Everyone has HITEC stories. Whether they be about the conferences themselves, or the friends they made, or the after-hours high jinx they lived through, everyone that attends a HITEC has a story. My first HITEC was in Baltimore in 1992. If you were there, and commit to being old enough to have attended that show, I was an exhibitor. I was the guy that had a basketball goal and ball in his booth, and dressed as a referee. The more shots you could make the bigger discount I would give you off of a telecom audit. A moment that I am sure Frank Wolfe is proud of. Marketing still isn’t one of my strengths!

This year at HITEC we have begun to see a subtle change in the relationship between hoteliers and vendors; something that I hope continues. I am speaking specifically about the educational sessions. In the past, only hoteliers could lead and take panel positions on the educational sessions. That is beginning to change. For the last couple of HITECs vendors have been able to conduct tutorials, or “Tech Talks” on the show floor. This has been a great step and those talks have been well attended. But this year, vendors took part in some of the educational sessions off of the floor.

I was fortunate enough to be asked to lead the session on Evolution of Door Locks and on our panel we had a representative from ASSA ABLOY, in addition to three hoteliers. The audience was rewarded with a very informative session that included perspectives and inside knowledge from an industry leading vendor.

What this means to me is that our industry has begun to unite, to bring together hoteliers, students and professors, AND, learned representatives from our vendor community. As an industry we are bonding together to deliver the best service and guest experiences possible. To me, this is a shift from hoteliers and vendors operating in completely different and sometimes confrontational spheres, to now working together to develop very specific and relevant products and services to enhance and raise the stature of our business.

In reality this shift is a reflection from what was happening on the show floor. I witnessed many vendors rolling out new products or services that they’ve been developing since last HITEC, but now, really engaging with the hotel attendees to learn their operational requirements. To a very large extent, the days of vendors creating widgets in a vacuum and then telling hoteliers to make the square peg fit the round hole appear to be over. Vendors are listening. And, more than ever, hoteliers are talking. The common goal is to increase guest satisfaction within all facets of hospitality and hoteliers and vendors are now converging, working together towards that goal.

Just like voice and data converged many years ago. And, just like marketing and technology should converge today, hoteliers and vendors need to converge. Our industry is very fractured; an example being, try to find the decision maker at any one hotel. Is it the GM, or the management company, or is it the owner or the regional director from the brand? And, being so fractured, it is extremely easy for outside influences to disrupt it. Just think Airbnb. A converged community, representing various components, working together for a common goal is a powerful force.

What I saw at HITEC 2015 is what I hope to be the beginning of a new phase for this showcase. The days of exhibitors hawking their wares to attendees that quickly walk past a booth, never diverting their eyes from the carpet below, should be over. Both sides, vendors and hoteliers, have businesses to run and neither can afford to waste time or effort. But, a converged force with the goal of making the hospitality industry the best business in the world means a healthier industry, one of longevity and prosperity, which is good for all of us. This is what I saw at HITEC.

I urge both hotelier and vendor to adopt the concept of convergence, to follow your fellow colleagues, to work and communicate with each other for the goal of providing relevant and exemplary service to our common customers, guests. HITEC 2016 should see both educational sessions and the exhibit hall crowded with attendees and exhibitors working together for the betterment of our passion, hospitality.