“How great is it to be HERE?”

As I took the stage at last month’s combined HITEC/ HFTP Annual Convention to moderate a panel on the outlook of the hospitality industry, that was the first thing I remember saying.  I hadn’t planned it, I didn’t have that in my notes, it just came out.  The response told me that I wasn’t the only person who felt that way.

The first question for each panelist was also a bit of a surprise – again not planned, it just happened.  “Tell me about something personal that has happened in the last 18 months or so since this all started.”  The answers were heart-warming.  I think the point I was trying to make it that we are an industry about people and our best connections with our guests, colleagues, vendors and friends is when we can share with each other.  That takes a variety of formats, but I get the most out of it when it is in person.    
We’ve missed each other for the last year and a half.  The virtual world we all dived into to survive provided a tremendous amount of value, but for me, it was always inadequate as a full-time solution.  In my opinion nothing beats seeing it for yourself or looking someone in the eye or shaking a hand or (as happened more than a few times) that hug that says – it is truly good to see you again! 

If you were trying to ROI attending HITEC, you would make sure you mentioned the educational sessions, the opportunity to get your CPE credits, meet with your vendor partners and put your eyes on new technologies that can benefit the business.  But let’s face it.  HITEC has always been a social function as much as a business function.  I think that is important that we not forget that the unplanned connections we make are just as important as all the scheduled calls and meetings – I might even be willing to argue that they are more valuable.   

When we think or talk about attending functions like HITEC, I think it is important to remember we don’t invite our guest to stay with us virtually, we invite them to be present where we are.  We need to provide ourselves that same opportunity when it comes to growing our industry and keeping ourselves ready to serve our guests and internal customers.

With all of that as a celebration of being able to get together again, I think that we are remiss if we don’t make sure that we take advantage of the amazing learning opportunities and the technologies in front of us at a show like HITEC.  I saw a lot of things there that I found to be exciting, but a few in particular jumped out to me and I would like to share what got my interest at the show.

Data is still King
I think it is clear data is still the name of the game.  The number of companies that claim some sort of functionality in this area at HITEC was just under 60 or something like 20% of the total exhibitors.  We continue to see the traditional buckets for data vendors (revenue management, budgeting and business intelligence, sales and marketing, guest satisfaction, etc.).  I think we are finally seeing a selection of vendors capable of taking data points from across these traditional silos and find ways to make a holistic use of the data.  It’s nice to see competition and options in an area that I feel has been lacking for a while.

Staff Matters
Having talented teams to handle all the work has become major issue not just for our industry, but for nearly every industry one can imagine.  Sure, we’ve had products and companies that helped us manage our teams for a while now.  It feels like at HITEC this year that they are in much more plentiful supply, and many of them offer more combined services than ever before. 

Hotel Effectiveness’ Perfect Labor product is a great idea for management companies and brands to share labor across an entire portfolio within a given market.  Products like Pacer are a smart take on project management and tracking efforts – especially for large rollouts (full disclosure – I am using Pacer for a client project right now and love it so much that I wanted to give them a shout out!). 

There’s Still Plenty of Geek to go Around
I come from the technical side of the house, so I still find pleasure in what I call the “geek side of the house”.  Many of our industry vendors rightly focus on the end use and functionality of a given product.  After all, when we go back with solutions, what our owners, operators and clients want to know is that it works and delivers what is promised.

Sometimes, though, us IT folk need to get our geek on!  I enjoy stopping by the Corning booth and learning about its new condensed power supply for PON systems.  I could have used that six months ago!  Spending time understanding the new WiFi6 APs from the various providers helps me be a better advocate for my clients.  Choose your hospitality “geek tech” and I’d bet you can find it at HITEC!

All in all – it was great to be back – to see the people I missed, get a fresh feel on our industry’s technology, to learn some new things and to walk the hall again.  Basically – to experience HITEC…IRL (In Real Life) once again!