Hotel Technology. Operational evolution and the Three Pillars to Success
Is your hotel ready?
When Ryanair revolutionised airline travel, the public were outraged. With online check-in, a limited-service airport journey, priority boarding, hand luggage only, first come first served seating and extortionate ‘at-gate’ fees, the list goes on. However, when our attitudes changed and we embraced this new way of travel, we adopted a faster, more seamless, affordable and a better organised approach to short distance travel. While in the past personal service was standard and digital experiences were “special”, today, we live in digital world, and it seems that personal service is becoming somewhat “premium”.
The same principle applies to Property Management Systems and how hoteliers adapt to the technological changes and benefit from the evolution of cloud and system integrations.
“Back in 2016 when I was speaking to hoteliers about cloud PMS, they thought it was an unimaginable concept, now would you believe it is the very reason they want to talk to Guestline, thanks to our cloud innovation and various factors that now contribute to cloud being the most secure, flexible and reliable way to host your PMS. With GDPR legislation, having guest data stored on the local hotel’s server is a complete no no and with Covid 19 and many people working remotely, cloud is not only desirable, but actually the only way forward.” Says Clio O’Gara, Country Manager Ireland at Guestline.
Throughout the pandemic, many industries were forced to accelerate the rate at which they responded to the demands of a new ‘norm’. From public sectors such as the HSE adopting Covid tracing apps, test centres and vaccination rollout clinics to retail and ecommerce bringing a whole new dimension to the world of online shopping or food ordering. As independent businesses, hotels can truly succeed by providing an offering that enables them to really listen to the guest and deliver the best possible experience, whether that’s a 2-star venue in the city or a 5-star resort in the country.
There are three pillars to this success…. The Guest, The Hotelier and the PMS
The needs and demands of ‘The Guest’ have evolved dramatically over the last few years. Guests have become much savvier to how they shop for and experience hotels and in turn, hotels have had to adapt to these renewed attitudes and behaviours by implementing technology tools that enables them to offer a more desired and profitable guest experience. The new guest is much more open to participating in their journey, using pre-stay registration tools, paying online before arrival and making dinner reservations and booking spa treatments at the front desk, meaning a good integration of a hotel spa, restaurant and other facilities is highly demanded. But education is important if hoteliers are to truly understand how to meet the needs of the future guest. The effort and the cost of implementing the right technology can be incomparably lower than the cost of ignoring guests’ expectations- its consequences can be more detrimental to the business, especially in the longer term.
Clio added: “There was a time when selling real time availability across all the OTA channels was revolutionary. Hoteliers were worried about losing control. They didn’t understand the technology that allowed them to drive a more profitable OTA return”.
“However, with weighting and ceiling controls alongside dynamic pricing and occupancy driven rates, hoteliers can now sell right down to the last room and if they get a late cancellation, that room is straight back up for sale without any intervention from the team. Hoteliers of today use a different language when talking about the customer relationship and how they can retain the guest. The cost of acquisition is key. To pay OTA commission is fine for a guest’s first stay, but it shouldn’t be a case for a returning guest, that’s why hoteliers are building relationships with their brand, and the guest, to ensure repeat business across the lifetime of the guest is generated via direct channels. A concept that was laughable not too long ago.”
Integrations have always been an important part of hotel’s operations: tills, keys and accounting systems have been the norm. However, now it’s all about guest experience apps at check-in and throughout the guest’s stay, from pre-payment, integrated billing, and room charges to reputation management, marketing and CRM solutions, all of which are in demand now.
“We work with partners, sending and receiving data using event architecture, which has really enabled properties to have many interfaces with different tools they need to run their business, all working at speed across the cloud, accessible remotely and eliminating the long-term need for dusty back-office hardware. We understand it might be daunting to change everything at once, therefore we work in ways that mean hoteliers can slowly and steadily move their systems to be more digital-focused by replacing the PMS first and evolving from there. Guestline has always been bold in its approach of bringing to market the best possible solutions to its clients. As pioneers, we were first to market with our Azure cloud offering and this really set us apart. Whilst we couldn’t foresee a pandemic, we did foresee the future of cloud and the immense benefits this would bring to forever change the operations of a hotel and its positive impact on the guest experience.” Says, Andrew Metcalfe, Chief Technology Officer, Guestline
Housing of guest data has always played a valuable role in hotel operations, but as time moves on and technology advances, hoteliers are learning the real value of this information as guest expectations centre around pre, during and post stay communications. A valuable commodity, guest databases face GDPR challenges when housed on-site in clunky hardware. More and more hoteliers understand today that it’s not so much about having the data but interpreting it the right way and benefiting from this knowledge. Nowadays, hotels do not limit themselves to one piece of software, and most properties use PMS, channel manager, booking engine, payment gateway, a guest experience app – to name but a few. Having so many touch points with guests, it’s really crucial that all systems are part of one platform, (or deeply integrated with it) which guarantees that the guest’s data is properly exchanged between them. Nowadays, with the ability to upsell, incentivise and impress, hoteliers are implementing CRM systems that integrate with their PMS so that they can personalise and tailor guest communications to each market segment, delivering excellent customer service.
“Development of new products has changed over the last five years. Previously there was a one-size-fits-all system approach that was rolled out to all clients. Now, we interview many different stakeholders across the business to really understand what they are looking for, their needs and how they see the product working for them and their guest, enabling us to configure better, more bespoke systems – which is only possible thanks to the depth and breadth of Guestline PMS. As we all know, the success of the company relies on the strength of its employees, and this is the same for Guestline, where 80% of our staff are former hoteliers, meaning we’ve experienced first-hand the operational frustrations hoteliers face and we bring these frustrations into play when developing the technology and its solutions. We understand hotel staffing is more of an issue today but with benefits such as ease of use, integrated mobile apps and single sign on, plus the back up of a 24/7 support desk and portal, we bring a renewed flexibility and security to the market. Like all investments, the ROI is important. We get that the new carpet for reception might be high on the budget, or that the chef is looking for a new oven, that’s why we said goodbye to our old Capex model pricing structures. We want hoteliers to be able to upgrade their tech stack whilst being mindful of cash flow and our SaaS monthly payment solution allows them to do just that” says Clio.
With the re-opening of the hospitality industry set to put renewed pressures on hotels, it’s important to keep the three pillars to success in mind. To understand the wants and needs of the guest, as hoteliers, it’s about adapting and pivoting to those needs and implementing the best technology, built by hoteliers, for hoteliers, to ensure that you are always ahead of the game.
Andrew adds: “If we told you now that you’d have to queue at the airport for someone to serve you and check you in, you would think that was old school. Our expectations have shifted, and we believe hotel guests are only just starting that shift too…!”