Skift Take

Property management systems are not the most exciting topic to discuss when assessing a hotel's tech prowess, but they are core to any company's ability to sell as many rooms as possible.

Best Western Hotels & Resorts has acquired property management software company AutoClerk, in a move to combine the startup’s technology stack with its own central reservation system.

The chain’s long-term goal is to create one internal system that more quickly provides up-to-date pricing and inventory information to online travel agencies for customers looking to book a room, according to CEO David Kong. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

“The challenge is syncing up rates from the PMS (property management software) and communicating it to the CRS (central reservation system), which connects to the outside world,” said Kong. “It’s one of the biggest headaches for hotels. How do you get accurate rates to third parties in real time?”

By acquiring its own PMS software company, Best Western avoids the headache of having two different systems talk to each other, which can get very complex, he added. The hotel chain also intends to invest in AutoClerk’s technology to improve its existing two-way communication, in order to better cope with the high volume of inbound requests from online travel agencies. Upgrades have already begun with Best Western pushing all of AutoClerk’s capabilities to the cloud.

“We will invest not just money, but knowhow about what the industry’s needs are,” said Kong. “This is not just tech guys designing this system, it’s business people and tech people developing the solution.”

California-based AutoClerk is one of 17 different property software providers that currently work with Best Western. The hotelier will continue to make all other certified vendors available to its operating partners, it said. The AutoClerk acquisition will also not be used to service hotels outside of its core economy and mid-scale brands, as Best Western wants to focus its tech investments within the new property management software and central reservation database on its “sweet spot,” Kong said.

Hot on the M&A Trail

AutoClerk marks the second acquisition for Best Western in 2019. Back in February, the chain also purchased luxury brand WorldHotels, in order to fill a clear white space in its portfolio.

Kong says he likens Best Western’s acquisition strategy to that of French hotel chain Accor, which has established itself an aggressive player in the mergers and acquisitions market in recent years. The company is keen on growing its upper scale and luxury offerings and is eyeing more deals in the future, he said.

“We are selective and every acquisition has a purpose,” Kong added. “WorldHotels was a foray into the luxury segments. As we build out our portfolio options, any traveler can have their pick from economy all the way up to luxury.”

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Tags: best western, m&a, online travel agencies, property management system, startups

Photo credit: The front entrance of a Best Western Plus in Fort Morgan, Colorado. Best Western Hotels & Resorts

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