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Well, I had a topic all lined up for this week’s column. I had completed most of the research and sat down on Monday to start writing. But with all that is going on in the world, I decided to put that on the shelf for a cycle or two. No one is going to take the time to read anything right now that doesn’t talk about the novel Coronavirus and the COVID-19 disease. So, I started afresh and will diverge from my usual approach.

Last week, the World Health Organization announced that COVID-19—the viral disease that has swept the globe and killed more than 8,200 people—is officially a pandemic. And on Saturday, the Trump administration extended the ban on foreign nationals from certain European countries to include those traveling from the United Kingdom and Ireland. Industry conferences and meetings have been cancelled or postponed, and many companies are electing not to require employees to travel.

Leading Through Chaos
Posted: 03/18/2020

At this time there is no more important tool in your tool kit then your ability to lead people through the storm. Most leaders have their heads in revising budgets, dealing with layoffs, cutting costs and surviving all of which are real realities that need attention. So do your people!

It was 12 years ago that the hotel industry first experienced a large breach of payment card data. Hotels and technology vendors have made very significant efforts since then, yet it is hard to identify a major hotel group that has NOT suffered at least one incident, and many breaches have been quite recent. Despite all the efforts, the Verizon 2019 Data Breach Investigation Report says that the accommodation industry is still the most common victim for Point-of-Sale (POS) intrusions (and based on their terminology, this includes breaches of Property Management Systems as well as POS systems). As much as hotels have improved security, hackers have improved their own methods to keep pace.

It's that time of year when powder hounds and snow bunnies alike head out to the mountains, rip some turns or cruise down a groomer. And no matter if you’re a solo adventurer or a group enthusiast, there's some impressive technologies that the ski industry has launched that have gamified the entire experience and feed the hungry social media fanatics. For decades many have stated this industry has been behind on the technology curve, however some of these applications could definitely be transferred into the hotel industry with some creative alterations.

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Who Could Live Without 25 Years of HUGs?

by Jennifer Jones

“You don’t know what you don’t know”… until you go to HUG. The Host Users Group (HUG) is a unique conference held annually for the users, by the users of Host, one of PAR Springer-Miller’s property management systems. This year, HUG celebrates their Silver Jubilee at the Sunriver Resort in Oregon, Nov. 8 – 12, 2015. This 25th Anniversary is special as there has been an ocean of memories to reminisce over the years. There’s also a few select people who have been along on the journey willing to revel in the yearly family reunion.

Rick Downing, product manager for PAR Springer-Miller, joined the HUG family originally as a user from Stratton Mountain Resort. “The first conference was held in 1990 at the Stoweflake Inn & Resort in Stowe, Vt., just down the street from the company’s office. John Springer Miller was very supportive from the beginning, recognizing that a user’s group run by the users was a first for the industry and a huge benefit to everyone. The close, symbiotic relationship between the two organizations existed from the start and has not changed to this day. The number of properties outside of New England running the software began to quickly grow so, by 1994, we held our first HUG conference outside of the region in Florida. California, Nevada, Virginia and Utah joined the list of locations by 2000 and we’ve continued to crisscross the country ever since.”

Marie Bell, director of IT at Darien Lake Theme Park Resort and current president of the board has attended 12 HUG conferences. When asked about a particular “a-ha!” moment while attending HUG, she reminisced about her participation in 1999 at the Kingsmill Resort conference. “I had my very first one-on-one sessions with SMS. We were discussing the possibility of online reservations for our property. It was amazing that not only my SMS sales rep was there, but also the actual developer that was working on SMS|World . It was fantastic to have a detailed conversation about real time availability being pulled up online. This was quite a big deal back in '99, so I felt like I was involved in something pretty special. I couldn't believe that a company like SMS with so many installations would take the time to talk to me at length about their systems. They wanted to make sure that I fully understood the system and ensure that it was filling my requested need.”

While HUG serves a purpose of invaluable continuing education, it also offers vital networking with other industry leading properties and learning about ways to leverage the product better. However, there’s always some time for fun at HUG, as many can contest. Terry Price, formerly an employee at PAR Springer Miller, has attended HUG for about a decade. In 2004 at Pointe South Mountain, it was an exciting year as Springer-Miller was celebrating their 20th anniversary as a company. Terry allowed his alter ego, Marilyn Monroe, to take over and jumped out of a cake to serenade John Springer-Miller, with a very jovial  “Happy 20th Birthday to You, Springer-Miller!” (See photo above) “Having a chance to learn the product from other users instead of just hearing the “corporate” version from the company is why HUG has been so successful over the years”, said Terry.

Marie remembers the "Fright Night" party at Sea Trail in 2003. “Everyone came in their own unique Halloween costume, though I wasn't quite that unique in my Pirate costume! The best costume of the night was a couple of guys wearing the classic "red screen", referencing the SMS error screen. (See photo above.) It was such a great costume idea.”

Rick recollects a special moment during a nightly HUG event in 1995 at the resort now known as Paradise Point. The event took placed on a rented a riverboat where there were actually some passionate animal-loving attendees. “Following dinner, most of the guests were gathered on an upper deck where the band was playing. Several tables of desserts had been set up, each of which had a large ice sculpture as a centerpiece. As the band was taking a break, guests began to congregate by the railing on the starboard side for the view. As more and more people moved in that direction, the ship began to list (tilt) slightly. The captain came over the speakers and asked if some in the crowd could please move into other areas of the ship. At that very moment, a commotion began near one of the dessert tables when a small group picked up the ice carving of a dolphin and, carrying it over their heads, proceeded to pitch it over the side while chanting “Free Willey, Free Willey!” The captain was not amused.”

At the end of the day, many people will ask “Why should I go to HUG?” Downing has summed this up perfectly by stating, “The volume and variety of sessions, training classes, roundtables, panel discussions and seminars, led by both PSMS staff and users, now exceeds 90 over four days. With half a dozen tracks running in parallel, many properties send multiple attendees to maximize their coverage. Attendance has become, arguably, the best expenditure a property can make in maximizing the investment in their system. The opportunity to meet and learn from users from other properties is an operations manager’s dream. That was the original purpose and it remains at the heart of the conference today.”

HUG looks forward to embracing the success of the last 25 years, but also making continuous improvements so a Golden Anniversary will be celebrated in the future. Registration is now open for the 2015 HUG Conference in Sun River.  Please 

About The Author
Jennifer Jones
J2 Hospitality Solutions

Jennifer Jones is president at J2 Hospitality Solutions, a technology consulting firm. She is an active member in the HFTP Rocky Mountain chapter, and she has spent her entire career in the hospitality technology space on both vendor and property sides of the spectrum. Jones is a 1997 graduate of Penn State University's School of Hospitality Management.

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