TechnologyToward PMS Perfection: Property Management System Vendors Strive to Enhance Flexibility and...

Toward PMS Perfection: Property Management System Vendors Strive to Enhance Flexibility and Functionality

Industrial technology has a long history of maximizing productivity while minimizing the workers and time needed to deliver the results. Partly due to its role in helping to meet the labor shortage via the digitization and automation of many tasks, the PMS (property management system) has become one of the most critical tools in the hotelier’s arsenal.

“From a hotel employee perspective, today’s workers are challenged to do more with fewer resources,” observes Frederic Dominioni, chief revenue officer at Solonis. “By automating certain activities like collecting guest payments, communicating via email or SMS, and capturing all check-in information remotely, your PMS frees up your staff from more manual tasks and gives them more time for high-impact, guest-facing tasks.”

The PMS is also a continual work in progress for developers, who are always seeking to tailor functionality to the latest needs of hotel staff as well as to new guest expectations. An expedited check-in experience is an example of the latter. “The ease and speed of the check-in process (for both employees and guests) has been a major advancement in the functionality of today’s PMSs,” notes Ron Glancy, SVP of operations at Raines. “Guests can now check-in via the mobile app, choose their floor and room number, and receive their key all without speaking to the front desk associate.”

Along with the development of new features, the PMS retains a core functionality across three areas: front desk, operations, and guest experience. Numerous functions fall within each category, and naturally there is some variance of opinion on which functions are “core.” Dominioni suggests that operators look for a PMS with “front-office management, staff portal, room management, and housekeeping functionality. On the business operations side, ensure your PMS has core features like night audit, configuration management, chain participation, event management, group management, and multi-property management. Finally, make sure your PMS supports guest experience and engagement goals with tools like a guest portal for self-service, email and SMS messaging, rewards, and loyalty programs, and guest marketing/CRM.” From Glancy’s perspective, the following are the core functions: guest management, reservations, special requests, folios; management functions for housekeeping, maintenance, payment, and accounts receivables; and reporting and analytics.

Shopping for a PMS

Before evaluating any list of features, a hotelier is well advised to consider the operational needs of their particular property. “The due diligence process for a hotel looking for a PMS starts with them clearly understanding what their needs are, before they even look at a product,” says Warren Dehan, president of Maestro. “They [should] look at their current provider and identify what it does well for them and what’s missing, so that when they look at another system, they can identify that it does what they need. I think that’s really important, because you can have the fanciest name or the lowest price, but if your product doesn’t do the job for the hotel, it’s not a good fit.” Dehan also recommends speaking to existing customers of the prospective partner, as well as getting the full details on pricing. “Whether it’s a cloud-based or on-premises PMS, there are always support costs, licensing fees, and [costs for] upgrades. What if you’re adding a module or an integration? What does that pricing look like? Is it easy to get in and then cost prohibitive moving forward?”

Cloud Based vs. Onsite

One of the major decisions a buyer must make is whether to opt for a cloud-based or onsite PMS, and the former type of system has much to recommend it. “Today’s industry standard is a cloud-based PMS,” says Dominioni. “These platforms are scalable, cost-effective, customizable, reliable, and secure. Property owners and operators can easily integrate cloud-based software across multiple locations and access important information anywhere at any time. A cloud-based system also means you always have the most up-to-date technology possible.”

Highlighting remote-access capability and savings that come from eliminating the onsite server, Glancy notes, “Raines’ experience with cloud-based PMSs has been good, and I expect that more of the brands will make this transition in the future.” Raines-managed hotels that feature a cloud-based PMS include Cambria hotels and Comfort Inn & Suites using Choice Advantage, and the Waynesville Inn & Golf Club (part of Wyndham’s Trademark Collection), which operates on Opera Cloud. “One major benefit to Choice Advantage is the ability to access it from your computer at home, from the corporate office, or from your iPhone at your kid’s baseball game,” he adds. “In a time when work-life balance has become more important than ever, being able to handle a task from just about anywhere will be a key feature.”

That said, an onsite PMS has the advantage of more reliability and security. “Onsite, hardware-based property management systems have a reliable connection that doesn’t hinge on Internet access and often have the benefit of high data security,” Dominioni explains. The reliability factor motivates many of Maestro’s clients to opt for the more traditional PMS, Dehan relates. “Right now, I would say that about half of our customers are opting for a cloud solution, and half are still opting to go onsite. They already have the team and infrastructure in place to manage and maintain [the onsite PMS], and they don’t want to leave anything to the cloud. We have some clients that are in remote parts of, for example, North Dakota, where their Internet connectivity can be intermittent or unreliable.”


Whether data is stored on the cloud or onsite hardware, one of the major advantages of a PMS is data integration. “The ideal property management system allows all data to be in one centralized location, and not multiple systems that may (or may not) talk to one another,” says Glancy. “This allows staff to access, update, and track all relevant information in one place across all departments.”

In addition, the system itself should integrate with other applications, which is an ongoing area of development. According to Dehan, “A big thing we see today is integrations: can we integrate with the online travel agents, the revenue management system, the keycard system? And even more so now, [the goal is to] integrate with various mobile apps or guest-facing mobile apps. There are literally hundreds of them and a lot of demand for integration with those.”


