Property management systems to improve guest experience

04 August 2022 by

The latest property management systems could help you improve the guest experience and cut costs. Here are the options and benefits

In pre-internet times, property management systems (PMS) were all about taking bookings and allocating rooms and covers.

Although the first PMS appeared in the 1970s, most independent operators continued to use pen and paper for these tasks. Then came spreadsheets. Today, it would be hard to find a hospitality business that does not use some kind of management software.

In recent years, driven by the rise of cloud computing, the focus of interest in PMS technology has shifted away from reservations and towards the guest experience.

Luis De Souza, chief executive of NFS Technology, says: "We've recognised that guest experience is now so important that we are rethinking our role within the hotel space to be much more about F&B, loyalty, reward and communicating with the guest, rather than worrying about inventory management, which used to be our big occupation all those years ago."

Most bookings now take place online, and increasing levels of automation mean there is less work for front office teams to do in this area. Today, the PMS performs reservations and front-office tasks as a given.

What has become increasingly important is that the PMS sits at the heart of an ecosystem of software integrations that provide a holistic view of guests and their preferences and real-time business intelligence, as well as the automation of repetitive tasks.

Stewart Moss, managing director of High Level Software, says: "A good PMS should be able to take care of time-consuming jobs. For example, an EPoS system in the hotel bar and restaurant should be integrated with the main PMS, transferring automatically and in real-time. This means that staff are not required to re-key purchases into the main system at reception. Not only does this save staff valuable time, but it also reduces the risk of incorrectly inputting data."

Moss adds that when guests make bookings via third-party sites such as and Expedia, hoteliers do not get access to guest data. A good PMS can overcome this. Offering contactless check-in, for example, requires guests to enter an email address, which will allow the hotel to make direct contact and send personalised offers and promotions.

Lots of hotels and hotel groups are currently in the process of moving their on-premise hardware-based PMS to a next-generation cloud system. Kevin Edwards, business development director at Alliants, calls this "the next evolution in hospitality".

He continues: "It's almost certain that we're going to see some fairly hard economic times in the next 24 months and, ultimately, you're going to see that some hospitality owners will continue to invest in their technology platforms and their hotels. It will be those that don't that get left behind."

Choosing and transitioning to a new PMS requires planning and buy-in from all of those involved. "It's not an overnight decision," points out Jane Pendlebury, chief executive of HOSPA. "An awful lot of work goes into choosing the right system and then getting your old data into the new system. It's not a quick decision."

Help to buy

As every hospitality business is different, the first step to buying a new PMS is to work out what you want, need and expect from a system, and then see which vendors most closely match your needs. Unlike franchisees or management companies, who are told which PMS to use, independent businesses are free to choose.

Richard Valtr, founder of cloud-based hospitality software provider Mews, says: "We frequently see independent hotels, with freedom and autonomy, being forgotten by some of the traditional PMS organisations, who are focussing on the larger hospitality groups."

An awful lot of work goes into choosing the right system

Pendlebury warns businesses to choose systems carefully and not to get distracted by a system that offers too much. She says: "When you look at a new system, there will be bells and whistles that you hadn't thought of, and it's really whether they are appropriate for your business, and if you had them would you actually make use of them? Have you got the staff to take advantage of them?"

RBH Hospitality Management works with around 45 UK hotels, including both international and independent brands. The group uses nine different PMS packages across its portfolio (Guestline and StayNTouch, plus those mandated by the Accor, IHG, Hilton, Marriott and Wyndham brands).

Vibhu Gaind, RBH's chief information officer, says this potential complexity is not a problem because the company has created an overarching business intelligence system.

"Being multibranded brings in different PMS platforms, but we as a management company know how to deal with that. We have a solution that lives above the PMS platforms that gives us in-depth analysis of our business regardless of which PMS is used at each hotel," he explains.

Around 60% of RBH's PMS platforms are already in the cloud, and the company aims to migrate the rest by the summer of 2023.

What do Gaind and RBH look for when choosing a new PMS? "First, easy onboarding," he says. "It should be a system for this generation, intuitive and easy for the workforce to use, especially with the transient nature of hotel employees and colleagues. It needs to be a system we can literally onboard within a matter of hours rather than days."

In second place comes availability of data: "near-instant information as and when we need it", says Gaind, who adds that the third priority for PMS procurement is security.

At a time of rising energy costs and skills shortages, Gaind stresses the benefits of cloud-based systems over on-premise systems. "Cloud solutions eliminate the energy costs of having a stack of servers and the manpower required for day-to-day maintenance and back-up. By reducing our carbon footprint, we are doing the right thing by the environment, eliminating on-site hardware and providing a more stable solution," he says.

The best time to change?

Changing a PMS is not like changing a domestic appliance. Hotels and restaurants are constantly taking bookings, so there is both historical and live data that needs to be transferred from the old to the new system.

So what is the best day to choose for switching over to a new PMS? Gaind says: "We like to stay away from weekends. We try to do it in the early part of the week. Tuesday is the preferred day, just so that you can go through the challenges that may arise on the other days of the week. On the live day we like to have a presence on site from us and the PMS provider for guidance and hand-holding."

Ongoing staffing issues plus trading spikes make choosing the right time for a major IT overhaul a tricky decision. Gaind has had to exercise flexibility during his cloud migration programme. "We have a priority listing of hotels, but we need to have some flexibility because the summer months might be very busy for some hotels," he says.

Cost analysis

Previously, a hotelier might have paid between £42,000 and £84,000 for an on-premise PMS, plus annual maintenance costs. At around £4,200, the upfront costs for a cloud-based PMS are significantly lower, and maintenance and upgrades take place automatically, as with Apple or Microsoft systems.

