Going to HITEC? Here are my recommendations! What You Need to Know Before You Go to HITEC in Minneapolis

It’s that time of year again. Hoteliers and industry leaders from around the globe will descend on one of the leading events in hospitality: HITEC 2019. Hosted in Minneapolis from June 17th until the 20th, HITEC represents the coveted amalgamation of industry leaders and technology professionals to share, discuss and explore the future of hospitality technology. For most attendees, the week is a chance to catch up, connect and network with other professionals, demo new technology, partake in panel discussions — and for exhibitors, maybe even close some deals.

Now, what better place to consider and compare prospective solutions, than a conference dedicated to showcasing of the latest and greatest in hospitality technology? While HITEC is a notable networking event, it also represents an essential opportunity for hoteliers looking to invest in new tech to vet and compare leading platforms under the same roof.  Anyone in the market for a new PMS, CRM, smart room devices, or guest-facing systems will find a plethora of innovators present and eager to demo the latest features of their technology. Much like previous years, I’m curious to witness which platform, topic or trend will reveal itself as this year’s big highlight.

Interestingly enough, 2019 marks a decade since the US travel industry emerged from the depths of economic recession. The past ten years, and I would predict this year especially, have been a pivotal time for our industry about emerging technology and, simultaneously, travel demand across segments. 2019 is predicted to be a breakthrough year as we watch major acquisitions and investments unfold across our sector. Beyond the recent infusions of capital, we are also seeing a variety of established leaders from top tech firms such as Facebook and Xero, shift into roles within hospitality technology. In a recent New York Times article, Scott Dobroski, who works in corporate communications for Glassdoor, notes “All companies are becoming technology companies to some degree, and this is especially true in the hospitality industry.”

It would seem then that it has arguably never been a better time to invest in new technology. Not only is the industry primed for innovation, but guest expectations are rapidly evolving. In my opinion, aligning with progressive vendors and creating the right ‘tech stack’ of operational platforms will act as the catalyst to success, both now and in the future, for lodging operators of all types. Alas, HITEC truly could not arrive at a better time.

Over the last couple of years, many hospitality technology vendors have been buzzing about APIs and open platforms. But as we all know, not all systems are created equal. This is especially true when it comes to property management systems (PMS), the heartbeat of any hotel. Although the trials and limitations associated with legacy PMS solutions are becoming more universally understood, some vendors are now claiming that the traditional PMS is dead. “With an open platform, you can do it all…” is their frame of mind. But is that true? Is it that easy to connect and build a collaborative workflow across platforms? And do most hoteliers have the skills in-house to do that? These are just a few of the questions hoteliers should be asking as they take a look at some of these solutions at HITEC.

Although many new platforms claim to be ‘open’ and offer free connectivity, it’s critical for hoteliers to verify what that truly means. If we take a look at legacy software systems, they do offer connectivity to other systems, but those integrations come with steep costs and long development timelines. Upgrades and integrations are packaged in billable interfaces, along with a need for frequent, manual updates. While hoteliers hope to avoid the added fees and limited infrastructure of those legacy systems, it’s also worth clarifying what ‘free connectivity’ really entails — and whether or not that vendor/platform has the capacity to support your hotel long-term.

This year at HITEC companies such as Shiji, Jonas, Apaleo, Amadeus, Siteminder, and booking.com will have an opportunity to showcase their new, open API advancements. These platforms themselves perform many of the core functionalities required for the successful operation of a hotel. However, their new API allows for other parties (such as RMS, upsell, housekeeping tools and more) to connect, without the hotelier having to pay extra for it. Further, there shouldn’t be any need for proprietary connection protocols. In theory, this is the most cost-effective and scalable alternative to the confines of legacy systems. Data starts to flow, hotels can begin to thrive in a truly connected operational environment, and hoteliers aren’t swallowing the cost of countless new interface integrations.

The ‘open’ idea itself isn’t new. In fact, comes from other industries. The CRM business with brands like Salesforce have been doing this for years already. The Salesforce platform can be enhanced with many tools, all with a simple setup screen and a few handshakes. As long as the workflow and desired features are not too complicated, the model works quite seamlessly and is easy to manage. On the other hand, however, an influx of third-party companies can result in a relatively complicated workflow — one which may require (paid) management of those installations and connections.

HITEC is always an inspiring opportunity to review the latest and great new systems available. With that in mind, I urge you to look for the following characteristics before you invest in any new platform for your property:

  • First and foremost, what functionality does the platform itself have to offer? The more it offers, the less you have to find elsewhere, but be sure to find out how many live customers the platform has.
  • How many connections with 3rd parties do they have LIVE, so not just signing or in progress, but truly live?
  • How does the process of connecting a 3rd party work?
  • What responsibility do you as a customer have?
  • Are 3rd party services agents offered to do the work for you?
  • Does the company have a good service structure in place?

Each year, the conference gets larger—but the heart of conference hasn’t changed. The networking events, the speakers, the exhibitors …all of it is second to none. HITEC creates an environment where we have the opportunity to learn, share, expand relationships, catch up with old friends, and meet new people who have a passion for our wonderful industry. In short, be safe, make good decisions, and meet as many people as you can to get the most out of the show.

Happy tech shopping!

About Jos Schaap

Jos Schaap is a well-known hospitality software executive and entrepreneur, with over 30 years of experience in hotel management and software. He has a passion for hotels, especially staying in them, which has inspired his pioneering ideas for new technologies that have transformed the industry. As a great advocate for change and innovation, he has dedicated his career to developing new things, projects, applications, and companies.

Jos founded StayNTouch in 2012 with the vision of re-inventing the hotel PMS technology; making it simple, mobile and transitioning the software to the cloud.  With his vision and team, he succeeded. StayNTouch grew year over year with 300% to 700% serving more than 90,000 hotel rooms around the globe. Shiji Group acquired the company in September 2018. Today the company continues to thrive under the Shiji Group flag.

Prior to StayNTouch, Jos spent 18 years at MICROS Systems Inc. (now Oracle Hospitality), as a Senior Vice President of in charge of global product development and strategy for the Hotel and eCommerce divisions. During his tenure, MICROS’ hospitality products became the global market leader growing the company’s revenues from less than $300 million to $1.1 billion. He spearheaded multiple new products that enabled MICROS to enter hospitality segments from limited to full-service hotels globally.

“I focus most of my technology design and decisions around guest engagement as I believe that’s ultimately what really matters to most hotels and guests. Building a team that delivers great technology is what I do best.” Jos Schaap

You can find more about Jos at josschaap.com or connect on LinkedIn (https://www.linkedin.com/in/josschaap/).