HITEC 2006 Let The Games Begin!

Diving into HITEC every year is always an adrenaline boost. There's so much to see, so many people to connect or re-connect with and so much pressure to do everything in too little time. It's invigorating; it's the industry's best networking event, and the best chance to see some of the newer developments, however briefly.

This year I'm particularly interested in seeing what progress has been made in integrating different vendors' products in ways that reinforce each. I've long been a promoter of more comprehensive, fully integrated systems that do as much as possible within a single product, and I'm sure there'll continue to be new modules to explore here from each major vendor. But many properties either need in-depth features that are only available from a specialist vendor, or they've made recent investments in key systems that they don't want to replace and they need better interfaces to make these best-of-breed combinations work effectively.

With the rapid spread of IP- and XML-based interfaces, the limitations of old serial RS-232 interfaces are disappearing fast, and some interesting combinations of systems are appearing. Many vendors have stories to tell about new cooperative work they've been doing, both within the industry and with outside systems. The Hotel Technology Next Generation booth will have a review of real-world progress from some specific vendor groups, while HFTP's Guestroom 2010 display promises to have some intriguing glimpses of the future.

I'll also be interested to see what improvements have been made in revenue management. In addition to being adopted by more medium-size hotels, RM is now being applied to managing reservations distribution channels, as well as to finding — and pricing — the right mix of meeting rooms and individual guest activities.

Another hot topic is data analysis techniques. With the huge amount of guest and operational data now generated every day, there's been a lot of interest in how best to find the key pieces of information embedded in it. Using dashboards and other visual presentations to highlight key parameters makes it much easier to spot exceptions and drill down into the underlying causes, and several vendors offer new variations on this.

Centrally hosted systems continue to be a growth area, especially for multi-hotel groups that use them to leverage support and to get quick reporting of comparative data on each property. I'll be looking for information on how to make these more affordable for individual properties that just want a straightforward, reliable system.

With so much to see, advance planning is essential, especially given the number of educational sessions and industry committee meetings to attend. Study the floor plan in advance — preferably downloaded from the HITEC website, hitec.org — and mark important booths to visit; it's also worthwhile to wander the outer aisles and see what new ideas are being tried out.

I've given up on trying to get in-depth system demonstrations at HITEC; there's too much going on, too many people jockeying for position around every screen. The key is to see enough to get a feel for what's of interest, to meet the people behind it and to arrange a follow-up remote demo later on. That said, it still seems to be a tradition of mine at every HITEC to be in the middle of a demonstration at 3 p.m. on the last day, when the lights go out and the booths start being taken apart!

Wear comfortable shoes, remember which booths have extra-thick carpet so you can re-visit them to give your feet a rest and enjoy the show!


Jon Inge is president of Jon Inge & Associates, an independent consultancy targeting hotel technology. Reach him at 206-546-0966 or e-mail jon@joninge.com.

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