GERMANTOWN, TN—Harbor Winds Hotel, located on the riverfront in Sheboygan, WI, is a 28-room, independent property that caters to both business and leisure guests—which made it the perfect place to test out Agilysys Inc.’s rGuest Stay, a cloud-based property management system (PMS).
Mark Zipperer is president of Pride Hospitality based here, which owns and manages Harbor Winds Hotel. He explained that Luke Pfeifer, one of the designers of the rGuest Stay system, was a former employee going back to his high school years. “He called me and said, ‘We’re designing this system and we’d like to put it in a small hotel and test it,’” said Zipperer. “Harbor Winds is 28 rooms—it’s busy, but it’s a manageable test property.”
Zipperer noted there were other advantages for Agilysys, too. Pride Hospitality also has two other Sheboygan hotels in its portfolio: a 99-room Holiday Inn Express and a 60-room AmericInn property. While those properties didn’t implement rGuest Stay, Zipperer noted, “Instead of one little hotel testing the system, it was a combination of our revenue manager and three general managers. They were really looking at it from the standpoint of what have we done in other PMS systems we’ve operated off of.”
According to Zipperer, there was much collaboration with Agilysys during the testing phase. “Like any system in its infancy, we had to look at it and say, ‘Here are some of the functions that are missing and this is what we need. This isn’t quite exactly the way we’d like it to be.’ There were adjustments and enhancements before anybody else saw it,” he said.
rGuest Stay, which is now available for all limited- and select-service properties, is built on an open architecture with public APIs. Key features include flexible rate management; room inventory; reservations, including interfaces with OTAs as well as the hotel’s own website; guest service management, including check-in, checkout and in-house experience management; functionality that presents upsell offers during check-in; group room block management; guest, company and travel agent profile management; folio management and charge routing; housekeeping; accounts receivable; integrated credit card processing using tokenization and PCI-validated point-to-point encryption technology; and interfaces for telephone, in-room movies, point of sale, credit card, door locking systems, minibar and other back-office systems.
Zipperer said that he likes how customizable the system is. “The way we’ve set it up in this hotel, we’ve turned on features and turned others off, because some of the features we just don’t need,” he said. “It’s easily modified for the type of hotel you’re running. If you go into a full-blown PMS at some other hotels, there are functions on there that have nothing to do with the hotel. When you install a sweet shop in a hotel, you can turn on the vending module, but it’s not necessary to be there when you set it up.”
One of the aspects Zipperer praised about the solution is that it’s web-based. “The equipment requirements are minimal on property and the security can be monitored and managed better,” he said, noting that data isn’t stored on site. “You don’t have the huge equipment cost on property. You don’t have the maintenance cost of that equipment—upgrading servers and everything else. You don’t have all of the heat generated by a server in your back office. Some of these rooms the servers are in, you could cook eggs. Every system the hotel has comes with a server—telephone, voicemail, TV, PMS, etc., and they all want to put it in the same room. The con of it is that you have to have some kind of backup internet connection and that costs money, but not nearly as much as all the other things I just mentioned.”
Being web-based also means that management can access it anywhere. “Other systems have that,” Zipperer acknowledged, but noted that many aren’t as user-friendly as rGuest Stay. “It’s a simple system, so as a result, I’m able to pick it up and our revenue manager can pick up the system and just go with it.
“Agilysys is really looking at the guest’s lifecycle,” he added. “For example, one thing we’re looking to do is hook up guests’ credit card processing systems to this system.” Zipperer said there are a number of services Agilysys can provide—such as a booking source for independent hotels. “They can get you onto the internet, on GDS, through their contracted or subcontracted services. I don’t have to go to Magnuson and say, ‘I have rGuest Stay.’ I go to Agilysys and they provide me the booking engine and the credit card processing, and I know that it works on that PMS system and I know I’m not going to get a $5,000 interface charge and an interface maintenance fee,” he said. “From that standpoint, it’s much easier if you just use their process or services throughout the lifecycle of what you’re doing.”
He also noted that there’s a real focus on repeat customers and building guest profiles. “If someone comes in and mentions she likes the ground floor, it’s in there and the next time she books, it says she prefers ground floor,” he said. “It’s up to the staff to input the data, but the whole point is that with this system, they have the tools to be able to do it.”
Regardless of how sophisticated a system is, Zipperer stressed that the most important criteria is ease of use. “It has to be easy enough such that the training for the staff is easily accomplished,” he said. “You can hire somebody and bring them on relatively easily. You can accomplish that because it is very intuitive. There are some systems out there that are very complicated. That’s the nice part of rGuest—it’s simple, intuitive and the training time is short.”
And, said Zipperer, the ROI makes sense, too. “The economics of this system just works for a lot of hotels,” he said. “For 100-room hotels, we can spend from $50 up to $60,000. Here, the whole thing probably cost me 10% of that to install and the monthly fees are a lot less than other properties. From an economic standpoint, even if you were a large hotel, why wouldn’t you want to save the money? If you’re independent or a 60 to 80 room property, it makes sense to put this in.”
While the rGuest Stay system is currently available for limited- and select-service hotels only, future releases with additional features will be focused on full-service hotels, resorts and gaming properties. HB