By Nicki Dehler, VP of Product Management, StayNTouch, A Shiji Group Brand
Choosing the right integrations for your property is not a black-or-white proposition. After all, different hotels have different business goals, markets and guest profiles. But choosing a deeper integration over a shallow one can make the difference between night and day for your property.
An open, cloud-based infrastructure is quickly becoming an integral standard for businesses across industries, especially in the case of hospitality. Although hotels may have been historically slow to adopt new technology, forward-thinking brands are leveraging cutting-edge software to streamline operations, increase their revenues, and enhance their guests’ experience.
Although upgrading your tech might seem like a simple task, the process of vetting and selecting a technology vendor can prove to be a complicated process. This is because legacy platforms were historically reluctant to integrating with external partners or applications, making cross-platform communication difficult, if not impossible. Because open-APIs were not widespread, a hotel’s data became siloed in different platforms, with any integration coming at a steep cost to the hotelier. Even further, it’s important to remember that not all technology partnerships are created equal, and hoteliers should future-proof their brand by selectively working with vendors who have their best interests in mind.
The long-term value
Application Program Interfaces, better known as APIs, are found within a hotel’s digital network of programs. These interfaces allow various hospitality platforms and applications to connect and communicate with each other. An open API creates an operational ecosystem in which data can be shared across platforms and touch-points, ensuring hoteliers can access a unified, amalgamated view of guest data, rather than various, siloed captures. Data silos are especially problematic for hoteliers, as they often contribute to wasted resources, inefficiencies and inhibited productivity 一 all of which can negatively affect the guest experience. If one application doesn’t have access to valuable data from another department, a number of risks arise:
– Hoteliers may find themselves paying extra to store the same data in multiple places
– Contents of each data silo may differ slightly, in which case, how can hoteliers determine which is the most accurate or up to date?
– Outdated data negates the value of the information stored in a hotel’s ecosystem
– One application may hold data that would be useful to another application if it was able to access it.
Ultimately, hoteliers require systems that are able to share and synchronize pertinent guest information such as stay data and preferences, rates, reservations, revenue management and reporting, and so on. Even if all of these systems come from different vendors and providers, they need to be able to communicate and share information. Fortunately, APIs are finally trending towards a more open and accessible infrastructure, ensuring hoteliers have uninhibited access to data streamlined across applications, and enhanced cross-platform functionality. From an operational standpoint, this is an integral shift in the right direction.
Amongst other API integration benefits are the options for mobile development, partnering and partner onboarding opportunities, a decrease in time to market for new products, an ability to maintain a competitive technological advantage, compliance with regulatory requirements, and future-proofing a business through a focus on innovation.
Go beyond traditional ERP and stand-alone applications
An API-first approach lets hotels to connect disparate systems and go beyond the limitations of traditional legacy platforms. Hotels ultimately won’t benefit from applications that do not play well with others, especially as they look to scale and add new platforms to their operational stack.
On the technical end, an API-first platform enables numerous programs to work together seamlessly without delays, conflicts or high-priced integration fees. But there is also a critical human component: technology developers need to work together to plan, organize, and share a vision of their API program and adopt tools that support an API-first approach. This means that not all APIs are created equal, and not all technology partners are created equal. True strategic partners will not only maintain operational stability, but also ensure that their solutions are future-proof and scalable.
The best integrations, just like the best business relationships, involve partnerships and in most cases, require a formal agreement to protect all parties. Even if a technology developer makes a claim that they have an API, it doesn’t necessarily guarantee access to the benefits above, so hotels need to make sure they perform their due diligence.
Vendors vs. partners
We’ve established that a hotel PMS built on an open infrastructure allows hotels to be more agile, access amalgamated data, and future-proof their operations. But let’s speak directly to the partnership itself — what should a partnership between a hotel and a technology vendor look like? What should hoteliers look for when vetting prospective new platforms? As hospitality professionals, we are in the business of curating and cultivating long-term service-oriented relationships. And this is actually a good model to follow with technology providers. The purchase of a new platform should be seen as the beginning of a long-term strategic partnership. Ideally, when a guest makes the decision to book a hotel, their relationship with that property is only just beginning. Similarly, when a hotel decides to purchase a new application or system, their relationship with that vendor should extend far beyond the installation. A narrow transactional relationship is not one which breeds success because, as we know, technology doesn’t stand still. Rather, technology requires frequent innovation and updates, and thus it’s crucial that your technology provider support its strategic vision with on-going support.
Is your hotel investing in a product that will soon be outdated? What does the on-going support system look like, and is it only offered at an additional cost? Is the vendor seemingly aware of tech trends, and open to feedback and continued innovation and updates? Are they focused only on their product, rather than the industry at large? When considering a new piece of software, hoteliers should be vetting potential partners — not just looking at transactional vendors. Strategic, collaborative partnerships will allow hoteliers and vendors alike to leverage technology that drives client goals and inspires mutual success. Ultimately, the biggest take away is that the richer the integration, the more hotels can benefit from it.