Why PMSs are headed to the cloud

Property management systems contain a variety of sensitive and personal guest information that needs to be protected, which is leading companies to move their PMSs to the cloud.

“Trying to maintain a system like that on premises anymore is super tough and most IT managers just can’t keep up with it,” said Laura Calin, VP of solutions and strategy for Oracle Hospitality. “With the level of scrutiny that goes along with that guest information, you need to be nimble on a daily basis—the cloud is the easiest way to accomplish this.”

With cloud computing today, data centers like Amazon Web Services and IBM are replicating the data and backing it up far faster and more securely than any on-premises solution, according to Todd Sabo, president of North America at RMS Hospitality Solutions. “There’s also no installation of any hardware or software and all configurations can be done remotely so the hotelier’s operational expenses go out the window,” he said.

Cloud-based PMSs can streamline operations by simplifying day-to-day task management, automating critical operations and saving time by reducing manual dependency. Photo credit: StayNTouch

On top of security benefits, a whole new landscape of collaborative technologies is rolling out in the hotel space, and all of this is unthinkable without cloud connections, said Jeremy Armes, VP of marketing for protel. “If I want my hotel connected to the future, I would not hesitate to put as much of my business infrastructure into the cloud as possible,” he said. “PMS is just one important part of the puzzle—you have to see the whole picture.”

Part of that picture is preparing for the future. Cloud PMS solutions are more accessible and ready for mobile, said Ahmed Youssef, EVP of marketing and corporate development for Amadeus. “The underlying architecture of cloud-native PMS solutions also enable faster feature development and much less downtime for upgrade and maintenance compared to on-premises PMS.”

A cloud-based PMS is easier to integrate with other hospitality technology products as well, according to SkyTouch Technology CEO Todd Davis. “It can have much lower capital costs when it comes to implementation and operations, allows hotels to use lower-cost equipment and enables the user to conduct almost any transaction anytime, anywhere from any device.”

But ultimately, moving to the cloud is an individual decision for each hotel—there are benefits and disadvantages of each option that can differ wildly based on the geographical location, said Linda Vallner, VP of business development for protel. “In most scenarios where local infrastructure is a challenge, the mobile network is highly developed, which significantly reduces the risk of moving to the cloud,” she said. “Most cloud systems are so light that they can easily run over a mobile network in case of an outage in the local infrastructure.”

The ultimate selection of a PMS needs to consider the ability of the PMS to meet the needs of the hotel, from feature set to service levels, said Audrey MacRae, VP of Maestro PMS. Once that is done, then the hotel can determine if the deployment options are compatible with its needs, based on factors such as internet connection reliability (with backup), any need to share the database with other products in use at the hotel and any other software the hotel may need to use in the PMS environment.

“Hotels should have the option that suits their environment, their communications and their overall operational desires for staff productivity and guest service,” she said. “They should not be forced to move to a cloud-hosted solution simply because that's what the vendor offers. Mobile and web technologies are available in both cloud-hosted and on-premises deployments and is not the domain of cloud exclusively. The consideration and adoption to move to the cloud is not appropriate for every property and needs to be evaluated thoroughly.”

How guests are impacted by PMSs

The role of a PMS is continuing to grow and the amount of data hotels can gather from having a guest on property is enormous.  Insights, analytics and all of the data science can improve the guest experience.

The many advantages to a cloud-based include continuous system updates, limitless scalability, easy integration, simple compliance, and an overall improved guest experience. Photo credit: SkyTouch Technology

Analytics and data science can be used for profile insights to improve the guest experience—for repeat guests and for new guests, Calin said. “With analytics, we can quickly get insights from a guest’s past experience and even if they are new to the property, we can match that profile with others with similar demographics,” she said. “But even more important is taking those insights into the workflow—the upsell potential is high depending on how we treat that guest.”

The focus is on which integrations improve the guest experience and by doing so, set the scene for an increased spend per booking, Vallner said. “As a guest, I want freedom of choice on how I interact with the hotel,” she said. “It does not matter which type of hotel it is, luxury or budget, a guest will sometimes be in the mood to converse with the concierge and sometimes he will not. By providing integrations to different guest-facing technologies, the hotel will never miss a chance to make the guest happy.”

