Prabol Bhandari, Stayntouch: “hotel technology is rapidly evolving to deliver a comprehensive digital guest journey”

As the hospitality industry is becoming more digital, it is essential to embrace the power of new technologies and make sure they are implemented in the right way.

Businesses today need to be agile in order to stay competitive, and the hospitality industry is no exception. As the world of hospitality tech continues to evolve, hoteliers need to make sure that their property management systems are up-to-date.

To gain insights into how the hospitality industry can use innovative technology to streamline operations and enhance customer experience, we sat down with Prabol Bhandari, Chief Technology Officer at Stayntouch, a company offering a mobile hotel management system.

How did the idea of Stayntouch come to life? What has the journey been like?

Stayntouch started well before Covid in 2012 as an idea for an app to connect guests and hotel staff to enhance the guest experience. However, this idea quickly changed into a passion to develop a comprehensive and fully mobile hotel property management system to compete with traditional on-premise server-based systems. As a first stepping stone, we created a mobile overlay that could be leveraged on top of a legacy PMS and focused on guest-facing tasks such as check-in/check-out and housekeeping.

Stayntouch PMS Overlay gave hotels using outdated legacy systems the flexibility to move away from their computers and interact with guests more organically. Simultaneously, we continued to develop our native-cloud property management system. We officially launched our full PMS product in 2016. Today, Stayntouch focuses on recreating important and sometimes complex workflows for hotel customers, with innovation and ease of use being the foundation of our product development. Our technology unburdens hospitality for our customers, helping them empower staff, drive revenue, scale their business, and deliver their ideal guest experience.

Can you tell us a little bit about your property management system? What are its key features?

Stayntouch PMS enhances hospitality for hotel operators, staff, and guests alike. Running on powerful and ultra-reliable Amazon AWS servers, Stayntouch PMS features a webhook-enhanced, open-API architecture and a comprehensive library of 1100+ third-party integrations. We help operators scale their business with a flexible chain management module that makes it easy to switch from individual property to chain management and interact with guests as a unified brand.

Our industry-leading user interface is easy-to-use and easy to learn, so hoteliers can hire who they want and have them serving guests in days rather than weeks. Stayntouch PMS can streamline innovation and empower small teams with robust automation, instant mobile communication, and automated housekeeping task management. Our PMS runs on a tablet, so hoteliers can adjust rates and restrictions from anywhere with an internet connection, while staff can break free from the front desk and greet guests anywhere on the property.

Staytnouch also features mobile self-check-in, giving guests the option to check in through their mobile device, a guest-facing smart-kiosk, or a friendly hotelier aided by a tablet. Mobile check-in not only alleviates staffing pressures at the front desk, but it can also increase ancillary revenue by sending targeted automated offers for room upgrades and amenities directly to guests’ smartphones.

Recently, Stayntouch expanded its offerings to include an entire suite of core mobile hotel technology solutions. Dubbed Stayntouch 2.0, this fully-integrated suite includes our flagship mobile PMS, a comprehensive payment facilitation system (Stayntouch Pay), a streamlined and customizable booking engine (Stayntouch Booking), a powerful turnkey channel manager, and a guest-facing kiosk (Stayntouch Kiosk). Stayntouch 2.0 provides hoteliers with everything they need to access new markets, increase conversions, maximize and diversify revenue, streamline guest bookings, and deliver an enhanced digital guest journey.

Why do you think companies often hesitate to try out new and innovative solutions that would enhance their operations?

Part of their hesitation stems from natural risk aversion and the notion that “if it isn’t broke, don’t fix it.” But hoteliers are also reacting to what had been legitimately dysfunctional relationships with traditional technology providers in the past. Traditional, on-site PMS providers would lock hotels into technological “walled gardens,” forcing them to pay significant fees for maintenance, necessary product upgrades, or “proprietary” integrations. The result was a tech stack that was more expensive but less flexible, reliable, and scalable.

