We sat down with Matthijs Welle, the CEO of Mews Systems. Matthijs spent most of his early career with Hilton in London, Johannesburg, and Prague. In 2013 he left his secure corporate job to join the dynamic Mews Systems and set out to conquer the hotel world by revolutionizing Property Management Systems. Here are the highlights of our conversation:
Matthijs, PMS systems are probably one of the first things hotels got in terms of technology. Can you talk us through what has happened since the first PMS systems came on the market?
Sadly very little has changed in hotels since those early PMS systems in the 80s.
The first PMS I remember getting trained on the DOS based Fidelio, which I believe is still one of the greatest hotel systems created. Sadly, the move to Windows did very little to bring further innovation beyond what had already been achieved in the DOS version. Integrations were still complex and prohibitively expensive so that only luxury hotels and chains could afford to automate tedious administrative tasks. Making receptionists and reservation agents slaves to the system, rather than allowing them to create true guest experiences. We have all been standing in that queue at reception, while all receptionists are furiously entering data into the PMS, whilst skilfully ignoring customers.
The real innovation happened only recently when systems started moving into the Cloud, making integrations quick and painless. There is no longer a need for expensive engineers to come on site to install solutions locally, integration costs have come down and improved, allowing even independent hotels or smaller chains to try out different systems that bring automation and guest experiences. If you don’t like a solution, you simply switch to another one, painlessly.
And how is the future looking? What can we expect from future PMS systems?
One of the great benefits of PMS systems in the Cloud, is that not only the hotel employees can access the hotel from anywhere, today also the guest can connect to it. So what does this mean for the guest experience? It means that guests can check themselves in and out of hotels, without having to pass by any reception desk. They complete their own registration cards online, ensuring that marketing data becomes significantly cleaner, allowing for better targeting.
Traditionally when we (as hoteliers) would hit a snag in our budget, and the hotel did not perform as well as expected, we pulled out our action plans and start sending blast campaigns to fill our rooms at the last minute. Sadly most of the data from the PMS was of low quality and not segmented properly, which resulted in huge unsubscribe rates, and had very little impact on the end-results.
In the past hotels purchased all their solutions from 1 vendor. Often this vendor is only a leader in one core product and the other solutions are inferior, causing a dissatisfied hotelier. Cloud PMS solutions allow the hotel to pick and choose solutions that are the best in class and seamlessly integrate them within minutes. This will bring a far superior hotel operation, and improve guest experiences, because the team is now free to focus on the guest experience rather than on data-entry.
With the tech stack for hotels increasing will the PMS keep their role in the center of hotel technology system?
Yes absolutely! The PMS is at the heart of the hotel operation, and all critical data resides in this system. We have seen many companies come in and try to become middleware, attempting to become the heart of the operation without having to build the complex PMS backend logic, but thus far none have pulled it off successfully.
We believe that the PMS is a term which will slowly die out, and some of the more innovative players will develop their solutions to become a complete Hotel Platform Solution. What is the difference? It will still perform the core functions of the hotel, but its open infrastructure allows the hotel to redesign and dream up any guest experience without the limitations of technology.
The number of different PMS systems available for hotels is overwhelming; what do hoteliers need to consider when selecting a PMS?
The decision for a PMS is a major decision for any hotel, as hopefully you will stay with that partner for the coming 10 years. Before looking around for a system, get the team together for a strategy meeting. During this meeting get the team to answer “What would our ideal guest experience look like, if technology was not part of the equation”.
Are you a young brand that wants their guests to check in via their mobile device, or a luxury brand wanting to welcome guests into a lounge rather than queueing up at a reception desk?
Once you know what the future of your brand should look like, write down all the challenges you can see in terms of technology. For example:
- Traditional lock companies require a network connection, so you will need mobile key solutions to handle a complete mobile experience
- If you want receptionists to check-in guests on tablets, then traditional server based systems drop off. For this mobile experience, you will need an integrated tokenized payment solution, otherwise your receptionist will walk around with a tablet and a payment terminal (not very sexy)
- Does the PMS have an open API, allowing other partners to seamlessly integrate into the PMS?
- Don’t think in terms of your current systems (accounting, channel management, CRM, etc) but rather think in what solutions you would like to migrate to in the future. This is the right opportunity for a complete system overhaul.
This list of questions should be at the core of your RFP, and then follow a rigorous process where you evaluate 20-30 solutions. Most of them will drop off quickly if you ask a few questions. There are very few PMS solutions out there that can cater to hotels over 50 rooms, handle group management, offer an open API, offer an online check-in/out, etc.
With the right systems in place, even small hotels can evolve to meet the needs of today’s digitally savvy traveler. If you’re interested in learning more, CLICK HERE to register for our upcoming webinar, Fresh perspectives on guest loyalty for independent hotels