What’s next for the future of hotel property management systems


Skift take

With the rebound in the hospitality industry, hotels are embracing new property management technology to streamline operations, overcome data challenges, and build customer confidence as they position themselves for the future.

Shiji Group

As the hospitality industry finally recovers from the effects of the global pandemic, operators are looking for new technological solutions to adapt to the changing landscape. By adopting the right technology for their business, especially the property management system infrastructure, hotels will greatly benefit from the new era.

SkiftX spoke with Kevin King, COO at Shiji Group, about the transitions underway in the industry, what operators should be thinking about when it comes to property management technology and how the industry is preparing for the innovation and future growth.

SkiftX: Shiji has grown globally in recent years by expanding its portfolio and opening new offices. What is the strategy behind this?

Kevin King: Our president has laid out some milestones on the direction we should take in the years to come. One of those points was to become a truly global company, serving the hospitality industry around the world. We have built a product portfolio that matches the needs of our customers – one that works with existing technology where customers can choose the products that work best for them or can be combined into a full stack.

Our strategy has really been to listen to the market and to the customers and to develop our portfolio and our offices accordingly. For a tech company, we’re quite different in that we started out as a service company, so service and support is really in our DNA.

SkiftX: Shiji has been researching property management over the past few years to find out what the hoteliers are concerned about. What are some of the most valuable findings from this research so far?

King: In a recent study, we confirmed that the migration to the cloud has had a major influence on the technological choices of hoteliers. By 2023, it is estimated that the majority of hotel technology infrastructure will be entirely cloud-based. As always, the guest experience remains the primary motivation for hotel technology, and the need to create a frictionless, customer-centric approach is essential.

We have also found that even though guest messaging solutions are entering their state of technological maturity, they are still quite underutilized in hotels. Despite the huge benefit of quick interaction and service from customer messaging solutions, hotels are still hesitant to fully embrace them. It’s an interesting space to watch.

SkiftX: In general, how do hotel companies currently view property management systems? Has there been a change in mentality in recent years, or because of the pandemic?

King: Hotel companies are looking for connectivity and security. While the two are not mutually exclusive, they present a real challenge, especially considering the thousands of hotels in dozens of countries and continents.

Another point we are seeing is that in the past when technology was not a central part of guest life, the smarter and better way for hotel chains to implement technology was to create the their. But as the technology becomes much more complex with more connectivity, more security concerns, and more data protection concerns, many are looking to buy technology that fits their needs.

Contactless solutions will continue to be important, and many of the older solutions cannot keep up with such rapid and sweeping changes across an entire domain. This is where we come in and try to help.

SkiftX: What are the challenges that you think hotel companies will have to face more and more in the coming years?

King: One is data security and privacy. An abundance of tough laws have been passed – and more are being written – in Europe, the United States, Russia, and China, among others. We see what Apple and Google are doing with cookies, and it is clear that if guests cannot trust their hotel to protect their data, it becomes a critical issue for hotels.

Then come challenges like data sovereignty. Most of the laws on this have not yet been fully developed, but governments require that their citizens’ data does not leave their territory. Most current systems are not configured to handle this.

As a Chinese company, we know how important this is and we get more attention than probably any other hotel technology company. This is something we welcome because it forces us to raise the bar in the products we make. We subject our systems to external audits to ensure we are in full compliance and beyond to ensure that European citizens ‘data stays in Europe, American citizens’ data stays in the United States, etc. Our customers appreciate this, but it will become a big challenge for global hotel companies.

Finally, I would say that the challenge of hotel technology in general is managing change. So many things change so quickly. The technological solutions that have worked for the past decades are unlikely to work for the next decade.

SkiftX: How can a strong property management system help solve these problems?

King: I think the property management system is still very much associated with the old on-site system, which has not evolved for many years and often poses a risk to the hotel’s ability to evolve and manage security.

We would like to change the model from a property management system to a hotel technology platform. The system is at the heart of the hotel’s technology and other solutions connect to it. If the platform’s architecture is solid and well-built, then it becomes easy to adapt to change, new legislation and connected solutions.

The word “platform” really illustrates the concept – even more than “hub” or “system” – because it can be the basis for layers of technology and connections to add and remove later. “Property management system” is still the term most people use and that’s fine, but we want to go beyond that old definition and bring it into the 21st century.

SkiftX: More and more hotel companies are starting to take a keen interest in innovation and keeping up with new technologies, but don’t know where to start. What advice would you give them?

King: First of all, I would recommend hotels to consider guest safety, security and privacy. These are real problems that must be resolved. Immediate security measures are probably completed or in progress. For example, reducing physical contact points, such as payments and check-in, as much as possible. The improvements in security and privacy aren’t as visually impressive as building a new app, but they’re much bigger. Our industry is built on trust. It is a hotel’s duty to ensure that trust is upheld with secure and private systems that do not share data indiscriminately.

Put your guest first and think about what technology will give them a better experience. Customers will have more choices in the short term, so find things that can help you gain a competitive advantage.

This content was created in collaboration by Shiji and Skift’s branded content studio, SkiftX.

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