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What is a PMS system for vacation rentals? A property management system guide

Running a thriving short-term rental business means keeping a lot of plates spinning: bookings, managing guests, optimising rates, and delivering unforgettable experiences. Sound familiar? If you're ready to ditch the spreadsheets and unlock operational efficiency, meet your new best friend - the property management system (PMS).

This PMS guide will explain:

What is a PMS system?

Think of a PMS as your business's central command centre. A PMS system is an invaluable platform that streamlines every aspect of your short term rental operations, from reservations and messaging to revenue management and reporting. No more scattered calendars, forgotten emails, or late-night number crunching – a good PMS brings organisation and efficiency to your hosting hustle.

In the first half of 2023 (in the EU alone!), guests spent 237 million nights in short-term rental accommodation booked via online platforms - a whopping 18.8% increase on the previous year. So, as the vacation rental industry continues its rapid growth, PMS software has become an essential tool for hosts managing properties on sites like Airbnb and Vrbo.

While managing bookings is a PMS's bread and butter, its superpowers extend far beyond to:

  • Automation: repetitive tasks like welcome emails, reminders, and invoices get automated, freeing your time for strategic endeavours.
  • Guest info: streamline communication with one centralised inbox irrespective of how many listing sites you use, providing all guest information at your fingertips.
  • Revenue: optimise your pricing based on real-time data and analytics, maximising your earning potential.
  • Financials: gain instant insights and tools to manage your bottom line with detailed reports on bookings, revenue, and expenses. No more blind guesses!
  • Reviews: easily collect guest feedback and manage reviews, continuously improving your hosting game.

Who needs a PMS system?

A wide range of hospitality professionals can benefit from implementing a robust PMS system:

Vacation rental owners and managers

For owners of one or several short term rental properties, PMS software automates time-consuming tasks like guest communication, cleaner scheduling, pricing adjustments (when connected to pricing tools like PriceLabs or Beyond), and more. This allows small teams to scale their business efficiently.

Property management companies  

Larger managers of multiple units rely on enterprise-grade PMS software for handling operations, with advanced functionality like business analytics tools, custom reporting, centralised accounting, owner portals, and automation for large teams.


PMS software gives B&B owners and innkeepers oversight into reservations and room occupancy, allowing them to optimise availability and rates to increase revenue. Unified inboxes centralise guest communication channels.


Hotel PMS platforms handle front and back-end processes like reservations, check-ins, in-room dining, housekeeping assignments, group bookings, rate management, and generating reports.

What problems does a PMS solve?

Juggling responsibilities across one or more properties is challenging. PMS software solves several pain points for vacation rental managers: 

1. Manual processes

Recording reservations, messaging guests, adjusting rates - doing this all manually via spreadsheets is inefficient. A PMS automates these repetitive tasks to reduce errors and save time.

2. Communication silos 

Without centralised inboxes, important guest messages can slip through the cracks across various channels like email, SMS and messenger apps. A unified inbox in a PMS ensures all inquiries get proper attention.  

3. Double bookings

As more guests discover sites like Airbnb and Vrbo, property listings get more booking traffic across multiple sites. Without a proper channel manager, calendars fall out of sync, risking disastrous double bookings. A PMS prevents this through instant availability updates.

4. Disorganised operations

Between pricing changes, reservations, cleaning schedules and more, daily rental management involves an endless herding of information across roles, channels and tools. A PMS software corrals everything into a single dashboard for managers to take control and avoid chaos. 

5. Reporting hassles

Making data-driven decisions requires access to accurate operational insights. Pulling together spreadsheet reports is painful compared to a PMS that provides analytics on occupancy, revenue, top booking sources, guest metrics and more.  

How to choose the perfect PMS system

With so many options out there, finding the right PMS system can feel overwhelming. Consider your business size, budget, and specific needs when making your choice. Explore free trials and compare features to see which platform aligns with your hosting style. Remember, the perfect PMS system should be an extension of your business, not a burden.

While researching options, focus on solutions offering user-friendly and intuitive interfaces, breadth of integrations, and dedicated customer support. As any seasoned traveller knows, behind every great guest experience is the hard work of exceptional hosts supported by the right tools for the job. Your PMS system should elevate your business, not become another task to manage.

What key features should I look for in a PMS system?

With a crowded PMS software market promising streamlined vacation rental management, how do you know which PMS system is right for your business? Below are some key features to evaluate:

Central dashboard 

An intuitive control hub to oversee bookings, messaging, tasks, reports and tools from a unified platform accessible on all devices.

Channel manager  

Syncs availability and rates across OTA listing sites like Airbnb, Booking and Vrbo via API connections, preventing double bookings.

Booking engine

Owners can build booking websites, powered by the PMS, to accept direct reservations without paying OTAs commissions.  

Automated messaging

Sends customisable, automated confirmations and reminder messages to guests when they book, check-in, etc.  

Unified inbox

Messages across guest communication channels get routed into one centralised inbox for prompt responses.

