HITEC: Why you must go

Full disclosure: I love trade shows. The exhibitors bring the excitement while the throngs of attendees build the energy to a fever pitch. I marvel at the glossy displays and all the fascinating new products ready for sampling.

However, despite encouragement from me, I was saddened that very few of my colleagues — general managers, asset managers, owners, sales and marketing directors and so on — attended this year’s HITEC in steamy Austin, Texas. Your responsibility as a hotelier does not stop at your lobby door.

In the days of yore, the big trade show for the hotel industry was the International Hotel, Motel + Restaurant Show (IHMRS), perennially staged at New York’s Javits Center. That’s still a great opportunity to look for hard and soft goods, kitchen equipment, amenities and pretty much everything you need to fill and run your property. If you’re shopping, remodeling or considering the same, this show is for you. Plus, any excuse to go to the Big Apple, am I right?

HITEC is different. While there is some overlap with other trade shows, this is the one event that makes you truly think. While IHMRS focuses on the present, HITEC has its eye on the future. The fun part of your job is not only plotting the next six months to a year, but also gazing into the crystal ball to think of what the hospitality world will look like in a decade’s time.

There is no other place on earth where you can see, touch and hear ideas and products in their infancy or those just on the market. As you move across the exhibition floor from booth to booth, you will find yourself talking not only with intelligent vice presidents, but also passionate engineers and product designers who have a clear vision for how they hope to change the way we do business with our guests.

But it’s even better than that. Spend some time with your suppliers and learn about what your systems really can do for you. For example, I’ll wager you’ve barely tapped the capabilities of your PMS. It will only take one 20-minute conversation to open your eyes to all the intricate new features that go into the latest versions of these software suites. Next, visit some of the smaller booths and see some of the burgeoning ideas that may or may not bloom in scale as their products take hold. Third, attend some seminars to gain some added insight and to discuss the current technology issues facing hospitality. And last, look at the age of the participants — were we as enthusiastic at that age, and how do we reinvigorate our hotels with that same energy?

All told, you’ll return to your property brimming with ideas and likely execute one that pays out the entire journey. Importantly, show some proactive leadership — your team will respond in kind! At the very least, plan to send a knowledgeable “scout” in case you cannot attend next year personally.

We’re fortunate that our industry has HITEC, a one-stop shop for all of our technology needs and desires. As Winston Churchill said, “A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.”