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Central Reservation Systems

Hospitality Technology 1999 Buyer's Guide

Hotel computerized central reservation systems (CRSs) have evolved in the thirty years since their inception, from rudimentary availability and reservation files to their current cornerstone of worldwide electronic distribution networks.

Originally developed to replace blackboards and status binders used in central reservation offices, CRSs have become the primary source of chain-wide availability and rate data.  That evolution occurred simultaneously on several fronts.

CRS inventory management capability expanded from status mode (in which a roomtype, a rate or the entire hotel was either open or closed) to allocation mode (where a specific number of rooms could be offered for sale), to full inventory management (where the precise number of rooms available at the hotel, as recorded in the property management system, is also available through the CRS).

Today, many consider the state-of-the-art in inventory management to be single-image inventory, wherein room availability data held in the CRS serves as the shared data source for that CRS and every PMS.

The evolution of inventory management capabilities was paralleled, and enabled, by development of increasingly sophisticated communication links between the CRS and individual hotels.  Initially consisting of dial-in terminals paired with printers, the options grew to include remote log-in CRS terminals which offered some (or all) of the features available to a CRO reservation agent, inventory management functions and electronic CRS-PMS interfaces.

Once one-way in their data flow (delivering reservations data from the CRS to the PMS), these interfaces evolved into two-way links in which "downward" reservations traffic is combined with "upward" inventory availability updates and even rate modification data and departed guest information, dispatched automatically from PMS to CRS.

The role of the CRS as the foundation of a distribution program too has grown dramatically.  Initially supplying availability, rate and descriptive data to the reservationist at a CRO, the CRS soon became the source of much of the data for the global distribution systems.  More recently, the CRS database has been tapped to provide some or all of the sales information for hotel company Internet Websites.

The evolution of the CRS is far from complete.  Today, in addition to providing precise inventory management and distribution functions, the CRS increasingly serves as the nucleus of a tightly integrated product management system, which includes not only reservation processing, but also advanced revenue management capabilities, chain-wide data collection, warehousing and mining, and electronic distribution through private and Internet-based links to a growing spectrum of reservation sites.