With a new Star Wars movie opening this Christmas, it seems only fitting that we borrow the original 1977 film’s subtitle to describe the state of affairs at this year’s HITEC in Austin, Texas.

The weather outside was sweltering with rolling thunderstorms, sheets of rain and tornado warnings, yet the mood inside the Austin Convention Center has never been brighter. Exhibitors were optimistic and enthusiastic while the throngs of attendees were eager to learn about how the new products only display will not only increase a property’s bottom line but also improve the overall travel experience for guests.

Yes, competition is fierce in the technology sector, but the general undertone on the tradeshow floor was collegial, collaborative and eternally hopeful. We all know that there are many external forces working to seismically shift how accommodations are purchased by consumers. And not all of these influencers are good news for hotels – the two most discussed were the exorbitant commissions of the OTAs and the rapid expansion of Airbnb.

The exhibitors acknowledge these issues and are here to help hoteliers with some highly innovative solutions. I suppose the real question now is: can hoteliers help themselves?

After all, I would consider everyone I met and saw at HITEC to be part of the ‘smartest guys in the hotel room’. That is, these are the people who are not resisting the revolutionary changes soon to come to our industry. They move with the flow, recognizing that the only constant is change itself and that technological upgrades are the only way to stay apace with the ever-shifting consumer behaviors.

I could drone on and on about the new capabilities of predictive algorithms to enhance just-in-time marketing, advanced Big Data modeling or frictionless capture, but my chief takeaway from a week’s time in Austin is that there is no magic bullet for the hospitality industry. You need a cluster of solutions, and it’s not one size fits all. Each individual property requires a detailed analysis of the going trends and the unique strengths, weaknesses, opportunities in order to determine which technologies are worth investment and implementation.

For me, HITEC 2015 was a revelation. There is and will always be hope for hotels in this modern tech-savvy world we find ourselves in. If you did not attend the tradeshow, I suggest you seek out those vendors present to see what solutions they might offer, and definitely make plans to travel to next year’s conference in New Orleans.

(Article by Larry Mogelonsky, published in Canadian Lodging News on June 29, 2015)


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