Now that the dust has settled from the Hospitality Industry Technology Exposition & Conference (HITEC), I've had the chance to reflect on some of the key themes coming out of this year’s conference. As it relates to industry events, HITEC always marks a pivotal time on my annual calendar. A culmination of innovative visions for the current — and future — state of hospitality technology, HITEC attracts the best from around the globe. Each year, the showcase provides access to an action-packed itinerary of educational sessions, demonstrations, product launches, networking opportunities, and more.
Offering a front-row seat to the new and evolving trends shaping the hotel technology landscape, opportunities like HITEC are truly invaluable to my role as CEO of Concilio Labs. As I catch up from the week, I wanted to share a few of my takeaways from HITEC 2019.
1. Women in Hospitality Technology
I had the pleasure of attending one of the most anticipated events of HITEC— The Women in Hospitality Technology luncheon. This event was curated to honor female trailblazers in our industry, while also supporting future leaders through means of the HFTP’s General Scholarship Fund. This is perhaps the first time I’ve seen the hospitality industry outwardly recognize women as leaders, and I sincerely hope this will be the first of many women-focused events. The gender gap that exists in our industry is still very much apparent. A recent report revealed that despite the industry's dependence on women for many lower-level jobs, women in 2016 held just 5% of CEO positions at U.S. hotel companies, the same as in 2012. At the same time, the study revealed that women comprised 9% of U.S. hotel company presidents in 2016, up from just 8% in 2012.
Over the course of the luncheon, we deliberated strategies for building a support network, the importance of mentoring, especially in relation to prospective female leaders, and the value of paying it forward. These conversations helped to reinvigorate my perspective on the significance of our contributions as female leaders, as well as the ongoing value of mentoring future female rising stars. I also found myself thinking back to the beginning of my career, the challenges as well as positive experiences I have had. I do hope future conversations, with this group, evolve beyond the archaic work/life balance discussions to topics such as, has our gender impacted our ability to be taken seriously as technologists?
Concilio Labs is proud to be 56 percent female in its leadership positions, and an ongoing champion of women in technology overall.
2. Industry Experts’ Take on Emerging Technology
HITEC attracts accomplished leaders, executives, and compelling speakers. Hotel technology continues to evolve, presenting many opportunities for vendors and hoteliers, but capturing those opportunities requires a willingness to embrace change. Smart technologies, Blockchain, tech stacks and AI, the tracks of this year’s Interactive conference, reflected the rapid pace of technology innovation. At the same time, many speakers urged audiences to remember humans are at the center of any brand and warned against leaning too much on artificial intelligence, guest data, virtual reality, or any other trending technology over authentically connecting with guests.
With that said, I was especially invested in the respective CEOs of Omni Hotels and Radisson Hotels as they provided their unique perspectives during the “Technology in 2020 and Beyond” session. They opened up about how their respective brands address security, data protection, and consumer-facing technologies.
Balancing guest data to enhance the guest experience with privacy and security remain top of mind for technology companies, Concilio included. These are issues we grapple with on a daily basis. With the recent implementation of GDPR in tandem with the guest expectation of enhanced personalization, hoteliers must leverage technology to achieve the optimal results.
However, I was admittedly most eager to learn about their approach to more recent advancements in areas such as AI. As next-generation technology like AI, ML, VR, AR, and more are increasingly part of the present and not just the future. Discussing the applications and industry repercussions, along with ethical considerations, investment insights and how to use new technologies to support a strong brand identity, has perhaps never been more critical.
This session was an eye-opener for many, deciphering which technology investments to make, and when to make them to avoid getting too far behind. I appreciate how Omni Hotels and Radisson Hotels have kept pace with all of these emerging trends and technologies.
It has always been such a mystery to me some hoteliers hesitate when it comes to innovation. In hospitality, guest experience is everything, so how can hotels harbor resistance to technology that powers efficiency, productivity, revenue, service, and loyalty? Ultimately, keeping up with the demands of today’s (and tomorrow’s) guests should be the foremost goal of every modern hotelier.
3. The Future of Data
Now more than before, big data and analytics are changing the face of hospitality. In many ways, the competitive differentiator for hoteliers of all sizes and types is their ability to use technology to turn data into action to create value. Most hoteliers agree that guest personalization has, quite possibly, become the ultimate industry buzzword. Naturally, to achieve a higher level of personalization across touchpoints, we rely on the careful aggregation and application of guest data. We use guest behavior to better predict and understand their needs, proactively, rather than reactively. It’s not enough to recognize what a guest wants after they’ve asked for it, they expect hotels to readily predict and anticipate their needs before they've even arrived on property.
So, what is the natural next step when it comes to using data to elevate guest service and engagement? As I walked the HITEC show floor, I couldn’t help but wonder when the hospitality industry would be taking the plunge into using biometric technology. For those unfamiliar, biometrics is the measurement and statistical analysis of people's unique physical and behavioral characteristics, popularly implemented within airports, buildings, cars, and more. Fingerprint mapping, facial recognition, and retina scans are also popular applications of this technology and rely on the principle that one’s physical attributes can be used as unique identifiers.
In the case of hotels, biometric technology can identify a guest; for example, during check-in or check-out. These days we can unlock our phones using facial recognition or our fingerprints…so why shouldn’t we be able to enjoy the same conveniences at a hotel utilizing that same progressive technology? While this technology doesn’t seem to have hit the mainstream at HITEC this year, there is a rumbling about its future, and I am excited to see how it emerges.
Each year, the sessions during the conference show us how far we’ve come and but also makes me realize how far we have yet to go. As a think tank of ideas, HITEC empowers and inspires hospitality industry professionals to take on the challenges of tomorrow.
As always, HITEC was as enlightening as it was fun. I look forward to connecting with you all again next year! If you have thoughts about the show, I’d love to chat. Feel free to reach out to me at Terri@ConcilioLabs.com.
About the Author
The capability to understand today’s hotel guest is a priority for Concilio Labs. Terri Miller and her team developed a way to leverage hotel and public data to help hoteliers provide exceptional relevant experiences to its guests. As CEO of Concilio Labs, Terri is responsible for driving the strategic and tactical growth of the company, while ensuring innovation is at the forefront when delivering solutions hoteliers truly need. Her wealth of experience in business, management, and technology guides all facets of the company’s success. Prior to Concilio Labs, Terri was the Vice President of MICROS eCommerce leading the creative, delivery, and technical departments. With a passion for delivering results, Terri continues to grow Concilio Labs with a focus on becoming the leader in developing and delivering smart hotel products and services.
About Concilio Labs
Concilio Labs is on a mission to solve key issues in hospitality today—those of guest personalization and hotel loyalty—by developing innovative technology solutions that push boundaries. Concilio’s Insight Engine, a guest intelligence platform, empowers hoteliers with actionable insights to create personalized guest experiences that go far beyond traditional and existing capabilities in other similar tools. Other core service offerings target guest experience, including a tailored mobile app and integrated booking engine solutions for hoteliers looking to take their guest engagement to the next level. The management team has decades of proven experience working with technology leaders, including MICROS, giving them credibility and a deep understanding of the hospitality industry and its growing needs. Concilio Labs is a rapidly growing brand with offices in the Washington, DC area and Ukraine. To learn more, visit conciliolabs.com.
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