Hotel Management Software
UserView | 2015
A hotel management system (HMS) can help hospitality business managers oversee daily tasks, such as booking guest reservations, in a more efficient manner. Software Advice surveyed HMS users from all types of establishments—from big hotel chains to independent bed-and-breakfasts—to learn which software features are used most, the top benefits and challenges of an HMS and what devices are used to access these systems. This report will help inform the decisions of other buyers in the market for a new HMS.
Business is booming for the U.S. hotel industry. Currently in the midst of a projected four-year growth period, the industry’s most recently calculated revenues are the highest ever recorded, at $163 billion in 2013—nearly on par with Apple’s $171 billion in revenue for the same year.
New hotel management solutions are emerging in the market to help facilitate this growth. These include cloud-based solutions, which can help smaller hotels manage operations without the expensive upfront costs typical of traditional, on-premise solutions.
In Software Advice’s 2014 Hotel Management Software BuyerView, we examined how those seeking software for hospitality establishments managed their operations, and what they sought in a new solution. For this report, we survey current hotel management software users in the U.S. on which applications they use, the key benefits they experience and how much they plan to invest in software this year.
This report will inform other users and buyers of hotel management software on how these systems can be used in real-world settings to streamline daily operations and provide better service to guests.
Hotel management systems offer a wide range of functionality. This can include anything from basic applications for managing reservations to complex reporting capabilities and connections to the Global Distribution System (GDS), which pushes room rate and inventory information to online travel agencies and booking websites.
Given this, we asked respondents which applications they use most often. The largest percentage (23 percent) cite reservation management applications, which allow hotels to check guests in and out and enter and manage reservations made via phone or online.
Point-of-sale (POS) applications, which are typically used in a hotel’s restaurant or bar, come in second (15 percent), followed by applications for customer relationship management—or CRM, often called guest relationship management in hospitality—(13 percent). The latter store information about guests that hotels can use to provide more personalized service and targeted marketing.
Krasimir Trapchev is CEO of Clock Software, provider of cloud-based hotel management system Clock PMS. He says these responses reveal a list of the most important tasks hotels regularly undertake.
“It reflects the fact that people will first automate what they do on a daily basis, which is getting bookings, whereas restaurant sales [are] often second.”
Of course, the need for automation increases with the number of bookings a hotel receives. It thus makes sense that so many respondents use reservation management applications, given that half of our sample represents buyers from hotel chains with 100 or more rooms, which often have a large volume of guests reserving rooms each day.
What’s more, hotel chain properties often have at least one restaurant, bar, cafe and/or casual food service area—all of which require a POS system to complete transactions. In fact, food and beverage revenue accounted for about 20 percent of total revenue for hospitality businesses in 2013.
Along with food and beverage sales, hotels may also house gift shops, spas and other on-site locations where guests can purchase items or services. Most hotel management systems come with integrated POS applications to handle such transactions.
Next, we looked at the most used applications among only those respondents who use a mobile device to access their HMS. There are many reasons why hospitality employees might access their HMS on a mobile device: For example, a sales or revenue manager might use the system while on the road traveling between properties.
The same top four applications cited by the entire sample appear in this group: Reservation management (18 percent), POS and housekeeping management (16 percent each) and guest relationship management (13 percent).
Compared to our overall sample, mobile HMS users report higher use of housekeeping management (16 percent versus 12 percent), which may indicate that housekeeping staff are using mobile devices more frequently.
Mobile housekeeping view on a tablet from Clock PMS
Some hotels supply housekeeping staff with tablets allowing them to check off rooms as they are cleaned. In Clock PMS, for example, the housekeeping view uses color-coded room statuses and symbols to show which rooms are being cleaned or inspected. It also displays expected guest arrival and departure times so housekeeping managers can prioritize which rooms to clean first.
Many HMSs have a function where housekeeping staff enter a code into the room’s phone once the room is clean, which signals to the system that it is ready for guests. Bonnie Buckhiester, president of hospitality revenue consultancy Buckhiester Management Ltd., has worked in the industry for more than 20 years. She says tablets are replacing this function, while also giving housekeeping management more mobility to do inspections.
For example, a general manager could use a tablet to run spot checks on rooms as he walks around the property. He may notice one room is missing soap and towels, and another has a malfunctioning air conditioner. He could then use the tablet to instantly send housekeeping a note to replenish the toiletries, and message maintenance to repair the air conditioning unit without returning to his office.
When asked how they access their HMS, the majority of users (57 percent) say they do so from a desktop computer, while another one-quarter use a laptop.
Given that the largest percentage of respondents use reservation management applications, it’s logical to assume most are doing so at the front desk. In many hotels, desktop or laptop computers are typically hidden behind or embedded in the front desk to improve the look of the lobby—a setup hotels have used for decades. But as technology changes, the traditional hotel layout is likely to change, as well.