A PMS controls touchpoints along the guest's journey, Youssef said. A journey is not only a single trip, but rather a diary of travel related activities. “Being able to put these activities together hotels can develop actionable service delivery strategies around the data and inferences they provide,” he said. “These solutions can make hotels more intuitively aware of the guest as long as they're integrated.”

PMS mobility is a big piece of the guest overall mobility demands. The ability to check-in, how and when they want is essential, StayNTouch CEO Jos Schaap said. “This doesn’t mean arriving on-site to then wait for in-queue,” he said. “They want to be greeted by hotel staff upon arrival and walk to their rooms bypassing the front desk completely.”
The cloud enables guest-facing interfaces, including self-service options and allows hoteliers to harness the power of data and analytics to provide a personalized experience. “With a cloud-based system, hoteliers know they can meet these evolving demands improving the quality of the guest experience, and guest services, everything from check-in to housekeeping, concierge services and maintenance response times,” Schaap continued.

A fluid experience, from check in to checkout, with an interactive communication mechanism for preventative action and improved post-stay ratings all help guests have a better stay, said MacRae. The web-based browser PMS is what would aid in the guest experience improvement by allowing the mobility (i.e. tablets, portable computers) of the staff and guest tools in real-time via the PMS, the cloud hosting environment is an added benefit for the operator's IT teams if and as needed though would not have a direct affect on the guest if the vendor offers a comparable web-based solution hosted on premise.

“Complete integration to the PMS with real-time guest preference and feedback tracking through online registration, integrated surveys post check-in and post-stay and SMS staff and guest alerts for early check ins and priority rooms all add to the guest experience at your property,” she continued.

Why integrations are key

The goal of a PMS is to tie the guest journey together from beginning to end. There are system integrations that can make this journey go smoother. According to Youssef, hotels should make sure to integrate central-reservation, customer-relationship-management and business-intelligence systems.

“These systems and the PMS are the cornerstones of personalization,” he said. “If these three systems are talking and sharing information in unison, it will make it easier to deliver better service and personalization.”

Integrations that offer staff-facing technologies via mobile and remote access for all facets of the operation including front desk, sales teams, spa and activity teams are so important for the guest experience. Photo credit: Maestro PMS

Hoteliers should always look for a PMS with an application programming interface that allows for seamless integrations with other systems, Davis said. “These integrations save time and money while providing better marketing data, increased revenues, and ultimately better guest service for the hotel,” he said.

The cloud makes it easy to connect all hotel functions and operations, so integrations are generally easier between systems, Schaap said. By using clean and open APIs, hotels easily can integrate other systems without limitations and fear of additional cost. “For hoteliers, this capacity and the possibilities that it brings are revolutionary,” Schaap continued. “It offers them limitless flexibility to work with the vendors of their choice, meaning they can bundle applications together to create a customized management suite that’s right for their business.”

Content-management system, rates and inventory are other key integrations that will allow for a free flow of information for a smooth business outcome, said Calin. But the integration with a distribution system is key—it enables the connection to all of the direct channels, she continued.

Looking to the future, integrations that allow for mobile key and online check-in will be important, Sabo said. “These integrations that allow for easy check-in that is frictionless will be important for future-proofing,” he said.  

No integration is more important than another, hotels are unique and they cater to a volatile and dynamic market, Vallner said. What is important today may be a dead trend tomorrow. “Consider how priorities change across the globe: Integration to an app to rent bicycles for a hotel in Amsterdam might be just the thing; in Cape Town it’s all about selling trips to visit Table Mountain; in Buenos Aires special promotions are made to foreigners who want to attend a tango dancing class; in Paris integration to table reservations at exquisite restaurants might be all the rave,” she said. “Freedom to choose and ease of change are the keywords here. Selecting a PMS vendor that provides the foundation for that freedom of choice is the most important.”