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Snapshot: HITEC 2012, Baltimore, Md.

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October 01, 2012
HITEC Highlights
Kylie McKlveen

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If you work in the hotel technology industry, I know where you were the last week in June – or at least, where you should have been. You should have been in Baltimore, Md., for the 40th anniversary of HITEC (Hospitality Industry Technology Exposition & Conference) by HFTP. This year’s show was my first-ever HITEC (a point that I got to wear proudly on a ribbon attached to my nametag), and was first described to me as the hotel technology’s arena. Inside the arena, I noticed many of the attendees reconnecting with their industry peers that they have known for years and catching up on life and the latest buzz in technology. However, if you were a first-time attendee or exhibitor like me, this week was your ultimate crash course in the industry. I saw top-level executives meeting potential vendors, vendors networking with their peers, and press and students who made their way up and down the aisles of booths to learn about all the latest technology trends and products. Here’s what happened at HITEC 2012.

Happy 40th Anniversary HITEC
The opening keynote speaker Gary Loveman, president, chairman and CEO for Caesars Entertainment, spoke about the success of Caesars Total Rewards program. As collecting more and more guest data has become commonplace in the hospitality sector, knowing exactly what to do with the excess of data is not. Caesars implemented a plan to take its customer data and directly make decisions based on the future value of the individual customer. Loveman emphasized that Caesars encourages its Total Rewards members to use their rewards, and provides them with rewards immediately as a benefit just for signing up. He believes this is part of the reason the Total Rewards program is different than most loyalty programs.

HITEC prides itself on bringing together some of the brightest minds (and the hottest technologies), and the opening session with Gary Loveman, as well as the other keynote speakers (professional hacker Josh Klein and Jared Cohen of Google Ideas), was an impressive lesson on analyzing statistics and customer behavior for the benefit of the hotelier.

The Main Event
The arena held all the right players: vendors from every aspect of hospitality technology including property management and revenue management systems, upsell solutions, wireless technology, uniform and inventory management, TVs,  telephones and more. This year’s event welcomed one of the highest numbers of attendees in recent years, bringing in over 5,200 people, including 60 countries internationally. Many exhibitors agreed on the quality of attendees; they met with qualified decision makers and used HITEC as a vehicle and opportunity to introduce their latest and most innovative products.

This year, many vendors introduced a mobile component in response to the growing popularity of social and mobile use by guests. Vendors offered products or systems that were easy for hoteliers’ guests to use, and in some cases, easy to integrate with other solutions that hoteliers may be using. In an interview with Hospitality Upgrade’s Publisher Rich Siegel, consultant Jon Inge said, “It seems like in previous years people have been saying ‘hey, we have a tablet.’ This year it’s like ‘of course we have a tablet – it’s what people are using. And not only do we have a tablet, this is what you use it for in this environment and this is what you do with it here…' That in itself is maturity and it is accepted in the infrastructure now.”

Vendors on the showroom floor featured a variety of mobile/social applications such as guest services and booking options available through tablets, door locks that could be opened with smartphones, driving directions and property information provided to guests through location-based applications and places to charge and dock devices, and listen to music in the guestroom.

Speaking of the guestroom, GUESTROOM20X, the futuristic and technologically saavy Hotel Guestroom of the Future remained a popular spot throughout the duration of HITEC. In addition to multiple mobile products in the room, there were luxe accommodations for guests including a massage chair that adjusts to guests’ body type, the most updated flat-screen TVs (55-inch Smart TV from Samsung, Apple TV) and entertainment, and Moving Murals (a technology-meets-art addition) above the bed. 

This year, HITEC put forth a voting initiative: attendees would vote on their favorite educational sessions and the winning sessions (the People’s Choice Sessions) would be repeated so that those who may have missed them the first time could still attend. The two sessions voted to be repeated were “Green Initiatives,” which addressed the best green technology options for different properties as well as general education on sustainability and energy trends, and “Disaster Recovery,” a discussion of contingency planning, what to do after a disaster and the best actions for recovery. According to Steven Stout of HFTP, the People’s Choice Sessions were very well received. “It was funny that these particular topics were selected because there is always discussion as it relates to ‘is green overdone?’ or even disaster recovery," Stout said. "But these are still topics people want to learn about as determined by the voice of the people.”

For more on HITEC 2012, watch Publisher Rich Siegel and consultant Jon Inge’s review from the tradeshow floor and Hospitality Upgrade’s interview with Lucinda Hart, COO of HFTP, at www.hospitalityupgrade.com.

©2012 Hospitality Upgrade
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