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

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Hotel technological systems have come a long way in recent years due to the rise of various innovations such as the cloud, the adoption of open APIs, and the application of artificial intelligence and machine learning to day-to-day business operations. The global pandemic has pushed some sectors of the hotel technology industry further into the future. SkiftX spoke with Shiji COO, Kevin King, to look at property management systems, in particular, and how hotels could benefit from this new era of technological innovation.

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 chairman has set 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 the property management space over the past few years to find out what is most important to hoteliers. What are some of the most valuable results of this research so far?

King: In a recent study, we have confirmed that 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 while guest messaging solutions are entering their stage 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 view property management systems at the moment? Has there been a change in mentality in recent years, or because of the pandemic?

King: Hospitality businesses 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 that we see is that in the past, when technology was not a central part of guest’s lives, the smartest and best way for hotel chains to implement technology was to create their own. 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 old 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 challenges do you expect hospitality companies to face more and more over the next few 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 make sure we are in full compliance and beyond to ensure that EU citizens ‘data stays in Europe, US citizens’ data stays in the US, 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 change management. 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 of a property management system at the technological platform of a hotel. 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 show a great interest in innovation and keep abreast of 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. Data security and confidentiality the improvements 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.

To note: This article was originally created in collaboration by branded content studio Shiji and Skift, SkiftX.

About the Shiji group

Shiji Group is a multinational technology company providing software solutions and services to companies in the hospitality, catering, retail and entertainment industries, ranging from hotel technology platform, management solutions hotel, restaurant and retail systems, payment gateways, data management, online distribution and more. Founded in 1998 as a network solution provider for hotels, Shiji Group today has 5,000 employees in more than 80 subsidiaries and brands, serving more than 91,000 hotels, 200,000 restaurants and 600,000 outlets.

Shiji is developing a network of cloud technology platforms that facilitate data exchange by connecting businesses vertically and horizontally in related industries. The importance of cross-industry integration to connect all levels of the supply chain, from guests to distributors and suppliers of all types, is an essential part of our mission. Our goal is to make the transition to fully integrated systems easier for our customers through a network of platforms that communicate securely and easily so that our customers can focus on their core competencies of serving their guests.


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