While it is an obvious over-exaggeration to compare Ronald Reagan’s famous “Tear Down This Wall” speech to a proverbial technology wall, hotel technology does come with many barriers.
NB: This is an article by Uli Pillau, Founder & CEO of Apaleo
The barriers that property management systems have created (installation fees, long sales cycles, integration costs, long wait times for upgrades) leave hotels stuck with clunky, expensive software that doesn’t always address their guests needs. It is time for PMS vendors to initiate a change and tear down the proverbial walls so that hotels can provide great service and streamline operations, developers can innovate, and travelers can get the most out of their hotel experience.
The 3-Pronged Solution
PMS vendors should make it simple for hotels to customize their software so that it makes sense for their business and caters to their guest segments. To do this, the PMS must be fast, scalable, and connect to third-party applications without any friction. This can be achieved by focusing on three main components:
1. A native, cloud-based PMS: To quickly add technology to the PMS, hotels need a cloud-based system that can be set up quickly and does not charge hidden fees for integrations. These systems allow hotels to add new features, integrate new apps immediately, and set up new hotels as needed because there are no on-premise installations. (side note: a great explanation of what it really means to be cloud-based can be found here)
2. A public, 2-way API: Hotels must be able to easily connect third party applications to their PMS without any wait times or additional fees, so the PMS should make it easy to develop and integrate apps with a public, 2-way API that allows apps to write data back to the PMS and vice versa.
3. A centralized location with pre-integrated apps: Now that apps can easily be built and integrated, hotels should have the ability to find and purchase them with the click of a button to customize their software based on guest needs.
How tearing down the technology wall changes the industry
As solutions become barrier free, the entire industry benefits, from hoteliers to technology providers. But perhaps most importantly, hotel guests win with better, tailored hotel experiences.
Hoteliers have the freedom to customize their technology based on guest needs and expectations
The openness of this setup allows hoteliers to have a core PMS on top of which they can add pre-integrated tools based on the profile of their guests and the nature of their business, all without having to worry about long wait times and fees for new features and integrations.
For example, the technology required to operate a staffless hotel will be different than that of a 5-star, high-touch, family-friendly resort. Both could use the same PMS, but the staffless hotel would plug in technology to facilitate seamless check-in – automated prestay emails, keyless entry, automatic checkouts and billing, etc. – while the resort would connect apps that personalize the experience – customized upsell packages, tools for staff to identify and address guests by name, mobile chat for room service requests, VR experiences, and so on. Both may want to connect a channel manager, BI and reporting tools, a CRM, etc. All of these technologies can be connected and running with the click of a button.
The applications that hotels add to their PMS can be scaled up or down, allowing hotels to evolve with their guest segments and guest expectations. On top of this, with a public, open API, hotels can even dream up their own app ideas and build custom solutions for specific to their hotel.
Technology providers can focus on improving the guest experience rather than on integrations
In the industry’s current state, hotel technology providers are forced to allocate a considerable amount of time and resources on building integrations, rather than enhancing their products and innovating. With a public, 2-way API connecting developers to the PMS, developers no longer must worry about integrations.
This frees up time to build tools that are useful and meaningful, from optimizing hotel operations so that staff can spend more time with guests to guest-facing applications that ‘wow’ travelers or make their experience more seamless, to tools that help hotels better understand their guest data so that they can better personalize marketing, optimize pricing, and so on.
Because all the technology integrates and is available in one store, developers have a central place to connect and sell their technology. Within the store, apps are filtered by category and popularity, allowing new developers to introduce their technology on a meritocracy basis.
A better guest journey encourages more bookings and loyal customers
Hotel guests benefit from wall-free technology because they receive a more personalized, improved experience. It allows them to book and travel with the apps that they already love without compromising their preferences. It allows for faster booking, check-in and check-out. It allows guests to easily interact with the hotel pre-, during, and post-stay as well as update and save their room and personal preferences so that hotels can accommodate their needs without having to ask. The list goes on.
As guests have a better experience, they may leave higher reviews, and generate more business via word-of-mouth, allowing hoteliers to adjust their room rates, increase the lifetime value of the guest and to differentiate from competitors.
Barrier-free hotel technology will have a significant, positive impact on how hotels approach technology, how developers build their products, and how guests experience travel. But it is up to PMS vendors to take action. Let’s make 2018 the year where we finally tear down the proverbial walls!