Cloud solutions eliminate the energy costs of a stack of servers and the manpower required for daily maintenance and back-up

Software-as-a-service cloud PMS platforms tend to be priced on a monthly fee per room for the base model. However, the price can rise depending on the extra features that a hotel may wish to have, such as room upgrade and upselling capability, revenue add-ons, retail, and loyalty programme features.

Nick Kleynhans, product marketing manager at Room Raccoon, says: "The cost of a cloud-based system is generally built to scale and depends on the size of the hotel's operations, the functionality required, and the level of support required from the supplier. The implementation and training process can range from two to four weeks depending on the size and complexity of a hotel and its systems."

The number of PMS vendors across the world is estimated to be somewhere between 700 and 1,300. The market is dominated by the global software giants, such as Oracle, Agilisys and Infor, although new vendors like Mews and Apaleo have enjoyed rapid growth in recent years. There are plenty of regional suppliers too. Software guide service Capterra identifies several UK-based vendors of PMS products, including Guest Service, Clock PMS, Hop, Elina and Caterbook.

As we have seen, a cloud-based PMS can now deliver an array of functions across the entire guest journey, including pre-arrival marketing, on-property messaging and post-departure surveys. In fact, it is increasingly common to talk about a technology platform, rather than a PMS.

A case in point is Mollie's, the budget-luxe motel and diner brand, and the winner of this year's Best Use of Technology Catey award.

Mollie's uses a technology stack built on the Apaleo platform, which includes the services of various companies: Alliants for a self-service digital journey, SiteMinder for channel management, HotelAppz for customer relationship management, Adyen for payment automation, Nevaya for interactive TVs and WiFi infrastructure, and Tevalis for F&B outlet points of sale.

The true effectiveness of a PMS comes down to how well it connects all these systems together and allows data to be shared. An example from Mollie's is that the housekeeping scheduling is seamlessly integrated with guest messaging so that as soon as a bedroom is ready, the guest receives a message.

Hotels typically require around nine different software systems to operate efficiently. This points towards a certain level of complexity (not least, managing several vendor relationships). However, the message from Apaleo is that selecting the desired products and functions from its platform is much like selecting apps on a smartphone.

Ulrich Pillau, chief executive and founder of Apaleo, says: "We make hotel technology as easy as using your iPhone. Any hotelier can select and put their own tech stack together. In reality the innovation is not coming from us, we just provide the scalable platform. The innovation and automation is driven by the apps that connect seamlessly to our platform."

Return on investment

In terms of measurable successes, Mollie's tech stack has contributed to the quicker opening of new sites, a 40% cut in technology operating costs, and increased guest satisfaction from reduced waiting times for check-in. The brand's booking conversion rate has shot up by 120%, average spend has increased and the customer service team have saved more than five hours of work a week.

The consensus is that a modern cloud-based tech stack provides multiple benefits. Hotel operators who are still using outdated systems that are not properly integrated will therefore need to take action. Kleynhans says: "There is undoubtedly a monetary return on investment from investing in a new PMS, and hotels can expect a marked improvement in sales and revenue thanks to tools like integrated revenue management and automated upsell.

"The systems also drive efficiency by reducing the time spent on front and back-office tasks through automation. This not only helps to reduce the risk of human error but also allows staff to focus on the guest experience. Keep in mind that enhancing guest satisfaction should lead to increased repeat guest stays and improved brand advocacy."

The importance of F&B tech

With the whole booking process happening online, often via third parties, the actual hospitality experience – breakfast, bar, fine dining, casual dining – becomes a critical factor in terms of driving brand loyalty and repeat business.

Luis De Souza, chief executive of NFS Technology, highlights three areas where technology plays an important role.

First, brand websites and other booking platforms need to give customers all the visit information they require, such as menus, allergen information, wine pairings, etc. But according to De Souza, some platforms do not deal with customer pre-arrival as well as operators tend to, so the customer experience is a fragmented one.

He also says that the technology should precisely co-ordinate the seating of guests, order-taking and the associated kitchen activity. "If you fail here, the food arrives late, or you haven't got a very good way of telling how long people have been waiting. A lot of hotels and restaurants are missing a trick in this area," De Souza warns.

The third piece of tech relates to payment. "In the old days we didn't worry about that so much. We'd wait for a guest to put up their hand and flag a waiter down," he says. "Payment is quite important today. People are not so used to waiting, so why not have QR codes or another easy mechanism to scan and pay and leave?"

Property management systems: a quick checklist


Most PMS software will perform the basic functions of hotel management, but does your business also need housekeeping and revenue management or upselling software? If so, it may be better to purchase a PMS that already includes these functions instead of having to integrate external software.


A clean, simple and easy-to-use PMS means quicker staff onboarding, happier employees and cost savings.


Can your team perform tasks and access data from any device and any location?


Read reviews and speak to current users to find out how reliable the PMS package is. Also check the software supplier's background, stability of ownership, etc.


Guest data needs to be protected with point-to-point encryption.

Continue reading

You need to be a premium member to view this. Subscribe from just 99p per week.

Already subscribed?

The Caterer Breakfast Briefing Email

Start the working day with The Caterer’s free breakfast briefing email

Sign Up and manage your preferences below

Check mark icon
Thank you

You have successfully signed up for the Caterer Breakfast Briefing Email and will hear from us soon!

Jacobs Media Group is honoured to be the recipient of the 2020 Queen's Award for Enterprise.

The highest official awards for UK businesses since being established by royal warrant in 1965. Read more.


Ad Blocker detected

We have noticed you are using an adblocker and – although we support freedom of choice – we would like to ask you to enable ads on our site. They are an important revenue source which supports free access of our website's content, especially during the COVID-19 crisis.

trade tracker pixel tracking