HITEC Toronto 2017HITEC, the Hospitality Industry Technology Exposition and Conference brings together industry leaders, vendors and decision makers annually. It is the place to be to understand new developments and trends in hospitality technology. During July we will be featuring a series of articles highlighting our perspective on the top trends in technology beginning with this feature on applications. We hope to provide some insight into a few of the key trends and look forward to meeting you at HITEC 2018 in Houston, if not before in Dubai or Amsterdam.

It is a time of real change in the applications supporting hotel operations. The simple PMS, POS, accounting, purchasing and payroll systems still remain, however the server rooms are empty. There are guest facing interfaces, providing everything from profile review and check in, to room automation controls, aimed at delivering service to the guest when, where are how they choose.

Trend #1: Customer interfaces

Seen but not heard? The traditional back of house applications are now making their way front of house as customer service demands change.

There is no doubt customer expectations are changing. Customers are if not more comfortable with self-service, expecting it. In response to these changing expectations, the traditional functions provided to service staff by back of house systems are now moving to the realm of customer interfaces.

The traditional back of house PMS is now providing functionality for self service checkin and checkout from kiosks, but now also through app or browser based interfaces. The guest is now able to update their own profile, view their account, order services, message the hotel and set the housekeeping status on their room.

Through application programming interfaces, other apps such as Fetch allow the guest to provide feedback or complete the guest survey online, on their own device, guest messaging to the front office, virtual concierge, housekeeping, corporate office, reservations and just about any guest facing department is now at the fingertips of the guest on their own device.

Benefit to the customer:

  • Freedom to choose self-service

Benefits to the hotelier:

  • Customer self-service may assist to alleviate operational pain points at peak times.

Trend #2: Cloud

Cloud provides significant benefits for the hotelier, but many people still ask “What is cloud?”

When painting my house, my father in law once told me focus on doing what you are good at and be successful enough to be able to pay a painter, as that is what they are good at – perhaps my painting skills left a little to be desired.

Similarly, there are experts in hoteliering as there are experts in technology. Outsourced or hosted technology, or “X as a service” (XaaS) evolved initially from the early days of off site backups. Then came hosted infrastructure (IaaS), such as servers and storage, to the entire hardware platform (PaaS). Now, hosted applications, or SaaS (Software as a Service) is virtually commonplace in most industries. XaaS models are commonly referred to as “Cloud” in it’s many flavours and forms.

We have now reached the point where SaaS is not only a viable option, but provides significant benefits to the hotelier, both at the global multinational level and for the independent small operator.

So what are the benefits of cloud?

Firstly, and back to the analogy, it allows the hotelier to focus on what they are good at – managing the hotel, not managing the technology. Managing the technology requires a specific skills set, and significant investment, that is not core business for a hotelier.

By outsourcing the application and all the underlying hosting and infrastructure, it allows the hotelier a fixed cost of IT and the freedom to focus on their core business in the operation, looking after the guest. The SaaS provider will take care not only of the infrastructure and the application, but generally also all upgrades, maintenance, support, configuration and integration to third party applications.

Most application providers we spoke to at HITEC had a SaaS or Cloud option available, but why do these vendors love this model so much? Well two simple reasons that benefit everyone – economies of scale and control.

Through economies of scale, the application provider can host many properties on the same platform, reducing the cost of hosting significantly. Many application providers will often outsource their hosting further under stringent agreements with the Goliaths of the industry such as Amazon Web Services (AWS), Google Cloud or Rack Space, ensuring vastly scalable platforms, guaranteed up times and significant resources for development and support.

In a hosted environment, the application provider can control the hosted environment as well as all aspects of their application within their own environment. So in short – your PMS is now hosted by a technology industry leader, developed and maintained directly by the developers and delivered to your property in a browser, on your desktop, laptop, tablet or even mobile phone.  Further, being in a browser, you can also access your applications from your home, office, holiday home or anywhere you have internet access.

Cloud hosting is not just confined to the PMS, virtually all back of house applications are now provided as cloud hosted solutions. PASCloud for example provides a cloud hosted accounting system specific to hospitality and gaming.

As the cloud model provides a single consolidated repository for all information within the application, both at property and multi-property level.

When multiple applications are integrated into the same Business Intelligence solution analysis can now span all areas of the business, from customer demographics, sentiment and revenue trends, to logistics, expense, payroll and balance sheet trends, providing consolidated analysis and reporting at a whole of business level.

Benefit to the hotelier:

  • Improved stability, reliability, maintenance and support
  • Reduced time to live for new functionality
  • Increased access to your property and group information

Benefit to the bottom line:

  • Reduced total IT cost

Trend #3: Integration: Let’s all talk the same language!

The third major trend we noticed was a unilateral motivation to interface all applications. Gone are the days of the PMS USP being it’s ability to interface to 114(odd) different applications. Now, the expectation is that all applications should interface with all others, especially those in the cloud. This allows the hotelier to choose the best PMS to suit their needs, the best accounting system, the best CRM, CRS, CMS, POS, channel aggregator, revenue management and guest messaging platform and to change applications whenever they choose. Further, hoteliers now expect the new application to interface with their existing applications.

Benefits to the hotelier:

  • A level playing field means that the hotelier may select the best applications to suit their specific business requirements, not a “one size fits all” single vendor solution
  • Increased competition between vendors would hopefully result in a race for better products and services

Benefits to the guest:

  • Better applications providing better customer facing functionality
  • Improved applications allow the hotelier to provide improved processes and service levels

Benefits to the bottom line:

  • Improved competition drives down price (hopefully)

Trend #4: Improved user interfaces

A significant proportion of the cost of replacing systems was once devoted to training. However, with significant emphasis on the design of user interfaces as well as the expectation of users to be able to pick up and use any application, this trend is now delivering significant cost benefits to the hotelier.

Applications are now being developed to enable a professional staff member to be proficient in the application with little to no formal training.

Benefits to the hotelier:

  • Reduced training time, reduced time to full operational proficiency
  • Reduced cost of training

Benefits to the customer:

  • No “In Training” badges…

In summary, there are now more options available across a wide variety of functions, providing SaaS or cloud solutions, better user interfaces, new customer interfaces and through open programming interfaces, easier integration. Hosted solutions are providing hoteliers with better insight and analysis of their operations, the ability to outsource technology and the freedom to focus on their core business, the guest.

The trends were collated with thanks from interviews and discussions with over 20 application providers including:

Above Property http://aboveproperty.com
Angie Hospitality http://angie.ai
Ariane Systems http://ariane.com
Bizly http://bizly.com
Cenium http://cenium.com
CenterViews http://centreviews.com
Delta Five Systems http://deltafive.com
Equinox Payments http://equinoxpayments.com
Eyvo http://eyvo.com
FCS http://planet1world.com
Fetch http://getfetch.ca
Harri http://harri.com
HRS http://hrs.com
IRIS http://iris.net
Knowcross http://oracle.com
Oracle http://oracle.com
PAS http://profact.com
SkyTouch http://skytouchtechnology.com
Social Tables http://socialtables.com
StayNTouch http://stayntouch.com

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