Hoteliers frequently remark that one of the biggest advantages of a SaaS-based mobile PMS is its ability to increase flexibility while decreasing costs. SaaS-based platforms require no maintenance on behalf of the client, and offer regular software upgrades and third-party integrations at no additional costs, giving hotels maximum freedom to build a tech stack that works with their unique business needs.

How did the recent global events affect your field of work? Were there any new challenges you had to adapt to?

There are three broad challenges facing the hotel industry today: First, the industry has been experiencing high turnover and persistent labor shortages since the end of the pandemic. Hoteliers have been turning to gain more flexibility in the hiring process and empower overworked employees and limited teams. Mobile self-check-in can free up bandwidth at the front desk, while robust automation can take much of the administrative busywork out of housekeeping. Similarly, offering an intuitive and vibrant user interface can free up hiring options for hoteliers, dramatically cut down on employee training, and allow staff to complete tasks without taking their attention off of their guests.

Inflation and rising energy costs have also been significant concerns for the industry. When compared with traditional on-site PMS platforms, mobile native-cloud PMS solutions can dramatically reduce energy and maintenance by simply not requiring hotels to maintain expensive on-site servers. Open-API systems can seamlessly link to channel managers and CRS platforms to allow hotels to attract price-conscious consumers without sacrificing profitability. Similarly, integrating with in-room IoT technologies such as smart thermostats can reduce energy costs and personalize the guest experience.

The recent conflict in Ukraine and the broader rise in cybercrime have underscored the need for hoteliers to take data security very seriously. At a minimum, technology providers should ensure full GDPR compliance and leverage multiple layers of encryption across their networks and applications. For payment facilitation, PCI DSS certification is generally the industry standard but look for platforms with the more stringent PCI DSS v4.0 compliance for even higher data security.

What other business aspects do you hope to see enhanced by technology in the near future?

Stayntouch has been investing heavily in deploying a unified commerce payment system. Traditional payment facilitation models are highly fragmented, forcing hoteliers to deal with multiple separate organizations for payment processing, acquiring, schemes, and interchanging – creating a payment system that is complex, opaque, and expensive. Unified commerce payment services integrate all payment services and technologies under one vendor, which can greatly simplify billing and customer support while reducing payment friction for guests.

Unified commerce payment services are also integral to a seamless digital guest experience, and can greatly increase conversions and revenue by allowing guests to pay how they want (via local currency, credit or debit card, or digital wallets), where they want (in-person, online, or through a kiosk), with as little friction as possible.

As the borders start opening up again, can you share some tips on how to stay protected online while traveling?

Mobile self-check-in is recognized by numerous regulatory and health agencies as well as several industry associations as being an integral component of social distancing. By integrating our mobile check-in function with a digital payment platform and a keyless entry app, hotels can provide a completely contactless welcome experience for their guests.

But they can go even further than that: By integrating with a mobile point-of-sale (POS) system and a mobile guest messaging service, hotels can also offer a contactless option for in-stay dining and service requests. Hotels can even offer a contactless departure while also offering monetized late checkout directly through their guests’ mobile devices.

How do you think the hospitality industry is going to evolve in the upcoming years?

In the coming years, hotel technology will evolve to deliver a more comprehensive digital guest journey, allowing mobile access at every touchpoint from booking to check-in, to the actual stay, to check-out and beyond. Running parallel to this will be a trend toward a more hyper-personalized model of attribute-based shopping, where guests will be able to customize their journey by purchasing a series of desired attributes defining their room, experiences, and stay.

To facilitate this dynamic mobile-first view of the guest journey, hoteliers will leverage an ecosystem model of technological investment with the PMS serving as the flexible foundation of a seamlessly integrated and ever-growing stack of third-party mobile applications.

Share with us, what’s next for Stayntouch?

Stayntouch's mission is to continue to provide industry-leading solutions that serve all ranges of customers with a near-term focus on the mid- to high-end hotel market. This focus allows us to continue to broaden our reach from the earliest days of our company.

Enhancements in this area will allow for even stronger group operations, flexible revenue management features, and integrated chain functionality. All of this will continue to be packaged in an extremely easy-to-use and easy-to-understand user interface that is quick to train and quick to deploy.

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