By Pierre Boettner, Founder and CEO, hospitalityPulse

It should come as no surprise that guests want to pick their rooms.

According to a Hilton survey, 84% of business travelers want to choose their own room (Fortune). I’m not sure why leisure travelers don’t have a say, but I’ll tell you what both groups really want. It’s not to pick their exact room. That requires too much energy, never mind knowledge of the hotel you plan staying at. Think if the car rental company asked you to pick your car down to the VIN number. No, thank you. But if they asked if I want Bluetooth, a sunroof, storage for more than two bags, and visual navigation… yes, please.

What guests DO want is to pick the kind of room. The attributes, or room features. Most guests want the opportunity to say they want a room away from the elevator or near it or on a high floor or with a view or with a balcony. Forcing them to wait until check-in for a manual room assignment—one that may or may not be possible—doesn’t satisfy this desire, nor does the non-committal “we’ll do our best” disclaimer at the time of booking. It only results in disappointment the majority of the time.

Giving guests the option to buy individual attributes at booking, in a way letting them assemble their personalized room, isn’t just a nicety; it’s a competitive edge. Know who cannot do this? OTAs. Know who can? Hotels.

For hotels that want to offer room features on their booking engine, it is also critically important they remain entirely compatible with today’s world of distribution. You can offer attributes selections from your whole inventory using your property booking engine while selling room categories through third parties. Here’s why!

The PMS is the president of inventory. It knows the exact status of every room. And it’s where your current manual room assignments are occurring. In order to offer room selection by feature, continuous predictive room assignments are required. They, too, are driven by data contained in the PMS. They are automated, in real-time, covering the entire booking window, and superior to the results obtained by manual assignment. So with accurate tentative room assignments being continuously re-optimized, you have the accuracy of the specific inventory down to individual rooms, without the fragmentation of the inventory and its negative effects on occupancy.

In order to offer precise and guaranteed delivery of room features, the PMS feeds the room assignment system for all dates in the booking window, which in turn feeds the online booking engine via its feature inventory engine (FIRE). To the CRS, the GDSs, and the OTAs this is entirely transparent and they can simply keep doing what they do today. No interruptions, no changes, just continued flow of reservations. Bookings come in as usual, hit the CRS, which feeds the PMS, and are then tentatively assigned a room.

What is different is that when guests book using your online booking engine, they get more value by being able to choose the specific room features they care for. Further, they are guaranteed these features will be delivered upon arrival. Suddenly, your hotel has a big value-add and a competitive advantage. And to top it off, one that doesn’t violate rate parity, can be widely publicized, and that ONLY YOU can deliver!