Then and Now – A Glimpse of the Hotel Industry 25 Years Ago and the Rapid Transformation into Today

By: David Arland


It was 1987 and I was fresh out of high school. Stepping into my first front office role (admittedly in Perth which was a little behind the times), I was amazed by the innovations I worked with…

Another small sheet of paper was the daily room list, with a D to indicate a departure and a crossed-out D once the guest had departure. An opposing cross through the D would indicate the room was now clean. All we cared about was making sure that we didn’t double book a room or check a guest into a dirty room –a ‘cardinal sin’ that had serious repercussions for our continued employment.

We all had to ‘fight’ over access to the charts to keep them as current and accurate as possible, but the odd distraction (such as answering the switch) meant that mistakes happened and the occasional operational nightmare would ensue.


Room keys were the other drama – despite the request for guests to return keys to reception when they left the hotel they would often take them with them, and then lose them. Engineering would need to change at least one lock a month.


Our switchboard was something that you now only see in an old black and white movie – analogue! It had matching sets of cables to connect an incoming call to an internal extension; pulling on a small matching lever the line would ring the extension and by ‘flicking’ the lever in the other direction would connect the call.


Reservations from travel agents were received on a telex machine (where I first learnt to type) which had to be moved out to the back office as it made so much noise.

I thought it was all so amazing and high-tech at the time. I was hooked!


Jump forward 25 years to now, and analogue is dead and buried. The switchboard is a PC/software and a headset. Room keys are now plastic with a mag-stripe. Charts have been replaced with 22” LCD monitors. And the worry of double booking a room, or of an arriving guest complaining their room’s dirty, is almost non-existent.

Property Management Systems

Modern Property Management Systems (PMS’s) have transformed hotel operations into slick businesses, eliminating human error by automating many of the laborious ‘transactions’ needed to manage guests and their needs.

Information is interfaced and kept ‘up to the minute’ and any doubts over the accuracy of ledgers or room inventory are thing of the [analogue] past.

Business Intelligence

The vast wealth of information held in the PMS database can be now be used to dissect and discern key factors that impact the success of the business.

OPERA Business Intelligence analytical reporting can ‘slice and dice’ vast amounts of data pertaining to guests, loyalty, rates, booking pace etc. All valuable in helping a hotel business succeed in such a competitive market.

Mobile Applications

The next leap in technology is all about mobility and self-service. The guest now has the power to manage their own stay via direct contact with the PMS.

For example, OPERA’s MyStayManager smartphone application allows guests to make and update their own reservations, check themselves in and even use their smartphone as a room key.

They can update their own preferences to:

        • let housekeeping know they’d like a feather pillow
        • view their folio and balance
        • update their contact details and check themselves out of the hotel


Now, not even employees are tied to front desk. With Opera2Go hotel staff run core PMS functionality on a WIFI tablet device. Check-in, check-out and guest services can all be managed while roaming the hotel. This is ideal for ‘line busting’ that check in queue or handling that large inbound tour arrival.

Looking back it’s a vast leap in such a short period of time. Makes me wonder what further changes will occur in the next 25 years. Robot housekeepers perhaps

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