hitecdave.pngThe underappreciated city of Minneapolis served as host for the 2019 edition of HITEC (produced by HFTP) which wrapped up its most recent four-day run on June 20, 2019. In the days and weeks leading up to the event, meeting solicitations and party invites filled my inbox at a growth rate any VC or entrepreneur would envy. As a first-timer to this international hospitality technology behemoth, it became apparent that HITEC actually begins a few weeks prior to when that first request or invitation lands in your over-stuffed inbox.
Growing Greystone Hotels’ (a San Francisco based hospitality ownership and management group) technology stack has been a key KPI since taking over as the company’s vice president of marketing. Running marketing for 12 hotels over the last several years (nine being independent boutiques), has given me the chance to lead multiple technology RFP’s and amass a growing number of technology partners. As Greystone has been a leader in “technology service” for nearly 25 years, my anticipation for what was on the horizon at this year’s HITEC conference was at a fevered pitch.
“We’re not in the bed and bath business. We’re in the accommodation business,” said Michael Schubach, CTO Millenium Technology.
Due to some minor travel delays, I was unable to attend day one’s first set of program sessions. Word got around fast though, about a number of sessions from that day: “Technology: How it Shapes Brand Standards” and “The Next Big Industry Threat” both seemed to garner positive buzz among early arrivals.
My 2019 HITEC experience officially kicked-off with the 11 a.m. sessions. After absorbing a bit of the Neal Patel-lead, “Next Gen Travelers: Millennials and Generation Z Reshaping the Industry,” I found myself at the well-attended “How Evolving Technology Will Impact the Front Desk” panel, hosted by Hospitality Upgrade’s own (and local HITEC celebrity), Rich Siegel. The quote above, taken from that one-hour panel session, really felt like the perfect way to ease into what was to be an action-packed four days.
At nearly 350,000 square feet, the HITEC convention floor occupied four ballrooms inside the Minneapolis Convention Center, hosting 400+ companies/booths and 6,000+ attendees.
Bring comfortable shoes! If there was one common piece of advice I took away from conference veterans, it had to do with proper footwear. There was a whole lot of walking, standing, talking ... and more walking.
Like most industry convention floors, HITEC is stocked with various products, services and companies vying for your attention and contact information. From cloud storage to Showtime; key cards and human resource tools; there is more than something for everyone.
Dedicated product demo areas: What’s cool about this is that the conference has regularly scheduled product demos in pre-planned locations. I love this idea and was able to experience various product educational sessions that I was not expecting.
Orange seemed to be everywhere! Not sure if there was a recently released research paper touting an, “Orange Advantage,” but with orange booths, shirts and branded goods, it felt omnipresent. If you had an aversion to orange, you might have had a real problem!¹
I can safely report that the “SWAG” business is booming (Stuff We All Get). Some items on the floor that caught my eye included socks, phone covers, a fresh popcorn machine and booze. Reusable water bottles also seem to remain a popular item, but this might be the tail end of that item’s popularity.
Marketing Directors Take Note for 2020 SWAG Ordering
What’s Hot
  • Candy Machines
  • Espresso Machines
  • Bars (feat. Booze)
What’s Not
  • Stress Balls
  • Koozies
  • Pens²
  • Sunglasses
Kudos to all of the marketing teams who worked hard on their booths and presentations. Sometimes it feels like the hospitality industry needs a swift kick in the rear in regard to creative marketing, but my heart was filled with joy, as I was consistently impressed with all of the thought and effort put forth by numerous teams.
¹Personality Color Orange. People with the orange personality type can be described as social butterflies. They sincerely love people and like to be around others. The color promotes rejuvenation, positivism, and optimism. (Judy Scott-Kemmis [B.SocSc]; David Kelly via Medium)
²Pens really never go out. They’re easy, and yes, people do grab them, but if you’re going with pens, they need to look good, and they should not be your primary giveaway. Pens can too easily cheapen your brand’s position.
I don’t fancy myself a trendsetter, but I do have a fairly keen sense for what’s being chatted about and discussed amongst peers. The following seemed to stand out above the rest:

Data protection
Security (guests and staff)
Wellness programs
Self-cleaning robots
RFID bracelets
Be ready to be social and on your toes for nearly 96 hours straight! Huge parties featuring former American Idol winners, speakeasies, sky suites at the Twins game, Shakespeare-themed events, and many, many more opportunities to eat, drink and schmooze outside of the convention center madness. Pace yourself, but also allow for some good times away from the convention hall where you can build new relationships while cementing older ones.
I’ve participated in many conferences covering multiple industries, but this is probably the largest one I’ve attended in recent years. As a key player in the hospitality technology industry, HITEC serves as an invaluable annual conference for any hotelier. Large or small, independent or flagged, the people, products and education (formal and otherwise) that comprise the HITEC experience are well worth the time, effort and expense. I can’t wait to see what’s in store for next year in San Antonio.