“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