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Takeaways from our webinar, “Building the perfect hotel tech stack”

During a webinar last month, we discussed how to build the perfect hotel stack with three industry experts from Travel Tripper, SnapShot and StayNTouch. The range of topics included the benefits of a modern CRS, mobile PMS, and how hotels can embrace a new wave of technology that looks set to revolutionize the industry.

Click below to listen to a full recording of the webinar and read on to see a list of the top takeaways from our discussion.

Defining and evaluating a modern CRS

The role of a hotel central reservation system (CRS) is to store and distribute information from a single platform to all major distribution channels. It’s centralized in two ways:

First, it allows the distribution of hotel inventory to channels such as the hotel website, booking engine, the call center, OTAs, metasearch sites and loyalty programs.

It’s also centralized from the hotel group’s perspective, allowing for the management of hotel pricing, information, and reservations for multiple properties.

While a modern CRS can serve a variety of functions, not all systems are created equal. Below, you can compare the must-have tools of a functional system versus the great-to-have tools of a feature-rich system:

Key Hotel CRS Features

The main difference between these examples? Ultimately, the added tools of a feature-rich system can lead to more direct bookings and increased profits.

Direct booking: comparing old and new models

With an old direct booking platform, the website and booking engine function as two separate entities, which can lead to a doubling up of work. Most industry CRS systems push rates, reservations, and availability only to the booking engine. Marketing managers then need to manage similar content in the website CMS.

A disjointed system also creates a cumbersome booking experience. When reservation dates are initially entered on the website, customers are often taken to a separate booking page—only to have to enter the same details again.

But in a modern system, the CRS, booking engine, and website are connected as a single entity, removing these two major issues.

To see an example, you can see Travel Tripper’s own CRS in action for the Washington Park Hotel in Miami. While the guest is on the website, it shows live up-to-date rates (fed from the CRS), and these can be explored from anywhere on the website.

When dates are selected, the website displays a guaranteed lowest price—again, pulled from the CRS. After selecting a room, the user is sent to the booking engine’s availability page. A rate match feature then lets them compare real-time prices with OTAs, increasing booking confidence and helping the hotel keep the direct booking.

Room names, images, descriptions and pricing are all also populated from the CRS and visible in a single view. Again, clicking on a room type takes the user directly to the booking engine, creating a seamless user-friendly booking flow.

The mobile PMS: streamlining hotel operations

In today’s mobile-driven age, hotels can place themselves at a great advantage by investing in a PMS that’s mobile. In fact, it’s an investment that comes with a number of major benefits.

Enhances your hotel operations
First, a mobile PMS offers far better visibility. Both front and back end staff can access guest information and room status from anywhere on any device.

It also enhances communication. Instead of relying on handwritten notes, staff can enter guest data in one central place, reducing the risk of information slipping through the net.

The other notable advantage is freedom. A mobile PMS frees staff up so they’re not bound to their desktop. This can lead to to some specific advantages. For instance, sales and revenue managers can easily access rates and availability during customer negotiations, and general managers can oversee operations and stay on top of issues while they’re on the move.

Empowers your front office staff
The traditional hotel front desk can act as something of a barrier with guests. But with a mobile PMS, staff can choose to grab a coffee with a guest in the hotel bar, or escort them to their room while chatting about any needs they might have.

As well as feeling altogether more informal and friendly, interacting away from the desk breaks up long queues, and it provides a way to discreetly handle issues from any dissatisfied customers.

Elements of check-in and check-out can also be integrated into a mobile PMS, allowing guests to use their own smartphone for these procedures. This frees up the front desk to focus on greeting customers on arrival rather than dealing with admin procedures.

Requests can also be instantly sent to any department. Instead of having to call or find a member of housekeeping to request an extra bed, they can be messaged immediately via mobile, eliminating unnecessary delays.

Equips hotel staff with greater access
While all departments can benefit, a mobile PMS brings particular advantages to housekeeping. Rather than relying on written assignments at the start of their shift, they can glance at a mobile to check real-time data, whether it’s the status of a room or a guest’s specific requirements.

A mobile PMS also allows staff to see exactly when a guest has checked out. This can be hugely helpful. Often, a lot of guests don’t check out when they leave, creating a delay before a room gets cleaned. But when the option is available on mobile, check-out rates increase by around 30-40%. Housekeeping are then notified more often and can turn over rooms much faster.

Easy connection and sharing with other tools
As mentioned, there are range of industry-specific tools out there that can boost conversion rates. To that end, your hotel is at a significant advantage if your mobile PMS can integrate with third-party platforms using an open API structure.

You’ll also want a system that’s designed to receive automatic updates and upgrades. This will save you the costly and time-consuming process of having to call an engineer to physically install every new update released.

How hotel technology is evolving (and how to embrace it)

Hotels use dozens of types of software, but most of them aren’t integrated. This makes data difficult to extract, analyze, and ultimately put into action. But a new wave of disruptive technologies will revolutionize the hotel tech stack as we know it.

In the coming years, expect to see machine learning, voice recognition, robotics, and distributed cloud computing transform the way hotels operate. If that sounds far-fetched, consider the following.

Machine learning technology such as IBM’s Watson is already being used in areas such as healthcare and finance to improve decision-making and interpret big data. These features are also being harnessed in the travel industry.

Voice recognition assistants such as Amazon Echo and Google Home are now moving into the home, and the Wynn Las Vegas will have an Echo in all of its rooms by this summer, undoubtedly signaling the start of a wider industry trend.

And while robots may seem the stuff of science-fiction, companies such as Maidbot are already designing robots to supplement room maids in hotels.

Cloud computing brings all these technologies together, and it’ll ultimately replace outdated PMS systems fixed and restricted to reception desks.

How can hotels deal with this technology?

This brave new world might seem a little daunting. Dealing with the current generation of apps isn’t always easy in itself. But technology such as machine learning and AI will work on a different level entirely, operating beneath the surface of hotel systems.

Faced with an exciting if not uncertain time ahead, here are three skills that hoteliers should embrace:

1. Integrate systems to make data useful: Hoteliers need to interpret and act upon data derived from different sources. Integrating different systems into a central resource is the key to making this job easier, leading to better use of the available information.

2. Ensure device and app agnostic global access: Guests expect to be able to interact with your hotel on their mobile devices before, during, and after their stay. Your data needs to be available on any device and in any place to meet their needs.

3. Balance automated and human decision-making: It’ll never be possible to automate every decision relating to a guest. Long-established preferences might suddenly change between stays, so a human should be involved to account for fluctuating needs. It’ll be important to balance the power of automation with the intuition and oversight of human decision-making.

Combing the right system with the right processes

The perfect hotel tech stack relies upon investing in the right kind of systems, but also using them intelligently. Don’t simply ask the new vendor to build what you had before.

Have an open mind to new ways of doing things, from how housekeeping is managed to the way revenue managers update pricing in a system.

Also, bear in mind that technology moves fast and software can be outdated within one or two years. By investing in an open system with flexible APIs, you’ll have the ability to integrate with third-party platforms and be future-proofing yourself for any new software that comes to market.

Looking for the slides for our presentation? View them here.

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