During the economic downturn, many families decided that the prudent thing was to downsize their lives by purchasing smaller homes and vehicles, but most importantly, by simplifying their lives. Similarly, hotel companies also downsized, frequently letting staff go, which created additional pressure on remaining staff to hold the company and its underlying technology together.
So, the question is: Is there a way to consolidate technology to reap full benefits without downsizing and eliminating valuable systems?
In most full-service hotels, you may find up to 20 systems on property that track multiple facets of the hotel’s operations, including PMS, POS, PBX, call accounting, door locking, video, sales and catering, accounting, revenue management, asset tracking, incident reporting and internal Intranet. Then there are “above property” solutions, such as central reservation systems, channel management solutions, online distribution Extranets, a brand.com proprietary booking engine and often even more.
Managing so many disparate systems is a technological nightmare, as each system needs to communicate to another on different levels of complexity. These interface points are a source of much concern to hotels and hotel companies. The hospitality industry has made the technological landscape so incredibly complicated that productivity and go-forward technology strategies have been affected. Even worse, non-integrated systems can negatively affect customer satisfaction, because the staff has to focus on technology rather than the customer. And in hospitality, customer service is—and always will be—king.
A number of industry associations have tried to standardize the integration/interfacing of systems to simplify the technological landscape. While this is a step in the right direction, wouldn’t it be easier just to try and consolidate some of these solutions? The hotel technology community is beginning to grasp this idea, and run with it.
By having a large number of systems above property or in the cloud, hotel companies can stop focusing on technology and infrastructure, and focus instead on guests. The hotel property management system and central reservations system are converging into one system, helping to alleviate many of the technology challenges. We’re also seeing a number of other solutions deployed above property, most notably CRM and revenue management. These systems go hand-in-hand to ensure great customer satisfaction and maximize profitability.
Finally, another area of hotel technology will soon be deployed above property: the financial management system. It just makes sense that all pertinent financial data, along with guest data surrounding a hotel, be easily accessible via a web browser. This will reduce hotels’ technological footprint and allow management to interact with systems no matter where they are located.
The industry is well on its way to “downsizing,” but still has a number of challenges ahead.
Alan Young is VP of global marketing for Infor Softbrands, a leading provider of business application software. Mr. Young is past Chair of The Board of Director of The OpenTravel Alliance, and has also been involved with AH&LA, HEDNA and HTNG. He has been a guest speaker at World Travel Mart, HITEC, HEDNA, The HOT Conference and a number of other industry events.