For some operators, the customizability of a PMS—in terms of both potential integrations and reporting functionality—can be quite important. “No two properties are the same. Your PMS shouldn’t be configured in the exact same way as another property because you’ll likely have different data, goals, and customers,” Dominioni maintains. “Finding a system that’s customizable with integrations, an open API [application programming interface], and scalable is essential as your business grows.”

Regarding customized integrations, a cloud-based system with an open API offers “the ability to integrate other tools with your PMS, so all your business operations can remain on one platform. . . . This means you can connect your beloved accounting, payment processing, POS, or channel management tool directly with your PMS and benefit from a centralized, custom view of your property,” Dominioni explains. Regarding customized reporting, he notes, “You’re already collecting reservation, amenity, utility, sales, and other data—make sure you’re using it. Using your PMS, you can generate reports like profitability overviews to help you reach your business objectives. Depending on your technology partner, you can create custom reports to examine any combination of data.”

The Maestro team, for example, adapted the functionality of a client’s PMS to account for renovated rooms. “The renovated room was just a little different than the-pre renovated room, and they wanted to charge a little more, sell them in a different way, or include them in a package that doesn’t include the pre-renovated rooms,” Dehan explains. “And so, we had to do some customization around that to allow them to differentiate at the backend how they charge for those rooms that were renovated as opposed to those that weren’t, without changing the room type designation.”

A third aspect of customization concerns the guest experience. “We now have data highlighting how no two guests travel or feel the same,” says Dominioni, citing Solonis’s State of the Industry Report from late 2022. “One of the main takeaways was that today’s traveler and guest sentiment is highly nuanced. This puts new demands on PMS technologies to enable more personalized guest experiences, keep a pulse on guest satisfaction through communications and feedback surveys, and put the power in guests’ hands when it comes to booking reservations, self-check-in, and housekeeping frequency.”

A PMS with a high degree of customizability may not be needed for limited-service properties, however. “Most of the PMS systems we work with today provide some level of customization and scalability, though it is minimal. This is not as important for limited and select-service properties, which today is 70 percent of our portfolio,” Glancy relates. “As we continue to grow Woven by Raines through soft-branded and independent, full-service assets, [customizability] will become a more important feature.”

PMS Frontiers

Compiling the above trends, PMSs are shifting to the cloud platform as well as toward increased customization and integration. As Glancy summarizes, “I expect the future of PMSs will move to all cloud-based systems, increased guest preference selection forming more detailed guest profiles, and enhanced system integration for other bookings such as spa, restaurant, golf, etc.” In addition, Dominioni and Dehan expect PMSs to move in the following two directions, respectively:

BI functionality. “Looking ahead, I think we can expect more property management systems to adopt business intelligence (BI) functionality,” says Dominioni. “BI provides property owners and operators with the tools they need to turn vast amounts of business data into useful, actionable insights. Historically, BI’s application has been somewhat limited to things like forecasting occupancy rates. Soon, we’ll start to see other use cases with BI helping to spot guest trends, identify opportunities in amenities and services, and optimize daily operations.”

AI and robots. Guest self-serve is becoming increasingly prevalent, and that can be facilitated by incorporating AI into the PMS. “There are some applications where we can start using AI technology to enhance the guest experience,” says Dehan. “In our two-way SMS texting service, depending on the nature of the questions, we use IBM’s Watson at the backend to respond to guests’ requests. You already have voice-control products in the marketplace that guests can use in their rooms. I think that’s going to continue to expand.” He also sees PMSs eventually working with on-property robots to fulfill guests’ requests. For example, “if a guest is texting ‘we need towels,’ we feed [the command] to the robot system to deliver towels to room 201. You can integrate those things; they can be done.”

Simplicity and Support: The Best PMS Partners Do More Than Offer State-of-the-Art Features

For operators who are in the market for a PMS, a smooth user experience is an important consideration, as it is with any tech product. With many hotels having to do more with fewer staff, the ideal PMS will minimize the time commitment from users as much as possible. “Property management systems should be user-friendly interfaces that allow for less training and an overall simplicity that in return creates more time for employees to focus on customer value-add,” notes Ron Glancy, SVP of operations at Raines.

In addition, the PMS vendor should offer robust support and service during both the onboarding and day-to-day operations. “A new technology can only be as effective as those using it, so ensure your staff is set up for success and has the resources for ongoing troubleshooting and learning,” says Frederic Dominioni, chief revenue officer at Solonis. “I’ve seen a lot of PMS technologies in the space that don’t offer 24/7, 365 support, and that really puts properties at a disadvantage.” Moreover, “not every system includes [tech support] free of charge, so it’s something to keep in mind.”

Warren Dehan, president of Maestro, adds that PMS users should be empowered to receive support in a variety of ways, including speaking to a specialist over the phone, emailing questions, live chat via the application, and online resource materials. For example, Maestro offers “an e-learning website with thousands of topics on various areas. And in fact, that e-learning site is accessible from within the application as well. So, you can be on the reservation screen and say, ‘I want to see the topics under ‘making a reservation’ in the learning center,’ and they will come up in the application.”

George Seli
George Seli
George Seli is the editor of LODGING.