by Rakesh Sharma
Published on 26 December 2012
Yes, I am referring to the thick, bound foolscaps, with pages divided into neat columns, that were earlier used by hotels to enter and track guest details. Although they had a certain charm, hotel registers created a silo of paper reservations that had to be painstakingly reconciled with other silos such as accounting and finance. The entire process was time-consuming and inefficient.
This week, we will review Colibri PMS - a web-based property management system that solves the "register" silo problem, specifically for small- and mid-sized hotels. We will review its interface, features, and see how it can be of use to you.
During a trip on the wine route in Alsace, France, Colibri founder, Yuri Korzhkov noticed several hotels using paper registers to track reservations, check-ins and payments. "Most of them had websites but without the online booking module," he says.
Upon returning from that trip, Korzhkov, who worked with a luxury property management firm in the States, researched this topic and found that, at least, forty percent of hotels in Europe lack property management systems. "I shared this story with a friend and, within a week, we had started working on a prototype for Colibri," he says.
Korzhkov's background helped define the target market and solution specifics. According to Korzhkov, hotel management used to be a conservative industry, one that emphasized manual solutions over technological ones. However, he says that image is changing. "The perception of technology has changed with time and we are seeing more interest in cloud-based solutions," he says.
That said, why did he not go after the larger (and more lucrative) hotel chains?
"To be honest, there are more rooms in small- and mid-size hotels in the world than in large hotels," says Korzhkov. But, he doesn't rule out developing customized solutions for large hotels as well.
Korzhkov lists several reasons why Colibri is superior to other, similar solutions, working in the same space.
Perhaps, the most important one is flexibility. "We have probably the most flexible price/discount management module in the market," he says. This module is bundled along with a fully customizable multi-property internet booking engine, which can be integrated with existing hotel websites.
"Our system was initially built to support hotel chains, so you can manage entire hotel chains under a single master login," says Korzhkov.
Although they are integrated with several important payment engines, Korzhkov's team is already working to integrate more engines to ensure flexibility.
Finally, Korzhokov says their solution is great because it is PCI DSS compliant. "Not many property management systems are PCI DCS compliant, " says Korzhkov. "This is a bit worrying because all these systems store and transmit sensitive credit card billing information." In case you did not already know this is a payment industry standard to ensure your credit card information is safely transmitted over the Internet.
Colibri property management system is a comprehensive system that spans the entire value-chain of the hospitality industry. So, you can reserve hotel rooms, create workorders, and generate reports related to your business.
Colibri consists of four modules that enable you to create reservations and workorders, generate reports, and perform accounting operations. You can navigate to each of these options immediately after logging in and from the dashboard.
Creating a reservation is a fairly simple process. At the same time, however, it involves and includes complexity. For example, you can create different reservation types (such as "Guest", "Maintenance", and "Special") and apply specialized discounts. Similarly, checking the "Group Reservation" box enables you to reserve adjacent units for groups of people. The "Guest Folio" tab functions as a customer relationship management software that contains updated details about your guests, their statuses, and preferences.
I found the billing module to be especially fascinating. It associates workorders generated for tasks earlier with costs. For example, you can generate workorders for cleaning or maintenance of a unit and associate them with a unit cost using this module.
This is an interesting exercise in more ways than one. For starters, it helps you maintain efficient operations by calculating costs required to maintain an individual units. Besides this, rolling up costs can give you a fairly good idea about upgrades and improvements required for your infrastructure. You can roll up these costs using the "Reports" module. In addition to billing information, this module also contains valuable log and intelligence information, such as weekly reports.
While the application is pretty comprehensive as it exists, there are some areas where Colibri could do with improvements.
For example, the solution should introduce greater complexity into its reservation system. Currently, different reservation types do not necessarily translate into a different screen or costs, including associated tax exemption codes. Changes, if any, are only visible on application of discount types. Similarly, greater integration with third-party apps such as accounting apps could help focus the application's utility.
However, from what I understand, a slew of improvements and new features are already on the anvil.
Korzhkov says the team is currently working on self-service kiosks. These kiosks will enable guests to check-in and check-out virtually and update their reservations online. In addition, they are working on greater integration with other, third-party systems. Similarly, the team plans to introduce resource management and expense management features to enable deeper integration with finance and accounting systems.
The application dashboard condenses the application's functionality into four essential tasks that can be accessed from this screen: creating workorders, reservations, guest folios, and reports. Performing tasks in the system is fairly easy; you do not need to navigate more than two screens to perform essential tasks.
That said, given the current general trend for solutions with more visual elements, the interface could be simplified with more visual elements and larger fonts.
If you are a small - to mid-sized hotel, then the solution is a great fit for automating your system at nominal costs. Besides this, you can also use the solution as an accounting and customer relationship management solution. In other words, the solution is a three-in-one package for your needs.