Recapping HITEC 2015

Last month’s HITEC tradeshow was a revelation — not so much that every exhibitor or presenter was right on the leading edge, but just for the fact that for the first time in a long while, there was so much optimism about the future of the hospitality industry. Putting aside most of the excellent educational seminars, I wanted to share with you some of the broad themes and big issues the exhibitors addressed. Plus, I would like to share with you some of the more interesting products/services presented.

The sophistication of data manipulation and application was a definitive core theme of the show. Big Data, a buzz term for several years already, now has immediate relevance to the hotelier. Most companies operating in this space use the expanse of digital metrics to augment business intelligence or to develop predictive modeling software with a number of subsequent functions — for example, enhancing just-in-time marketing capabilities. Know that such organizations using Big Data in these ways are here to help you enhance your revenues by allowing you to better understand specific consumer needs and desires.

HITEC also illustrated the maturation of revenue management into total revenue management, whereby the focus has shifted from RevPAR to the more holistic RevPOR (revenue per occupied room). Such products are designed to assist the director of marketing and revenue manager in making complex decisions on groups versus independents, golf packages versus spa packages, comped meals versus discounted rooms and so on. Often the correct answers for your specific business situation are counterintuitive and can also be revealed through a simultaneous analysis of multiple operations and hotel departments.

Taking a page from the OTAs (less in terms of high commission levels, and more in terms of accessibility, convenience and versatility), there are now many iterations of an online instant booking service for meeting spaces as well as accompanying F&B, A/V tech and guestrooms. I’ve seen this in the past, but these new pedigrees will undoubtedly yield savings at the property level in staff reduction and small meeting sales.

On the physical technology side, robots may soon replace many low-level staff positions including the bellhop and room-service delivery person. Such robo-servers rely on infrared laser sensors, complex software and cameras with facial-blurring functionality to navigate a property. It may sound farfetched, but picture yourself five years from now entering an elevator off the lobby and surrounded by these robo-servers that, when spoken to, reply with a series of cute R2D2-esque beeps.

While we know guests crave more and more free Wi-Fi, I was astounded by a couple presentations whereby the vendors purport that the future of wireless connectivity will come not through enhanced Wi-Fi capabilities, but through onsite 4G/LTE installations. As these exhibitors explained, no matter which way you slice it, local services such as Wi-Fi have bandwidth limitations that don’t apply to cellular signals and tethered devices, especially as mobile video streaming becomes more commonplace. Embedding new 4G relays may become a mandatory upgrade for many larger-sized properties in the very near future.

Lastly, it appears the mobile hotel app has become ubiquitous with companies offering several different plans from pay-as-you-go to outright acquisition. A hotel can choose from a prefabricated app mold or the more expensive, ground-up design that is wholly customized for that specific property. It appears we are at a stage where the hotel mobile app is progressing from a value-add to a guest expectation, so be wary if you don’t have one.

What does all of this mean for you and your hotel? Technology’s application will lead to improved revenue, lower costs and ultimately better decision-making. All the exhibitors were quite enthusiastic about the prospects for the industry as a whole, and many of their products offer quite viable solutions against the present-day external threats to our business. If you’d like to discuss any specific vendors, please contact me directly.