The question I have heard most often in recent months is “where are you going in the last week of June?”. As most readers are aware, two trade shows featuring hotel technology are scheduled during the same dates that week. Many of you are still undecided which to attend. Knowing that your decision will be based at least in part on where others are going (hoteliers and exhibitors both), I decided to try to get some real data that I could share.
So, in my first blog of 2023, I asked readers to complete a brief anonymous survey about plans to attend the competing shows – HITEC (organized by Hospitality Financial and Technology Professionals) and The Hospitality Show (organized by American Hotel & Lodging Association and Questex). Many thanks to those of you who completed the survey. I promised to publish the results, so here they are.
First, some caveats. The survey was publicized only to readers of this blog. Like every survey, it has sampling biases, some of which we can identify and others that may remain hidden. Readers of this blog likely align quite closely with HITEC attendees, many of whom would also be natural attendees of The Hospitality Show. But the latter is also targeting operational hotel executives as well as some non-technology products. These are likely underrepresented in my readership and therefore in the survey sample. To the extent that’s true, the poll is likely a better measure of the feelings of past HITEC attendees than of potential attendees of The Hospitality Show.
There were 141 responses in total, enough for statistical significance not only for the totals, but for many subsets, including those cited here. 32% of respondents were employed by hospitality companies, 50% by vendors or other exhibitors, and 18% by neither (this would include consultants, investors, educators, media, association staff, and others). While I do not have definitive statistics, this seems roughly in line with the mix of HITEC attendees I have experienced over the years.
I will make the detailed responses available to the organizers of both events on request, in the hopes that it can help them make useful adjustments that will improve the events. I can also provide the responses to others who have a credible use.
So Where is Everybody Going in June?
Of all respondents, 75% plan to attend HITEC in Toronto on June 26-29, while just under 30% expect to be at The Hospitality Show in Las Vegas on those dates. This totals more than 100% because 11% plan to attend both. (Apparently there has been discussion of chartering a plane from Toronto to Las Vegas for those who feel the need to attend both!). Another 2% don’t plan to attend either show and 5% said they were waiting to find out which show their company wants them to attend.
Hoteliers were skewed slightly more than vendors towards HITEC, with 80% planning to attend that show vs. 22% for The Hospitality Show (both numbers include 7% who plan to attend both).
We also asked vendors what their plans were for exhibiting. 51% said HITEC only, 3% said The Hospitality Show only, 31% said both, and 15% said neither. As of the end of January, there were 85 registered exhibitors for The Hospitality Show vs. 256 for HITEC, according to the respective event websites. However, only a little more than half of those registered for The Hospitality Show were what I would consider technology vendors, compared to 94% for HITEC. Nearly half the exhibitors signed up for The Hospitality Show sell services, supplies, furnishings, or hotel franchises rather than technology.
There was no significant difference between plans of US-based attendees and those based elsewhere.
What About 2024?
The organizers of the two events have reportedly now agreed to avoid conflicting scheduling in future years. Knowing this, the survey asked vendors which show(s) they would likely exhibit at in 2024, if scheduling does not conflict. The differences were much smaller, with 62% of vendors saying they would exhibit at both shows, 23% at HITEC only, and 10% at the Hospitality Show only.
Exhibiting Vendors’ Plans for HITEC and The Hospitality Show – 2023 and 2024
This underscores the damage The Hospitality Show inflicted on its launch event by choosing dates that conflicted with the previously scheduled HITEC. Whereas 34% of vendors plan to exhibit at The Hospitality Show this June, 72% said they would exhibit in 2024 if the dates were not conflicting. This suggests that The Hospitality Show might well have booked twice as many technology exhibitors if it had scheduled its first event at a different time of year. Since exhibitor fees account for most trade-show revenue, the financial impact for 2023 cannot be trivial.
What Drives Attendance?
The survey also asked respondents about the importance of 14 different factors in deciding which show to attend. In the case of HITEC, the correlation with intent is presumably based on actual experience, while in the case of The Hospitality Show the answers would more reasonably reflect expectations. Answers were on a five-point scale where 1 was least important and 5 was most important.
The chart below shows the percentage of all respondents who rated each factor either a 4 or 5; average ratings are also shown in parentheses. Overall, the most important aspect was networking with peers, with 92% rating this 4 or 5.
Those planning to attend HITEC rated networking with peers an average of 4.64, vs. 4.43 for those planning to attend The Hospitality Show, indicating an expectation that networking will be somewhat better at HITEC. Second most important was attendance of senior corporate IT executives, which The Hospitality Show attendees rated at 4.45 vs. 4.20 for HITEC, indicating the belief that more of them may attend The Hospitality Show. Informal feedback from CIO-level hotel executives has confirmed that this is likely, at least for the larger or more prominent hotel groups. Vendors also rated the attendance of senior hotel business (non-IT) leaders as third most important, with a rating of 4.06, while hoteliers rated it significantly less important, at 3.40.
The event location was not a major consideration, ranking tenth for hoteliers and eleventh for vendors. Those planning to attend The Hospitality Show rated location as more important than those planning to attend HITEC, although the difference was greater for hoteliers than for vendors.
The Hospitality Show has promoted its inclusion of non-technology vendors. Not surprisingly given the profile of survey respondents, this was the least important of the 14 factors offered, rating 2.38 overall, with planned attendees of The Hospitality Show rating it even lower than those planning on HITEC. Of course, if The Hospitality Show manages to attract a significant number of operational hotel executives than what’s included in the survey sample, we would expect this to be more important to them.
Keynote speakers from outside the industry were judged relatively unimportant at 2.87 overall, but moderately important for hoteliers at 3.24. Educational programming was more important (3.42 overall and 3.91 for hoteliers).
Perspective of the Organizers
I provided an earlier draft of this article to the organizers for comment.
Kevin Carey, Chief Operating Officer of AHLA, and Alexi Khajavi, President of Hospitality and Travel for Questex, said “We’re extremely pleased with the industry’s response to The Hospitality Show. Sales from vendors and hoteliers continue to ramp-up with velocity, especially the last few weeks. We will be announcing keynote speakers soon that will anchor the education and thought leadership track. See you in Las Vegas in June … bring your team.”
Frank Wolfe, CEO of Hospitality Technology and Financial Professionals, said “HFTP works with many allied organizations bringing finance and technology expertise to their events. When the AHLA show moves its dates away so that they don’t conflict with HITEC, we will happily work with them as an allied organization.”
It is still early in the game, and a lot could change between now and June. However, most of the vendors I have spoken with seem to be locked into their current plans. Many have placed deposits on booths at one or both shows, and only a few who had not already booked both are thinking they may add the second one.
Unlike vendors, hoteliers are mostly not locked in, and while those surveyed lean heavily to attending HITEC, that could change if AHLA is successful at lobbying its CEO-level board members to push their colleagues towards The Hospitality Show. Twelve of the 15 sponsors signed up as of early February for The Hospitality Show are in fact hotel companies, which is indicative of at least some level of organizational support. However, sponsorships for first-time shows are often sold at minimal cost or even given away to name-brand companies, so it is hard to gauge how meaningful this is.
But the survey itself is clear: unless something changes, HITEC will retain most of its historical attendees and exhibitors. The Hospitality Show will make some inroads this year with that audience, and the show could be successful if it draws enough operational hotel executives. It does look to be quite successful in 2024.
Where will you be in June?