Though cloud based PMS is gaining momentum in the global hospitality market, it still has a long way to go in India as hotels are hesitant to adopt it. We take a look at the reasons By Rituparna Chatterjee
The global hospitality industry has reached an interesting juncture wherein hotels are increasingly leveraging on innovative technology to boost their revenues and profitability and improve and enhance guest experience. Though technology plays an irreplaceable role in every aspect of the industry, it is more significant in the area of property management systems (PMSs). Today PMSs have become more powerful, with features that enhance efficiency, improve control over processes, enable faster delivery of services, and engender guest loyalty. But among the biggest trends in PMS is cloud computing. The introduction of cloud based PMS has revolutionised the hospitality industry globally as it has opened up a vast array of features, allowing hotels to work in a new environment that is highly efficient, secured and technical, and minimises human errors. It also allows easy accessibility anywhere across the world and can be customised according to the hotel’s requirements. “Cloud computing is the future of information technology. Many hotel companies talk about the advantages of cloud computing. Benchmark Hospitality International is implementing it. Such a virtual system platform helps to lower capital expenditure and increase ROI for its property owners, create greater property operating efficiency, and deliver better service to guests. It also helps to implement centralised data security and PCI compliance thus decrease risk on property level,” opines Yogesh Sawant, senior manager, information technology, The Westin Mumbai Garden City. Gaurav Apte, resident manager, Bengaluru Marriott Hotel Whitefield also believes the same. He states, “Cloud based PMS has its benefits as it helps manage day-to-day business functions such as property revenue collection, security control, customer transactions, inventory management, maintenance tasks, tax tracking and daily audits, etc.”
Sadly, despite the benefits, cloud based PMS still hasn’t been able to gain the much needed impetus in the India market. Concerns over internet connection loss and data security are the two consistent arguments against cloud-based PMS. “Cloud based PMS is still not preferable in India as it needs good bandwidth and reliable ISP infrastructure. In terms of cost it could be economical than premise based software, but due to lack of reliable infrastructure it significantly affects a busy hotel’s operations because of a nonfunctional ISP,” reasons Kiran Patel, IT manager, Holiday Inn Mumbai International Airport. Agreeing to the same, Sawant opines, “The major challenge in the Indian environment is the infrastructure. The current internet infrastructure is not yet robust enough to handle the requirement of property system in terms of speed, up-time and minimum delay.” Security is another issue. “It definitely is more viable but less secure as information is literally in an unknown electronic cloud. However, with this technology, access of information has become much easier and larger data can be stored and accessed at any given time,” mentions Apte. Though these are legitimate concerns, hotels need to find themselves a professional, dependable and trustworthy cloud PMS vendor.
Since cloud PMS vendors operate central and communal databases, centralised management for properties with multiple locations is an innate characteristic of the system. But because of the lack of popularity of cloud based PMS in the India market, very few hotels are able to avail the benefits of having a centralised PMS. However, Ginger Hotels has been ahead of the curve as they have moved into cloud computing. They don’t have their own servers and have completely integrated the software solution landscape. All hotels are connected through VPN. Services like door keys, telephone, are integrated to the PMS – it is centralised. This allows rapid deployment and ensures uniformity and standardisation across the chain. Reiterating these benefits, Sawant states, “Centralised PMS is a potential capital cost saving option for any property owner which will help him to minimise the entire project cost. The saving comes through many aspects like hardware cost, data centre space, electricity, air-conditioning, fire suppression cost in data center, etc.”
Though presently centralised PMS is limited to individual properties, the future seems to be bright. “The emergence of cloud computing has made centralised PMS a reality. Definitely, hotels in the future would opt for a centralised PMS as even today we co depend on each other for information. Making it centralised would mean access to information at any given point for use in any part of the country. A definite time efficient system to opt for,” believes Apte.
Presently, both Holiday Inn Mumbai International Airport and The Westin Mumbai Garden City are using Opera PMS. “We have been operating on Opera PMS Version 5 since the inception of the property. It is based on WINTEL (Windows and Intel) platform and we have been using Oracle as database. Opera is well integrated with Micros POS, HSIA, SPA, Door Lock, EPABX, Call, billing, etc. It is also linked with property reservation systems like Valhalla CRS and other new Starwood initiatives like Star-guest. This system has helped us in maximising the revenue. Although the exact amount of maximised revenue cannot be directly determined, but we have achieved a revenue maximisation of approximately 8-10 per cent over the total demand received,” opines Sawant. As for Holiday Inn Mumbai International Airport, the OPERA PMS system in the hotel offers several modules including housekeeping, reservations and account receivable. “It is well interfaced and connected with the outside world for online reservation from different portals and our own website holidayinn.com,” states Patel.
A new trend that the Indian hospitality has adopted is the anywhere check-in app, similar to the airline industry, in which one can check-in to his/her room from anywhere in the world. Moreover, some hotels are also providing a selection preference of rooms which is a time saving process for hotel front desk staff to prepare guest check-in documents and room key. “But with the convenience, there are a few drawbacks in this modern technology as it is cloud based,” states Patel.
Bengaluru Marriott Hotel Whitefield recently started the mobile check-in app. “There were days when guests would enter the hotel and line up at the counters to get their room and compete the check-in formalities. With our mobile check-in app guests can now check in a day prior, get their allotted room and even complete basic check-in formalities such as ID or passport scan right from their smartphones,” reveals Apte. Another initiative on its way at the hotel is the mobile concierge. Guests would be able to order room dining, get their laundries ordered or even request for a dental kit from their smartphones. “High speed internet, smart TVs, mobile check-in, mobile integrated room controls, etc are some of the factors that each guest highly prefer. Guests even desire internet access and Wi-Fi in the hotel cars and we have provided each of these services. With our PMS solution you can set parameters important to your enterprise. It offers a friendlier user interface, while ensuring easy maintenance, faster updates and greater security,” he adds.
But what is going to drive the future trend? Sawant predicts, “Interactive mobile PMS application and self check-in kiosks is going to be the future trend. This will help the hospitality industry to eliminate the fixed desk concept in the lobby area. Self check-in and in-car check-in will help guests to access his room in minimum time after exhaustive office hours and hectic travel.” Adding to the same, Apte states, “Laptops are considered outdated today. Services such as mobile check-in, mobile room service, mobile automated room controls, etc are now the next step forward in the hospitality sector. With such advancements, the hospitality sector is on its way to become a highly technology oriented sector where manual tasks and services are no longer required.”