Payments and invoicing 

Collects guest payments upon booking, generates custom invoices, and tracks expenses/vendor payments.

Housekeeping management  

Schedules cleaners automatically after check-outs, and assigns tasks like laundry, parking spot prep, etc.

Pricing tools   

Leverages algorithms to optimise dynamic pricing on OTA sites based on demand data, events, etc., to maximise revenue.   

Accounting and reporting   

Built-in reporting transparency on operational metrics like revenue breakdown, occupancy rates, top booking sources, guest statistics and more.   

Industry-leading integrations  

Connects with apps for accounting, payments, marketing, automation, data insights, guest experience, and leading travel sites for reach. Which leads us nicely onto… 

Touch Stay and your PMS: a match made in hosting heaven

At Touch Stay, we understand the power of a good PMS. That's why our digital guidebooks seamlessly integrate with all the leading platforms, including Guesty, Hostaway, Escapia, Lodgify, SuperControl, Smily, Anytime, OwnerRez, Avantio, Streamline, and Track. This integration unlocks a world of possibilities for your hosting success:

  • Effortless setup: no coding required! Simply connect your PMS to Touch Stay and watch your beautiful guidebooks glide seamlessly into the hands of guests.
  • Automatic inventory sync: your property information automatically updates in your guidebook, eliminating manual work.
  • Personalised guest touches: pull guest details and custom fields from your PMS to personalise guidebook sections, making each guest feel like a VIP.
  • Frictionless delivery: send your guidebook directly through your PMS inbox or let Touch Stay handle the auto-send through Memo. It's that simple!

How integrating a PMS with Touch Stay boosts your business

While feature-rich PMS systems deliver tremendous value in centralising operational management, additional benefits can be achieved by integrating your PMS with a purpose-built guest experience platform like Touch Stay. 

Save time and money

Automate tasks, eliminate manual work, and streamline operations, freeing up your time for guest interaction and business growth.

Impress your guests

Deliver personalised guidebooks with relevant information and local recommendations, enhancing guest experience and satisfaction.

Boost bookings and revenue

Optimise pricing based on data, personalise guest communication, and improve your online presence, leading to increased bookings and revenue.

Professionalise your business

Streamline communication, manage finances, and gather actionable data, allowing you to showcase your professionalism and attract more guests.

Focus on what matters

With streamlined operations and happy guests, you can focus on the things that truly matter – creating unique experiences that drive great reviews, recommendations and repeat bookings that support your focus on building a thriving short term rental empire.

By tapping into data already within your PMS system and funnelling it into Touch Stay’s specialised guidebook templates, short term rental managers can elevate guest experiences and customer engagement without added workload. This also ensures guidebook accuracy by eliminating manual inputs.

Is investing in a PMS worthwhile?  

While exploring options, weighing costs versus software pricing is wise. Factoring ROI into the decision is crucial. A quality PMS drives savings through:

  • Automating repetitive administrative tasks
  • Preventing costly over-bookings   
  • Increasing direct bookings without commissions  
  • Enabling managers to scale more revenue units with less work   

The system pays for itself many times over from cost and time savings, and allows businesses to scale more efficiently. Implementing PMS software early on allows you to deploy automation instead of hiring more staff down the road as the business grows. 

Getting these systems in place provides a foundation for expansion while maintaining exceptional guest experiences. And integrating Touch Stay into established PMS workflows multiplies those gains by providing next-level guidebook tools to engage visitors. 

I have fewer than 10 properties - is a PMS really necessary?


A PMS is not for you if you:

  • love the stress of getting a double booking
  • don’t care about keeping track of your revenue
  • enjoy manually updating your availability calendar

Even if you think you don’t have enough properties to justify the cost, consider the time savings in operational efficiencies and lower stress levels. What will you do with those savings? Add another property? Take an underwater basket weaving class? Learn to play the piano? The options are endless!

For hosts with just 1-5 properties, discover how the Touch Stay x Airbnb integration lets you automate and simplify guest communication without a PMS!

What PMS is suited to small rental businesses with only a handful of properties?

Just as you focus on your target guest, there are several PMS systems that focus on the tools a host needs, compared to the tools a property manager needs. And other PMS software have various levels of functionality depending on the kind of tools required. For hosts, we point to ones we know and love:

For large property managers, we recommend:

Make your PMS system work for you

Don't let manual tasks and scattered information hold your short-term rental business back. A property management system empowers rental managers and owners to operate short-term rental businesses at maximum efficiency. By centralising workflows, streamlining operations, providing market visibility through robust analytics and automation, and facilitating superior guest experiences, a PMS system delivers invaluable capabilities for managers looking to scale.

Plus, integrating cutting-edge guest solutions like Touch Stay into existing PMS tools further enhances the visitor experience and unlocks an elevated dimension of hospitality for unforgettable and frictionless stays. 

So, if you’re ready to ditch the spreadsheets, say goodbye to chaos, and unlock the full potential of your short term rental business, discover the magic combination of a PMS and Touch Stay!