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March 01, 2005
Siegel Sez | News and Views From the Publisher
Richard Siegel

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© 2005 Hospitality Upgrade. No reproduction without written permission.

I enjoy writing Siegel Sez for our spring issue every year. It is our first issue of the year and I have the opportunity to reflect on what transpired last year and consider what might be ahead. Take my comments here with a grain of salt since it is just one man’s perspective on our industries.

What is Working, What is Not and a Look at the Future
When I look at the events Hospitality Upgrade attended last year there is a realization that tradeshows and conferences as we know them are not going to cut it any more. The large, well established events like NRA, HITEC and the International Hotel/Motel & Restaurant Show that are held in May, June and November respectively, will continue to thrive. The competition for the smaller shows are the events tied to individual companies. Hilton, InterContinental Hotels and other companies in the hotel and foodservice industries have annual events for their owners and operators that include exhibits and educational sessions. Suppliers pay top dollar to exhibit at these events and seem to find value in being there. For the smaller, mainstream industry shows and conferences, the time seems to have passed to count on vendors to pay the tab or to hope that charging high attendee registration will produce a profitable event.

Last year I had the opportunity to attend the Visual One and the PAR Springer-Miller users conferences. At both of these events, attendance was up considerably from previous years. Also, both companies allowed their vendor partners to showcase their wares.

Could this be the future for those who supply technology when they need to decide where to spend their tradeshow dollars? I will be attending at least three more users' conferences before HITEC and I love them. I get to meet readers of the magazine and our technology review, Siegel Sez, which we do via Hotel-Online. Of course, sometimes it is embarrassing for me because everyone knows my online stories, but the events are still fun and I always learn something. They make me think back to the 1980s when I sold property management systems for eight years. I loved the different users' groups that we had and I still run into people who I met back then. There were some great memories.

Where We Have Been
As we look back at the events we attended since our fall issue, I remember some strange things happening. Sharon and I attended the HFTP Annual Conference which this year was held at the Hyatt Regency Orange County in Anaheim, Calif. The one thing I can say about this conference is that it doesn’t matter if the industry is healthy, flat or weak, this event always attracts 400-500 attendees and sells out the exhibit area. I don’t think I would ever want to be an association, but HFTP always seems to win the battle of keeping membership strong and its annual conference is well attended. Exhibitors are happy, educational sessions are always packed and the social events are top notch. As long as HFTP keeps inviting me, I will always attend. Associations that have annual conferences often find that these gatherings start to become in part social reunions. I wonder if the American Hotel and Lodging Association will ever start up its annual conference again.

We went to FS/TEC at The Gaylord Palms Resort and Spa in Orlando, Fla. in November. Actually, we came close to not attending since one of our writers was given a press pass and then denied admission. Maybe they were concerned we would write how this seems to be a show without an audience. For the most part, they seem to do everything right, but cannot get the number of attendees to justify the expense for those who exhibit. I think this is an example of something that might have worked in the industry many years ago, but is just not working today. While at FS/TEC, we attended the Spartan Computer Services annual dinner for its customers. This year’s dinner was held at the Peabody Hotel and once again it was a great event.

The International Hotel/Motel and Restaurant Show was re-sized which seemed to work. Traffic on the tradeshow floor was steady if not spectacular. The Technology Pavilion that we created years ago for the IH/M&RS was sold out once again and a pretty popular place for the technologists to congregate. Microsoft took one of our kiosks and also booked a meeting room where they created the hotel room of the future and said the future was now. It was innovative and showcased some very creative technology that might enhance the guest experience. On Monday of this show, I had the opportunity to put together the Ask the Experts panel that generated some lively debates about guest service and the role technology plays.

On a more self-serving note, over 40 companies joined us for our traditional Monday night customer appreciation dinner. It was a riot. They were all ready to shoot me when I made everybody get up and switch seats halfway through dinner, but events like this are all about networking, right?

When you look at the pictures we have included you will see one more event that was just for fun with a little networking. We did our first-ever Atlanta social event in January and 55 people came. Everybody had a great time and kept asking when the next one would be. This is a small industry and it was so much fun to see people re-connect at this gathering. We hope to do at least two more this year.

Looking Ahead
The biggest thing on our plate here at Hospitality Upgrade is our upcoming Vendor Summit. We have 60 presidents and CEOs from just about every major company that provides technology confirmed to attend. This first-ever event should be unique for the attendees and for us. Having so many executives in one place for two days should be a real eye-opener. As somebody told me early in life, you never know if something will work unless you try. We will have a complete recount of this event in our next issue, which will be out in June in time for HITEC.

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