There's No Reason to Fear Technology
I 've been attending HITEC, the industry's mega-technology trade show, for more than 30 years and, as you can imagine, I've seen a lot of changes. The first HITEC I attended (I think it was in San Francisco or perhaps Dallas) consisted of a conference and a few exhibitor tabletop booths in the hallway. While last month's edition of the show attracted 5,200 attendees (at least according to show organizers) and 300 exhibitors, it was more than its size that highlighted how far the event has evolved in three decades.
At one time, hoteliers had little faith in the power of technology. To them, the notion of computers was a rebuke to the nature of hospitality, i.e., person-to-person service. While that may have been partly true, I suspect a more deep-seated root of the apprehension was fright: hoteliers typically got into lodging because it was a low-tech business that typically only required well-honed personal relationship skills to be successful.
No matter, the days of lodging owners and operators as Luddites are largely over, which was the message I got loud and clear at last month's HITEC in hot, funky and fun Austin, TX. Smart hoteliers now embrace computerization as a way to improve efficiencies, bolster marketing efforts and, most importantly, to please guests. Most of the exhibitors were showing products that in some way pampered, entertained or made life on the road easier for guests. And more importantly, the theme of this year's show, at least in my eyes, was convergence and integration, or how even seemingly disparate technology systems can work together to better achieve the goals hoteliers seek from technology.
If you haven't been to HITEC, or haven't been in a while, you should make plans to be in Anaheim next year (June 22-25) for what should be another exciting show. There's nothing to be afraid of.
The monster looms. Something to possibly be afraid of, however, are new Americans with Disabilities Act standards and requirements that the feds are hoping to put into effect this year. Last month, the Department of Justice released what the AHLA calls “proposed dramatic and far-reaching changes” to the ADA, which was originally put into law in 1990. While the nearly 200 pages of proposed new rules are designed to clarify some of the inconsistencies and vagaries of the current law, they may also strengthen the reach of the act in venues such as stadiums, auditoriums, swimming pools, golf courses (even miniature golf courses) and lodging facilities.
The rules target buildings under construction or planned when the changes become effective. Existing hotels won't need to make immediate changes; however, renovations or additions to existing hotels will trigger implementation of the new rules.
I downloaded and scanned the 200,000-word-plus document and quickly became dizzy at its minutiae. However, it's evident that ADA requirements will be tightened, a prospect that probably means extra expense and hassle for hotel owners and developers.
The public has 60 days to comment on the new rules, and I'm sure both the AHLA and AAHOA will closely study the proposals and make comments, suggestions or objections as needed. It behooves you to keep current on their activities and lend your voice when needed.
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