The rise of AI: Redefining property management systems for a digital age


As generative artificial intelligence continues to make waves, it’s no surprise that experts see it potentially changing industry needs on the whole – including in property management systems (PMS).

But could generative AI eliminate any need for humans to manage the PMS? And how could this technology change processes across the industry in the near and long term? Many experts see big changes approaching.

Traditional PMS processes won’t remain intact for long, said Markus Feller, CEO of Like Magic, a digital solution to support hospitality employees and guests. While AI has been used mostly for automated messaging, Feller said the technology is clearly capable of much more.

“Change is going to come thick and fast for property management systems,” said Feller. “AI advancements and their subsequent integrations are going to blow a lot of minds – especially when it comes to automation.”

Though generative AI has generated plenty of excitement around the idea of the tech completing our jobs for us, until now AI has just “been tinkering around the edges,” said Shahar Goldboim, CEO and founder of the AI-powered vacation rental property management tool Boom.

“This is what’s about to change. People really don’t realize how fast that change is coming,” said Goldboim. “It’s going to be like waking up one day and having a robot do 90% of the things you were used to doing.”

How will generative AI impact property management?

Hospitality voices have varying thoughts on generative AI’s impact on property management.

Ivo Salmre, vice president of product at hospitality management system Cloudbeds, for example, believes integrating technologies like generative AI is a high value investment.

“An integrated system, one that unifies all of a hotelier’s data in one place, will be able to strongly guide both automated tasks such as rate management, as well as offer hoteliers guidance on when active demand generation activities are likely to have worthwhile impacts,” Salmre said.

Feller predicts the next wave of AI improvements will make property management seamless for operators, staff and guests too.

“It’s not just about doing tasks faster, it’s about creating unique experiences for both guests and staff,” said Feller. “AI will make guests feel special by offering them exactly what they want or need, even before they’ve thought of it, while also creating a more fulfilled workforce by doing away with mundane admin work, freeing up time and headspace they can instead devote to guests.”

Given AI is “already here,” Goldboim anticipates its growing role in the hospitality sector will be smooth. Generative AI is already able to make “informed” decisions on elements including customer support, review management and sales. It’s even able to judge whether guests are entitled to a refund for something like a last-minute cancellation based on unique circumstances.

On a practical level, Goldboim believes generative AI will transform property management systems, which he said currently function almost as digital gatekeepers connecting systems to different data sources.

“But with generative AI, every day-to-day action via a property management system that currently requires either a human’s attention or input will ultimately be automated,” Goldboim said. “Generative AI will, effectively, become the workforce that manages all those different functionalities.”

As a result, Goldboim believes a PMS will have to become more open, with users potentially wanting to leverage AI capabilities to their fullest – which could also transform how the PMS market looks on the whole in the coming years, eventually becoming dominated by a smaller number of bigger companies.

By contrast, hospitality and online travel tech consultant Max Starkov doesn’t see generative AI as a major change agent for PMS.

“Generative AI like ChatGPT and Google’s Gemini [already has] wide uses in hospitality and travel,” Starkov said, pointing to enhanced chatbots for trip planning, customer service, translations, copywriting, marketing, review responses and other factors. “But generative AI will have very little, if any, impact on PMS technology platforms.”

Starkov sees more change due to general AI and machine learning (ML). Both are having a big impact on PMS and will continue to do so.

“General AI and ML are changing PMS technology from static depository of availability, reservation and inventory (ARI) data and guest data to a dynamic ARI and customer data platform (CDP) that is originating and influencing all operational, marketing, [customer relationship management] and pricing decisions the property makes,” said Starkov.

Will AI replace humans in property management?

Regardless of how much AI affects property management systems, Salmre believes human guidance will always be important. “AI is leverage, not wisdom – an important part of good design of these systems is understanding how humans control this leverage,” Salmre said.

Quote

It’s going to be like waking up one day and having a robot do 90% of the things you were used to doing.

Shahar Goldboim – Boom

Feller, on the other hand, isn’t convinced a human touch will be as necessary for property management to be completed with generative AI.

“It’s already taking over many of the day-to-day property management tasks previously done by humans,” said Feller. “And soon the industry will grow comfortable with the fact that AI is already taking charge of key operational decisions, instructing staff and dealing with finances.”

And Feller believes as more operators incorporate AI into their daily routine, the industry will see leaders re-evaluating their staffing models. “AI is going to fundamentally change the role of human beings in hospitality – and we are going to see operators think long and hard about that reality very soon.”

Goldboim envisions change occurring in a more striking fashion.

“[It’s] going to have a dramatic impact on how many people it takes to run a business,” he said. “Some firms will keep those staff and deploy them better in a value-added way, others will use the technology to become more profitable. How they will respond to new-found efficiencies will depend on their position in the market and the type of product they have.”

What about five years from now?

Feller foresees an all-digital guest journey as the norm in less than five years.

“We’re going to see AI really come into its own by capitalizing on the fact that convenience still reigns supreme for the vast majority of guests,” he said. 

Feller added, “The extensive automation of tasks, guest communications and – crucially – decision-making will change the role of the human in hospitality fundamentally and permanently. What this means in practice, ultimately, is that employees can focus on what really matters: the guests’ needs.”

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