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HSMAI | Work Smarter Just Use Your Headless by Mark Haley

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March 16, 2023
Mark G. Haley

OK, now that I have your attention with a title that doesn’t make sense, I should probably explain that this article will illustrate possible applications in the hospitality and travel space for headless content management systems (CMS). “Sure!” you say. “But what’s a headless CMS?”

Many, many systems have a traditional CMS of some sort– one with a head. If you’ve ever worked with Word-
Press or other a similar program, you’ve used a classic example of a traditional content management system (CMS). These
programs not only store the content, they also format it and serve it up to the user. There are countless varieties of CMS available at every price point and every level of feature/function complexity.

A headless CMS is a little different in that it’s just about the words. They’re maintained separately from the tools that govern
content presentation. If you think of the content as the body and the presentation of it as the head, then a headless CMS only handles content and none of the presentation. The presentation is managed separately using application programming interfaces (APIs).
Let’s say the endpoint for your content is a web page. The web developer uses an API that calls the desired content from the headless CMS then formats it and places it into the desired location on the page. Obviously, the headless approach requires more developer skill than using a design product like Wix, or even WordPress, but it also yields greater flexibility and faster performance. A headless CMS generally costs significantly less to acquire and operate compared to license and hosting costs for a traditional CMS.

Why Go Headless?

Let’s explore how a headless CMS might benefit a hotel. An inventory of the different places a hotel needs to push digital content to results in a sizeable list. Start with the website – it’s pretty important and pretty much everybody has at least one, right? If our subject hotel has a mobile app, that’s another endpoint for content. Most hotels with significant meeting space have some form of digital signage – more content. As the digital signage solutions become more sophisticated and more marketing and wayfinding oriented, you have ... even more content. Add in an in-room entertainment (IRE) system with rich content on hotel services and amenities. A resort that publishes daily or weekly hard copy flyers on the week’s events and activities. More content. You get the idea.

The real power of the headless CMS for hotels is that it doesn’t care what it’s pushing content to. Website, mobile, app, digital signage, IRE – it’s all the same to the CMS. Just another endpoint. The headless CMS readily pushes the same content out to all relevant endpoints. It doesn’t care what the endpoint is, just that it’s calling the API.

Let’s say restaurant operating hours is a content element we want to manage. Many properties flex food and beverage (F&B) outlet operation hours according to business levels or, these days, staff availability. You aren’t going to put restaurant hours on your website or your IRE system if you flex them every week according to what groups are in house. But if you could manage that same content on all endpoints in one place at one time, why wouldn’t you put it out there everywhere? After all, they’re just another endpoint! So, start working smarter by using your headless.

MARK G. HALEY, CHTP+ is a partner with Prism Hospitality Consulting, a Boston-area consulting boutique serving the global hospitality industry at the intersection of technology and marketing. Please visit http://prismhospitalityconsulting.com for more information.

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