News and Views (Lots of Views) From the Publisher

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October 01, 2002
Siegel Sez | News and Views From the Publisher
Richard Siegel

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© 2002 Hospitality Upgrade. No reproduction without written permission.

What a Screwy Year!
Here we are well into the last three months of 2002 – but where are we really? I am the envy of some because I talk with so many hoteliers and vendors about many aspects of the business, including what they are doing, how they are doing and what they see down the road. In fact, I recently discussed these topics extensively with CIOs of many of the top hotel companies during the CIO Summit in Wilmington, Del. this past Sept. 4 and Sept. 5. Although the shared consensus among hoteliers is that spending is down, there is a strong belief that there is a need to replace legacy systems and improve on many of the technologies that are currently in place.

Vendors, however, offer a more interesting perspective. For instance, one vendor told me that the first quarter of this year was their best ever, but they were definitely the exception. Most have indicated that the year is somewhere between flat and good. Let’s face it: We all were spoiled during the years of a strong economy, Y2K (remember that?) and the flurry of dot-coms that entered our market. I really do believe that the economic correction we are facing today was inevitable — it always is. And let’s not forget we were in the midst of an economic downturn prior to Sept. 11, which we anticipated would be with us for a while. Based on these recent discussions, we are still there but moving up. I think we all miss the old days when an investment in technology meant the creation of more options for improving our businesses. Let’s hope that this upward cycle is real.

Remember HITEC?
Optimism was high in June. We all adapted to the new travel restrictions. Nothing disastrous occurred in the nine months since Sept. 11. Hospitality operators were looking seriously at technology again; however, I believe that exhibitors may have been too optimistic. They seemed to forget that we overcame probably the most trying times of our adult lives, both in business and the quality of our lives. As a result, they were overly confident that HITEC was going to be the stamp that marked that we were back in business. Unfortunately, this was not the case. It wasn’t like previous years’ events, but it was close. What made HITEC truly great this year was that it brought so many people together. We saw that vendors didn’t stop developing, and people were seriously looking and buying. In my mind, it reconfirmed that our industry is, at the very least, heading back to normal, but that we still have a way to go. Attendance was off by only about 10 percent, which is truly amazing compared to other shows I attended prior to this one. The people who needed to be there were there on both the vendor and buyer sides. The educational seminars were very well attended and may have even been the best ever. The exhibitors who don’t attend the sessions are nuts. These seminars offer very intelligent exchanges between panelists and audience members, providing an opportunity to share ideas with lots of visionaries. What a great experience. There are other shows promoting technology, but let’s be realistic, anybody who is serious about it attends this one, which is why vendors wait until this event to announce new offerings. I’m glad the industry has HITEC. How else would we all connect?

Speaking of Connecting
I hope that by now everybody has read Liz Ivey’s article about the CIO Summit. I want to write a novel about the event, but I won’t. I wish that every vendor and person involved in hotel technology could have attended the barbecue we hosted the evening of Sept. 4. Twenty-one CIOs, most of whom were meeting each other for the very first time, enjoyed eating, drinking and, most importantly, talking. The conversations about where technology is going, which vendors are doing a good job and which are not, what might be coming and what is never going to fly were insightful and amazing. I promised that the conversations would not be reprinted, and I am a man of my word. Actually, I had no choice; if I hadn’t made this promise, they would not have talked! This event was truly a milestone. The best part was that everybody wants to come back next year (and it’s not only because of the food). I have made a nice living in technology for the hotel industry, and it was nice to give something back. This event was not intended to be a commercial endeavor, and it was not. I do need to thank Microsoft for sponsoring the event, which enabled us to offer steaks and chicken, rather than hotdogs and hamburgers, at the barbecue. KPMG Consulting did an unbelievably great job with the content of the summit, and the FBI agent who shared stories about post Sept. 11 and the research they had to conduct on Florida hotels was amazing. What a great event. We will try to grow it next year, but remember, this is a meeting not a show. But I will say this one more time: I wish more people could have attended — it was that good.

Where We Will Be, Where You Should Be
This year marks the 50-year anniversary for HFTP (http://www.hftp.org) and this milestone will be recognized at their annual conference in Austin, Texas on Oct. 23 through Oct. 26. Fifty years – that is amazing. This association was originally known as the International Association of Hospitality Accountants (IAHA) and was comprised of only those involved in finance for the hospitality industry. Today, with 30 years of HITEC under their belt, they are becoming more and more of both a financial and technology association. For the most part, this upcoming event attracts the financial side of the equation, but if I was a technology vendor and this was my target audience, I would be there. The exhibits portion of this show is only two days, but all attendees spend a great deal of time on the exhibit floor. I wish more shows could claim this, but attendees at other shows often treat the exhibit floor like quicksand – a place where they go in but may not come out alive. Isn’t this one of the reasons the AH&LA Annual Conference died?

Hospitality Upgrade will also be attending and exhibiting at this year’s FS/TEC show (http://www.fstec.com). These guys had a very tough go of it last year as the industry’s first technology show after Sept. 11. Attendance was poor, which wasn’t surprising since we were all very nervous about our futures back then. Because of last year, this year’s event will probably be watched very closely. This show has been going on for six years, and we have been there every year. I enjoy this show because the foodservice side of our business is often overlooked. In many ways, they are ahead of the curve when it comes to implementing new technology. It will be interesting to see what is new and which vendors and attendees are there or not.

Our year unofficially ends with the International Hotel/Motel & Restaurant Show (http://www.ihmrs.com) in New York. Early registration is up as are the number of of technology vendors who plan to exhibit. Hospitality Upgrade again has created the Technology Pavilion at this show. This year I am partnering with Jon Inge to conduct one of the educational seminars, although he is doing most of the work. Be sure to attend this session if you want to see a lively exchange about where we are with technology targeted for the sales people in hotels. The session begins at 1 p.m. on Monday. The industry needs a technology event more than once a year, and this show reflects the natural time to do it, as it is the year’s last big event. Please stop by the Technology Pavilion when you are in New York; we will be there along with our sister company, Hotel-Online. We look forward to seeing you!

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