Key Hotel Requirements Driving the CRS Evolution

Written and researched by Christin Hänsel, Michaela Papenhoff, Ralph Merten and Friederike Winkowski

Today’s travelers have high expectations of a personalized e-commerce experience along their journey, which makes guest-centric functionalities a top priority for a hotel chain’s central reservations systems (CRS). As a result, the hoteliers’ demand for innovative and improved CRS services continues to grow. Although many of the related digital marketing, distribution and guest retention requirements can be found on the development roadmaps of the CRS providers, it remains mission critical to shorten development cycles, enabling a faster time to market. Filling the large gap of missing functionalities and integrations is a prerequisite for the successful implementation of new solutions. This should motivate both hotel chains and IT vendors alike to engage in closer partnerships.

This h2c Research Paper is based on the findings of h2c’s Global Hotel CRS Study and aims to shed more light on the current CRS landscape and related system requirements. The study covers Europe, Middle East & Africa, The Americas and Asia Pacific and has a fair distribution across hotel categories by star rating, type (including voluntary hotel chains, representation companies, transparent brands, and independent hotel groups), location (city, resort, and convention) and size/reach (international versus regional chains). The 92 surveyed hotel chains, whereof the majority is regional, represent more than 11,000 properties and 1.7 million rooms worldwide.

H2c’s research answers the following questions:

  • How satisfied are hotel chains with their current CRS solution?
  • Which CRS features and functionalities are missing today versus in three years’ time?
  • What needs to change for improving the hotel chains’ satisfaction level?

As dissatisfaction with the existing CRS is often the major driver for change, the overall study results should help to highlight the hotel chains’ requirements in more detail by hotel type and market specifics, enabling CRS providers to better understand desired service enhancements and identify missing functionalities as well as prioritize their developments.

Primary Takeways

Missing CRS functionalities are rather the norm than the exception.

Today, every third hotel chain is missing more than 30% of their required CRS services, and half of all chains are missing at least one key CRS feature. However, satisfaction levels differ by region. The Americas show the highest level of satisfaction with their employed CRS due to big U.S. chains enforcing their stringent brand standards.

Hotel chains usually have a clear view on missing and insufficient functionalities, but as hoteliers are not IT experts they often struggle to define (specify) exactly what has to be done for improvement. Therefore, CRS companies are urged to understand the problems before developing new features. Innovation must be driven by CRS vendors in cooperation with their clients and potential customers.

CRS integration with guest management systems is in strong demand.

Customer Relationship Management (CRM) poses the largest demand for CRS integration. No matter if a loyalty program is employed or not, especially small and medium-sized hotel groups must improve the guest experience to catch up with the global chains’ personalization capabilities. Today, CRS integration is low on a global scale and clearly the largest gap that CRS vendors need to fill, either via their own product or via seamless third party integration.

CRS-powered direct bookings are THE value driver for hotels, but underperforming.

In the course of hotel chains increasingly changing their online sales strategy to better compete against the dominating OTAs (e.g., employing channel-based pricing and/or offering free benefits), the Internet booking engine (IBE) as one of the CRS’s core modules must now facilitate more sophisticated business rules. To some extent, the IBE requires a reinvention, enabling more e-commerce functionalities such as discounting packages in real-time.

Services of related hospitality systems may shift to the CRS and other systems.

From the hoteliers’ perspective, the most notable shift over the next three years will take place in the area of guest profile management, which is mostly handled by the property management system (PMS) today. Expectations are high that profile management will either migrate to customer relationship management (CRM) systems employed in the chains’ IT landscape or may become part of an enhanced CRS solution in the future. Some hotel chains were certain about the shift, but undecided to which system it will be.

The distribution landscape is poised to change in the foreseeable future.

A hotel platform solution (where CRS and PMS and other applications run on one system) is promising, but not fully available to the industry yet. In the future, CRSs must provide and manage an ever increasing number of customized APIs for integration. To effectively meet this requirement in a timely manner, some travel technology companies envision an open cloud-based hotel software eco-system, providing a public API (which allows the development of specialized apps).

Click here to read the study.