The hospitality industry finds itself in a number of technological transformations. From guest-facing solutions to operational platforms, the legacy technology which once ruled our sector is slowly being replaced by modern, more agile solutions. Once slow to adopt new technology, the hospitality industry is now turning to mobile-friendly, cloud-based platforms to provide a more personalized and streamlined guest experience

But in spite of their promise, hoteliers are realizing that not all PMS platforms are created equal 一 requiring new vetting process to separate the technological wheat from the chaff.

Legacy PMS – not designed for modern demands

It goes without saying that there are a myriad of PMS solutions available in the market, with each offering hoteliers its own set of advantages and disadvantages. Between all of these different features, however, there is one differentiator that demands some clarification — the Application Program Interface (API).

An open API is an integral component of any software application, establishing vital program-to-program compatibility to ensure cross-functionality between multiple platforms. For hoteliers, this means having a PMS that can interact with other apps currently in use across the hotel. In this sense, the API of a platform acts as the master key, or the ‘translator’ between platforms.

This is especially important within our industry, as hotel properties often require a robust ‘stack’ of platforms and applications to run at peak efficiency. No one system can offer a hotel every capability and function they might require to exceed expectations at every point in the guest journey. Rather than forcing a ‘one size fits all’ solution, hotels develop relationships with a number of vendors that specialize in different areas of the guest experience, creating a custom technology stack that meets their particular needs. This is why an open API is so important — It gives hotels the most freedom to choose the stack that meets their needs now, and scale as their business grows and technology advances.

Like hotels – not all APIs are created equal

Imagine this — it’s Christmas, and you were hoping to receive the latest iPhone. Rather than getting your hands on the coveted Apple device, you’re gifted a dated Blackberry presented in iPhone packaging. Despite your initial excitement, once unwrapped, you realize it’s not the device you wanted. Further, this device lacks much of the integral functions you were hoping to utilize with the new iPhone.

This is what happens with many APIs.

While the initial service set of legacy systems may have previously suited a hotel’s needs, they simply do not have the capacity to grow and evolve with the property. From the outside, they might look like an iPhone, but on the inside, they’re just an outdated Blackberry. As guest expectations continue to evolve, legacy systems 一 which are severely hampered by costly integration and upgrade fees 一 simply won’t be able to keep up.

As hoteliers become more aware of the limitations of legacy systems, they are a preference for modern, more flexible solutions. In fact, Skift’s interviews with various hotel executives confirm a growing desire to evolve away from costly legacy technology systems to new, mobile-focused solutions. Legacy systems are often expensive to maintain, difficult to upgrade, and put hotels at an information disadvantage, keeping insights locked inside siloed databases unavailable to the staff that need them.

So what’s the problem if a legacy vendor says they can adapt?

Legacy system providers see the writing on the wall, and are starting to repackage their platforms as offering supposedly “mobile-friendly” options such as cloud-based implementation and open APIs. Unfortunately, the devil is in the details, and legacy systems can rarely offer the same robust level of capabilities as systems which were developed to be mobile from the ground up.

The problem is that many legacy companies continue to narrowly view technology partnerships as another way to make money, rather than as part of a broader partnership strategy. Ryan King, the Director of Strategic Partnerships at StayNTouch, elaborates, “Rather than requiring a one-time fee to ensure seamless integration across platforms, those [legacy] vendors would charge an interface fee as well as the secondary system provider fee. But as hotels continue to evolve their guest offerings and require more robust technology, they will have no choice but to rely on various third-party providers for the various services they need. If those providers adhere to a legacy model, it simply creates unnecessary barriers for hotel’s hoping to utilize that technology.”

Today’s hoteliers are becoming hyper-aware of evolving guest demands and the influence of digital systems. Although legacy systems can make big claims, their technology lacks the scalability to live up to modern expectations. Ultimately, they are trying to disguise a dated Blackberry device in the packaging of an iPhone 一 and hoteliers are starting to pick up on the ruse.