Most hotels of any size today will be using a property management system (PMS). This is a computerized system which can be either cloud-based or PC-based, which will allow the hotel’s managers to oversee all aspects of the hotel’s operations from the device of their choice. The systems typically perform all the major administrative and operational tasks associated with a hospitality business, reducing the workload of staff, minimizing errors, and generally simplifying a large number of complex processes.

There are a number of key areas which all good systems should cover. If we look at the system from the perspective of a guest, we can see how the PMS will operate as the guest makes a reservation, arrives at the hotel, uses the hotel’s services and facilities, and leaves after their stay.

The guest’s first encounter with the hotel comes when he books a room. No matter which booking channel is used, the PMS will be able to organize the bookings in real time, avoiding the problems of double bookings from different sources, and collect all the relevant customer data. The information will then be available to front desk staff when the guest arrives to check in.

Check in is also processed via the PMS. If there is any information about the guest from previous stays, this may also be on the system and made available to the staff who need to know. This could include room preferences, or even which newspaper the guest likes to read. The guest’s room will be ready, because the housekeeping schedule will have been set by the PMS, ensuring that the plan is in place to allocate time for staff to turn around the room after the previous guest leaves. The hotel won’t run out of toiletries either, because the system will automatically know when to order more. Any maintenance issues will also be recorded via the PMS and staff allocated to fix the problems. Regular work can be scheduled by the system for periods when the rooms are likely to be vacant.

If the guest visits any of the F & B outlets in the hotel, any spending will be automatically forwarded to the guest’s portfolio and will be immediately available to front desk staff ready for check out. There is no need for a night auditor to chase paper to match outlets to transactions to rooms to guests. Upon checking out, the guest can receive an itemized account of their spending and the payment can be settled, once again through the PMS, which will handle the hotels accounts. After the guest has departed, the system can deliver a message of thanks, make requests for feedback, or handle the offering of further promotions.

Of course, the PMS is also able to handle much more behind the scenes. The human resources manager will be able to use the system to manage payroll and the scheduling of staff working schedules, with flexibility linked to occupancy levels. F & B managers will not only be able to manage financial transactions, but will also be able to monitor and control stock levels and keep track of customer behaviour trends in terms of which items are most popular, or the quantities and timings of supplies.

Revenue managers will find that a good PMS can help to oversee the different distribution channels, prices, and occupancy rates. Values for metrics such as RevPAR are readily available, allowing managers to make adjustments based on the latest data and trends. A wealth of data becomes accessible through the PMS, opening up intriguing opportunities for innovative managers to spot patterns which can be exploited to improve customer services or increase productivity and profits.

In fact, there is very little in a hotel which cannot be linked to a PMS. Doors can be automatically locked, lights can be controlled, pay-TV channels can be monitored, and energy-efficient power usage can be regulated. And the biggest advantage to all this automation is that it frees up hotel managers and staff to do what they should be doing best – focusing on hospitality.