What We Can Expect at this Year’s Hospitality Industry Technology Exposition & Conference in Orlando
Believe it or not, HITEC – the Hospitality Industry Technology Exposition & Conference – was first brought to life in 1972, and since then, hospitality technology has come a long way. In fact, for many tenured hospitality professionals like myself, the key platforms of today are a far cry from the platforms of yesterday. Over the years, our industry has had an influx of digital innovation that has transformed experiences for both guests and hoteliers.
As we gear up for this year’s event, which represents both HITEC’s 50th anniversary and a celebration of our industry’s post-pandemic recovery, I can’t help but feel nostalgic about the legacy of memories and innovation which surrounds this highly anticipated annual event. I can’t deny that one of the main factors for me to fly to Orlando this June is to connect with the many friends I have made over the years.
In 1971, HITEC started with a vision and a purpose: to provide a forum for promoting and displaying the latest in hospitality technology. Today, HITEC is a well-known, global event that brings the brightest minds in hospitality together under one roof for an event of top-notch education, networking, transformative technology, and expert panels. Perhaps even more exciting is how the event seems to grow each year – attracting seasoned experts and young talent from around the world. In 2017, when HITEC made its Canadian debut, HFTP noted that the 6,500+ attendees marked the largest conference attendance in its 45-year history. In 2018, when HITEC took up residence in Houston, Texas, its previous attendance record was once again broken, as over 6,650 hospitality professionals descended upon the southern state in the name of digital innovation. At the time, Frank Wolfe, CEO of HFTP, noted that HITEC Houston was the highest attended HITEC conference on record. Still, it was also the highest attended overall conference in HFTP’s 65-year history. This year, HITEC will surely be a little different than years past as we come out of the COVID fog and reengage with what we have missed for a long time.
HITEC also represents a mecca of opportunity for emerging entrepreneurs, thanks to the Entrepreneur 20X Innovation Competition. Each year, the E20X features several cutting-edge start-ups vying for the favor of an expert panel of judges, mentors, CIOs, and angel investors over the course of a 4-minute pitch. Those start-ups that effectively ‘wow’ their audience have a chance to be recognized as the top concept for that year, a testament to the hospitality industry’s ongoing commitment to recognizing and cultivating new talent and technology. Just last year, we launched HITEC TV: an online video content channel focused on the hospitality technology industry. These sessions were a carefully curated selection of cutting-edge programs and educational segments that worked to inform, inspire, and attract the attention of hospitality leaders around the world as hoteliers partook in HITEC Dallas both in-person and virtually.
This year’s HITEC is sure to be especially memorable, following the undeniable impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on our industry at large. As hotel brands, both big and small, enter this recovery period and hotels look to rejuvenate their offering with the help of technology, there are several pertinent themes and considerations that are sure to dominate HITEC 2022.
I expect digital transformation to be an important theme this year, specifically, the use of intuitive platforms that help to automate backend processes and streamline both the guest and staff experience. I expect to see an influx of flexible technology that helps alleviate hotel staff from otherwise cumbersome, manual tasks and a notable increase in self-service technology that affords guests complete autonomy over their experience. Beyond their utility as convenience-centric tools, these platforms will play a key role in hotel recovery as the industry works to address its ongoing labor shortage and hire back key talent. As this seems to be the era of personalization, I also expect to see an influx of smart-room technology and offerings which allow guests to completely customize their in-room/on-property experience and help hotels to differentiate their offering.
Finally, I suspect we will witness many discussions (and innovations) relating to intelligent revenue management and budgeting to help hotels learn to protect their bottom line – even in the face of the ‘unprecedented times’ brought on by a pandemic or another global event. The HITEC presentation, “The First-mover Advantage: Are You the Leading Edge, or the Bleeding Edge?” is a strategic management session that will attract a great deal of interest as it looks at current trends and their potential competitive advantages. Moreover, this session will delve into emerging technologies’ associated costs and give hoteliers a framework to make sound decisions when considering a digital overhaul of their operations.
Of course, the predictions are only the tip of the iceberg. As any HITEC attendee knows, the weekend conference will leave no stone unturned when it comes to next-generation hospitality tech. I am incredibly excited to reconnect with industry peers and learn of the innovations that will move our industry forward. Not to mention, the Opening Party (presented by VENZA and CyberTek) at SeaWorld Orlando sounds like a memorable way to kick-off HITEC’s 50th anniversary.
HITEC has been a large part of my life within the hotel and travel technology industry, and I thank Frank Wolfe and all those who work for HFTP for their commitment to the people and companies that represent the best of what we have to offer. I would also like to thank all the people who have enriched my career through the discussions we have had during HITEC. I have learned so much and for this, I am incredibly grateful.