The 2023 hotel technology review: Cloud migration and personalisation

2023 was the year when the migration from on-premises legacy property management systems (PMSs) to cloud versions finally started to gain momentum.

Globally, around 40,000 hotel properties use Oracle’s Opera PMS, making it a market leader. So far, some 10,000 have migrated to the cloud, with the company expecting the number to exceed 40,000 by 2027. Hotel brands adopting Opera Cloud include Wyndham, Minor, Best Western, Melia International, Scandic, and Outrigger.

“After what might be termed a fitful start, they [Oracle Hospitality] seem to be doing well and given their position as a major league supplier of technology, the fact that Opera Cloud is now rolling out at a fierce pace is a big deal,” commented John Burns, president, Hospitality Technology Consulting.

Scott Strickland, chief information officer at Wyndham Hotels & Resorts, said: “Today, we are averaging 20 hotels a week with franchisees migrating in a matter of days and seeing immediate benefits including greater efficiencies, lower costs, and the opportunity to deliver better guest experiences.”

The rate of adoption of the Mews hospitality cloud accelerated, now standing at 5,000 customers. The company secured a Series C investment of $185 million and has acquired seven smaller hospitality technology companies since its inception ten years ago.

During the year, Strawberry Hotels (formerly known as Nordic Choice Hotels) installed Mews PMS and related systems across its Scandinavian portfolio of 225 hotels, 120 restaurants and 20 spas at a rate of five hotels per week. Other Mews customers include Edyn, The Social Hub and Generator.

“Mews has been growing very quickly. They’re a next generation system. From a user experience point of view, they’re very contemporary,” commented Burns.

In further vendor selection news, Marriott International has been installing an Agilysys cloud native PMS across North America. Marriott also signed a global agreement to roll out Shiji’s cloud POS systems across the world, a significant deal in bolstering Shiji’s status as a global rather than a Chinese company.

Hyatt said it will cease using its proprietary central reservation system (CRS) and switch to Sabre’s SynXis CRS starting in 2024. In July, Sabre announced its acquisition of ecommerce provider Techsembly to accelerate its retailing solutions and allow hoteliers to sell anything across channels.

Hotel brand and developer citizenM adopted the Apaleo platform. Klaas van Lookeren Campagne, CEO of citizenM, said: “Guest-centric technology is the foundation and enabler of our success. We value Apaleo’s innovative thinking and how their platform can help us manage the network efficiently, improve time-to-market results and utilize data to drive guest satisfaction.”

A personalised journey

Personalisation and the guest journey continued to be buzzwords as hotels made efforts to ‘own’ guests from the booking stage onwards.

In terms of user experience, hotel booking engines often compare poorly to OTAs, with customers having difficulty booking a room let alone a spa treatment or a restaurant reservation all at the same time. Now, however, there are several vendors offering ecommerce-style booking platforms specifically for the hotel sector.

At Glasson Lakehouse in Ireland, owned by Press Up Hospitality Group, customers can reserve a selection of leisure activities in and around the lake, such as a paddle board, a fishing rod, a golf simulator and a hot tub. Montcalm East in London sells gym and spa entrances to both guests and non-guests. These hotels are partnering with Journey, a hotel ecommerce, marketing and technology company.

IHG announced that its guests can now book individual room attributes such as a higher floor or a room with a view and personalise their stays. Booking customisation, created in partnership with Amadeus, results in $22-41 additional revenue per night, IHG claimed. Marriott is expected to adopt the same platform.

A PWC report identified the post-booking pre-arrival stage as the least evolved part of the guest journey, making it ripe for innovation. Flagship luxury openings like Atlantis The Royal and Raffles London at the OWO deployed omni-channel messaging, concierge recommendations and digital itineraries whereby guests can view a personalised selection of activities to book directly on their phones. The service, delivered by Alliants, increases revenue, and reduces the pressure of last-minute requests.

Make it simple

A general need to reduce complexity was a theme in 2023 which meant heightened interest in consumer-grade usability, all-in-one platforms, and a reduction of the number of technology partnerships.

Obviously, hotel operating systems perform hundreds of tasks so there is an inherent level of complexity. For example, an Opera Cloud update on new and improved functionality published in October runs to 159 pages.

Still, with smaller teams, hotels cannot indulge in lengthy training sessions, so generally speaking vendors are much more focused on usability and intuitive workflows. In addition, the reduction (or disappearance) of in-house hotel IT personnel has changed vendor relations.

Heather Byron, SVP of services at Alliants, commented: “Our support team used to interact with other service desks and these discussions were very technical. Increasingly, there has been a shift to talking directly with the employees who are using our products. More than ever, they need clear and simple communication as well as total flexibility and support.”

Hotel owners and brands want to reduce the number of tech companies they deal with, hence the growing interest in all-in-one platforms or suites. “If you’ve got 50 or 60 technology relationships, it is unmanageable,” said Burns. “There are always compromises. You can buy best-in-breed tech but then you have to knit it all together and that’s not easy. The alternative is buying a suite or a platform and not every function is the best, but overall, it’s more satisfactory and it’s vendor lean.”