Without a hotel property management system (PMS), your capacity to grow your small hotel will be seriously stifled. After all, managing your bookings with Excel spread sheets or reservation books may allow you to scrape by, but it definitely doesn’t allow you to scale.
A modern all-in-one PMS system automatically processes all online bookings and displays it to you in a user friendly calendar view. At its core, it gives you the technology you need to efficiently manage bookings and increase your revenue.
There is an array of booking engines, channel managers and front desk systems for you to choose from, so how do you figure out which one works best for your property? Ask yourself the following three questions.
1. What is the cost of an all-in-one PMS system?
Small accommodation providers have to be extremely careful with how they spend their budget, so it is important to assess the costs involved.
- Licensing cost. The cost of using the software will either be in a commission-based or monthly subscription format. A monthly subscription is better for budgeting purposes, and will allow you to reinvest most of your revenue back into the property as you grow (instead of taking a significant chunk of it).
- Additional training, setup, and user fees. Find out if your PMS system will charge you for initial setup and training. Some will also charge you per additional user that you add to your account (for example, if you want to give your new receptionist access to it).
Remember that by using an all-in-one PMS system, you are investing in the success of your small hotel and in all three of the technologies that you need. Managing your online reservations without a PMS, booking engine and channel manager would actually cost you more in the time you waste processing bookings, and lost opportunities in capturing new guests.
2. What all-in-one PMS system features do small hotels need?
Before thinking about features, think about the big picture. The reason you would consider investing in a PMS system is that it will save you time and increase your revenue. All of the features it has need to contribute to those overarching goals.
#1 Simplifies front-desk management
Your PMS system should give you all the tools you need to be totally organised in running your small property.
To give your guests the best service from the moment they arrive to the moment they leave, you should be able to easily:
- View all of your reservations on a calendar page
- Add additional rooms and extra sale items to a booking
- Add new rate-plans to existing rooms
- Close out specific rooms for a spring clean
- Move existing bookings around
- Produce invoices
- Check guests in and out
- Remember your returning guests
Your all-in-one PMS system should give you one place to find all the information you need, and it should take you much less time to complete the same tasks.
“Little Hotelier has revolutionised the way we manage reservations – it has allowed us to process bookings and allocate rooms in half the time it used to take…”
– Waterfront Motor Inn
#2 Unties you from your desk
Your all-in-one PMS system should be accessible wherever you are, through any device. This means it should be cloud-based. That way, you can go about your day and still keep an eye on your reservations. All you need to do is bring your smartphone or tablet with you.
#3 Manages sales channels effortlessly
If you don’t have a system that distributes your rooms in an organised way, you run the risk of double booking your rooms – resulting in unhappy customers, lost revenue, and even more wasted time trying to rectify the situation.
This is why your all-in-one PMS system should also be your small hotel’s channel manager. This means that travellers booking hotels through online travel agents (OTAs) see your availability as it is updated in real-time, because your PMS system distributes all of your available rooms across a number of booking sites.
Your all-in-one PMS system’s channel manager should:
- Allow for live rate and availability updates
- Allow you to manage all your booking sites from one place
- Allow you to upload your inventory 400 days in advance
- Allow you to easily see an overview of how your channels are tracking
Because your inventory is automatically reduced across all sites when a booking is made from any site, there’s no manual work involved, and you maximise your revenue.
#4 Accommodates international bookings
Making sure international travellers can easily book with you is a top priority for small hotels. Your PMS system should help you do this by:
- Allowing you to partner with international OTAs. For example, to sell your rooms to Chinese travellers, you should connect with Ctrip, because it is the preferred booking site in China. The more sites it connects you to, the better. For example, Little Hotelier connects with over 250 different booking sites.
- Providing multi-language and currency options. It should support at least 5 languages (including Chinese), and at least 80 different currencies.
Of course, the fact those international travellers can go to your website and book themselves in means that you don’t need to be at your desk to accept bookings. You can literally take bookings while you sleep.
#5 Manages guest communications
Your PMS system must make it easy for you to communicate with your guests in a structured way. This means that you can send pre and post arrival emails, and customises each email template to match your brand’s look and feel.
If each guest’s experience is inconsistent, it reflects badly on you. All accommodation providers – regardless of size – should strive to be as professional as possible. Each and every guest needs to receive the same level of service.
#6 Increases revenue per customer
In addition to working on getting more guests, you should also work on increasing revenue from each guest.
Your PMS system should allow you to:
- Package extras like late check-out, breakfast, and spa packages
- Customise extras to suit each product
- Add extra sale items to reservations during your guests’ stay
Upselling relevant products and services to your guests can give them a more pleasant stay while adding to your bottom line.
#7 Helps you measure and improve
Unlike large hotel chains, your budget is limited. Without advanced reporting, you won’t be able to see where you should allocate your money.
Your PMS system should have advanced reporting features that allow you to track:
- Your best performing booking sites
- Your direct bookings
- Your occupancy rates
- Your income and outstanding payments
- Which of your promotions (hot deals) work
You should be able to view this within the interface, without having to export data and fiddle with Excel spread sheets.
3. What is the best PMS system provider like?
Finally, you must assess your PMS system provider to see if it will be a good fit. You have to be able to work well together for this to be a good investment.
If something goes wrong, you need to know that you can rely on your provider to assist you quickly.
- How many days per week is support offered?
- Can you reach someone in a time zone that works for you?
- Can you speak to an actual person for assistance?
- Is support offered in the language you speak?
- Are they willing to train you and your staff to use the product?
- Is there a wealth of online tutorials to minimise the need for phone support? There should be up to day step-by-step screenshot and video tutorials available for you to access.
- Are there new feature releases being announced on a monthly basis? Make sure the company you choose is committed to improving the product instead of staying static.
You can also contact a few of their customers and speak to them for a first-hand review of the software, and their support team.
A PMS system is at the core of running your business, so make sure you choose a company that is easy to reach, and very helpful.
As a small accommodation provider, it would be wise to go with an all-in-one PMS system that offers you the most flexibility in working with them.
- Is a free trial offered? Test before you buy! On your trial, you’ll be able to assess whether it has all the functionality you need.
- Does it lock you into a contract? Choose pay as you go software to minimise risk if it doesn’t work out for you.
As a small accommodation provider, you need to budget wisely. Pick the solution that will help you scale the best, and gives you some wiggle room in the way they will work with you.
Looking for a PMS system that will save you time and get you more bookings? Try Little Hotelier for free. You won’t be disappointed.