to perform the work of many. “The staff needs to get to work faster, get the right information they need quicker and get working more efficiently anywhere they need to be,” Pratt said.
The newer property-management systems promote operational efficiency, allowing hotel teams to be more productive and leaving them more time to focus on their guests.
“Hoteliers are investing in solutions that handle everything from booking and contactless check-in, seamless guest communications, all the way to business intelligence tools that track the guest experience,” said Frederic Dominioni, chief revenue officer at RMS Cloud. “With more sophisticated technology, there is less need for a large staff, and those working on property can focus on their guests versus administrative duties.”
Hotels needs their PMS to be as easy to use and as automated as possible so that the staff they do have can get more work done with less hands-on interaction at a fixed front-desk terminal, said Charlie Rhodes, COO at Visual Matrix: “The best systems on the market have industry-leading automation and flexibility with built-in features such as guest texting, streamlining of back-of-house tasks and communication, and revenue management tools to allow the automation of key operations such as rate changes and restrictions, in order to free up staff to do more important operational work and take better care of guests.”
Learning to succeed with a smaller team means that hoteliers have to get creative. From multitasking to lean practices, everyone is being asked to do a little bit more with a little bit less, said Michael Heflin, chief revenue officer at Stayntouch. “A PMS system that can operate in any environment, at the front desk, on the go, in the lobby, in the car park or sitting down for a cup of coffee, is critical to meeting current labor demands. Unfortunately, today many hoteliers are still hampered by legacy on-site systems that require significant focus, a physical desk and hundreds of keystrokes to perform the most basic of tasks; all of which take them away from focusing on providing the best service and experience possible for their guests.”
Integrations within the property-management system, such as housekeeping management, guest requests and automated guest communications, also give hoteliers an edge, said Audrey MacRae, EVP at Maestro. “The need to create seamless, real-time environments for your guests and your staff is key to operating leaner and faster,” she said.
In this time of COVID recovery, hoteliers are looking for a shift from siloes and fragmentation to a more holistically integrated environment that makes it easier for hoteliers to manage and drive revenue while reducing costs and understanding customers better. With the support of real-time visibility into the property’s performance, the PMS can enable data-driven decision-making as new information becomes available, said Scott Wilson, president of Sabre Hospitality.
“Technology plays a key role in this time of change, enabling hoteliers to adapt and ushering in a new era of personalized travel that will present more opportunities for businesses and a better experience for travelers,” he said. “Connected, seamless and personalized experiences are expected and the use of digital solutions has increased. This, in turn, has generated further data, thereby creating a wealth of new possibilities for hoteliers.”
Why Hoteliers Are Switching PMS Providers
Many hotels are realizing that their older on-premises desktop property-management system software is limiting their ability to leverage newer technologies such as mobile access, texting, contactless guest experiences and other innovations. These hotels seek out cloud-based solutions that offer greater flexibility and more advanced technology access, Rhodes said.
Broadly speaking, hoteliers are tired of being burdened by their technology. They want their PMS to facilitate exceptional hospitality, not hinder it, Heflin said. “Owners want a system that can be the heart of a seamless and flexible ecosystem while being easy for staff to use and train on,” he said. “Hotel staff members want a system that leverages automation to minimize repetitive administrative work while giving them the flexibility to engage with guests anywhere on the property. For their part, guests want a system that makes their stay more convenient and personalized, while allowing them to access staff instantly and on their terms.”
Guest-centric platforms used to be a luxury but today they’re a necessity, Heflin continued. The most innovative hoteliers are taking those guest-centric platforms and building the entirety of their operations to be flexible and responsive to the ever-evolving demands of each unique traveler and doing so with an efficiency previously unimaginable.
The PMSs that today’s hoteliers should look at consist of a product in which content, rates, availability and flexible workflows are stored in one place, Wilson said. This aims to enhance the in-stay guest experience, enabling hoteliers to create a consistent brand experience. “An intuitive design is also necessary, to reduce the time to execute routine tasks and accelerate the employee onboarding process from weeks to just days,” he said. “Additionally, a mobile-optimized design means that employees can easily access guest information and execute operational tasks anywhere, on a wide array of devices, resulting in a more efficient and connected experience.”
Hotels are looking for ways to recover some of the revenue they lost during the last few years and even create new revenue channels. “They need a technology tool kit that can help optimize the labor they have, promote operational efficiency, capture more revenue and maintain the service levels their guests have come to expect.” Biswas said. “Many hoteliers are looking to move to the cloud for the cost savings and to avoid managing or maintaining on-premises servers, plus the extra staff typically needed for support.”
Another significant driver to change is hotels realizing that their current systems are outdated or overcomplicated. “With staff turnover at an all-time high and staffing levels at an all-time low, hotels are looking for technology to solve their problems—not create additional ones,” Rhodes said. “Hospitality has been behind the rest of the world in technology for too many years, and hotels with outdated PMS products are beginning to realize that they’d like to grow up technologically.”