By Jos Schaap CEO and Founder – StayNTouch
“A picture is worth a thousand words. An interface is worth a thousand pictures.” Ben Shneiderman, Professor Computer Science at the University of Maryland
The capability to have an open platform/solution or software product that is truly agnostic when it comes to integrating with third-party systems in today’s hotel technology space is paramount to the success of a well-run hotel. After all, ensuring that each guest enjoys the highest level of guest service available is the primary responsibility of every hotel. Behind the scenes, hotel systems are busily chugging away to support the operational demands of the hotel, including the pre-stay and post-stay experiences that the guest receives.
In the past, an “everyone for themselves” mindset seemingly ruled the hospitality landscape. Those technology providers would often nickel and dime every tech weary hotelier they supplied their solutions to, hoping to maximize their profit. Not only could hoteliers expect CAPEX costs associated with a specific integration from both tech providers to connect their systems together; on top of this, each provider would charge a maintenance and support fee per annum for the interface itself. These charges could range from 15% to 25% per annum.
We now live in a world of API’s (Application Programming Interface) or, back in the day, “interfaces”. Some technology providers may focus on integrations. Unfortunately, these integrations can be much more cumbersome and costly due to their legacy nature in which systems need to be tweaked in order to communicate with each other fully. However, in most cases, it is just an interface that needs to be put in place for two systems to communicate. Ideally, hotels require open communication streams between systems to ensure the property management system (the technological backbone of the hotel), can do its job efficiently. These interfaces have become increasingly more complex due to the nature of our industry and what the modern guest expects. New entrants can complicate the interface landscape when they develop their apps/platforms or solutions on architecture that is far ahead of some of the legacy systems that truly run a hotel.
There have been a number of associations that have tried to tackle the complex world of integrations. The Open Travel Alliance, HTNG, IATA in the air industry and its New Distribution Capability (NDC) have worked tirelessly to try and deliver an “open” environment, where it is easier for each technology provider to communicate hopefully lowering the costs and barriers of these interfaces. Using mainly the same schema (language) should help with the delivery of seamless integrations, but unfortunately, some providers of technology have a legacy mentality where even though there may be standards available that simplify interfaces and thus making them theoretically cheaper to develop. Don’t understand this sentence well enough to split it up, but needs to be re-worked. Unfortunately, these interfaces are still seen as a source of revenue for the hotel technology provider, and the game continues.
There is a solution on the horizon regarding this confusing and costly integrations environment that we, as an industry, have established. New entrants into the property management space will push the envelope to ensure that there is a change to this burdensome integration landscape. It starts with offering a property management cloud solution that is surrounded by open API’s that allow any application to connect to their platform. In this interface methodology, there is no longer a need for systems to charge excessive, ongoing fees to hoteliers to establish connectivity between platforms. This should, in effect, reduce the chaos of having thousands of available hotel specific systems in the market today.
According to David Turnbull, the CEO of Snapshot, a company that is focused on hotel data aggregation and innovation, within the next five years, hotels will only work with vendors that permit interoperability, flexibility, and open access to the data needed to power their guest experience. My take is that interoperability, flexibility, and openness will be the future of our industry. Technology companies can no longer compete within a proprietary, closed ecosystem. Hoteliers do not want to deal with companies that have a myopic viewpoint on the future of our industry and its relevant technologies. Rather, they want to work with companies that understand what the future will bring to our industry. They want to work with companies that understand the financial pressures on today’s hotelier and ensure that they are developing great solutions to enhance hotel operations through the delivery of open API’s, while also decreasing costs.
This is not to say that the delivery of open API’s will fix everything — hoteliers will still hang on to an old, antiquated system that works because in their viewpoint it does not need to be replaced. Until each system is cloud-delivered or developed, we will undoubtedly still face some challenges, but rest assured that the days of proprietary, costly integrations are finally coming to an end.
In the case of StayNTouch, we are looking at this problem in a very different manner. We know that connecting systems is difficult, but we also know that this should not be a recurring expense for hotels. With this in mind, not only does StayNTouch have open API’s – but we also offer traditional interfaces for free. This enables the hotel to transition at its own pace ensuring a successful implementation of your new cloud property management system.