A traditional hotel front desk with hidden computers at the Table Bay Hotel in Cape Town, South Africa
While just 12 percent of our sample currently use tablet computers, Gartner predicts tablets will be more widely used than desktop and laptop computers by consumers in 2017. It’s thus likely that hoteliers will increase their use of tablets as they become more widely used among their guests.
Indeed, many hospitality industry analysts envision a strong tablet presence at hotels in the future. For example, Larry Mogelonsky, a hospitality marketing expert, says the devices are already used in some hotels for purposes such as mobile guest check-in and in place of restaurant menus.
[Using an HMS on a tablet] gives hotels new possibilities to meet guests anywhere. You can welcome the guest in the lobby instead of the reception desk, or walk the guest down to the room with the tablet in hand.Krasimir Trapchev, Clock Software
When we ask respondents about the primary benefits of using their HMS, four emerge on top: faster check-in and check-out times (20 percent), improving the organization of guest information (19 percent), improving the accuracy of reservations (18 percent) and improving the accuracy of real-time room status (17 percent).
The nearly equal ranking of these top benefits shows how useful an HMS can be. Not only do these benefits increase guest satisfaction, they also streamline repetitive tasks so staff can spend more time engaging with guests.
The essential process of checking guests in and out can be expedited or even fully automated by an HMS. Guests are often busy and tired from traveling; using software to help get them to the comfort of their room more quickly can improve their experience.
In fact, a previous Software Advice report found that 63 percent of consumers are more likely to choose a hotel with a tech-enabled lobby, which could include devices such as lobby touchscreens and self-service check-in kiosks, over one without. Another 60 percent are more likely to choose a hotel that allows them to check-in with a smartphone.
Buckhiester says that corporate guests and frequent travelers, in particular, expect check-in to be quick and easy, as they’re accustomed to self check-in with car-rental and airline companies. However, the preferred speed and method of check-in can vary depending on the type of hotel. For example, most resort guests visit for pleasure, and thus, may want to spend time speaking to front desk staff about activities and places to eat.
Improved organization of guest information—which can be used to personalize a guest’s stay from the moment they arrive—is the second greatest benefit, according to our data. The guest management functionality of an HMS gives users insight into what amenities guests take advantage of, which provides management with engagement and marketing opportunities.
For example, say a returning guest purchased a massage from the hotel spa during their last visit. Viewing this transaction logged in the guest’s history could prompt the general manager to leave a small discount card for another spa service in the guest’s room, building guest loyalty and encouraging them to spend more during their stay.
Purchasing and maintaining an HMS can involve continual budgetary investments to keep the system running smoothly. Updates and maintenance must be performed periodically, including software and service upgrades, bug fixes, adding new users and upgrading hardware to improve performance.
Given this, we asked users about their plans to invest in software in 2015. The majority (55 percent) say their investment will remain the same as in 2014. Another 34 percent say they plan to moderately increase spending.
When asked an open-ended question about why they plan to increase investment, respondents answer in two different ways: They either mention a benefit they’ve experienced using their HMS, or a specific purpose for their investment.
Exactly half of the first group say they plan to invest more because they have experienced an overall boost in efficiency by automating daily tasks. Another 25 percent say their HMS has helped increase revenue, and 13 percent say they are able to find information about guests faster due to better organization. Other respondents praise the stability of the system and its ability to help them reach more customers (6 percent each).
For the group citing a specific purpose for their increased software investment, 70 percent say it will be used for upgrades. Another 20 percent say they plan to scale up the software to accommodate business growth, while 10 percent will invest in mobile functionality to access the system on tablets and smartphones.
It’s not surprising that the majority plan to invest in software upgrades, as hotel chains—the most represented group in our sample—frequently have extra budgetary and operational concerns around upgrades. A recent report on cloud-based systems by Amadeus, a worldwide provider of IT solutions for the travel and tourism industry, states that “many hotel chains operate through legacy systems that offer rich, but outdated and rigid, functionality.”
With cloud-based systems (also known as “Software as a Service,” or SaaS systems), updates and maintenance are typically handled by the software vendor, so users don’t have to budget to maintain the same system. These systems are becoming more common: A Gartner report predicts that the SaaS market will grow nearly 20 percent through 2016, with projected spending on these services reaching $32.8 billion.
Our data finds that hotel management systems are invaluable to many hospitality organizations. The applications used most often correlate with the top benefits software users experience: faster check-ins and -outs, more organized guest information and improved accuracy when making reservations and tracking room statuses.
We also see that mobile integration and cloud-based systems are enhancing these important tasks in a way that benefits both guests and hospitality staff, offering greater convenience, mobility and accurate real-time information.
Based on these findings, potential HMS buyers should consider evaluating software that offers the following:
To collect responses, we surveyed users of hotel management software in the U.S. All results were obtained in a fair and anonymous manner.
Results are representative of our survey sample, not necessarily the population as a whole. User commentary solely represents the views of individuals. Chart values are rounded to the nearest whole number.
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