AN INTERVIEW WITH THE HITEC® EUROPE ADVISORY COUNCIL CHAIR
Hundreds of hospitality professionals from all across Europe and beyond convened in the beautiful Spanish island city of Palma, Mallorca, Spain for HITEC Europe 2019. Produced by HFTP, HITEC Europe 2019 was an overwhelming success. It was held April 9–11, 2019 at the Palau de Congressos. Attendees enjoyed focused education from more than 30 industry expert speakers including an award-winning global futurist, and they had access to more than 60 leading industry solution-providers in the HITEC exhibition hall.
A spotlight on industry innovation took place the very first afternoon — HFTP’s popular Entrepreneur 20X (E20X) startup competition, sponsored exclusively this year by Datavision Technologies. Eight companies competed for the two prizes. Hotelway won the Judges’ Choice Award, including a cash prize. Oaky won the Peoples’ Choice Award, presented at the conclusion of HITEC Europe and decided by vote via the HITEC Event app.
HITEC Europe is expected to return to Mallorca, Spain in April 2020. Derek Wood, HITEC Europe Advisory Council chair and managing director at Derek Wood Associates LTD, shared his thoughts on what went into planning the conference, his favorite moments during HITEC Europe 2019, and what he predicts for 2020.
What was involved in planning and organizing HITEC Europe 2019?
Planning for HITEC Europe begins well over 12 months before the event with the choosing and booking of the venue, and education planning begins in July. Right at the conclusion of this year’s event, we set the date for HITEC Europe next year: April 21–23, 2020 in Palma, Mallorca.
The educational programme revolves around the HITEC Europe Advisory Council. This council is made up of hospitality industry experts who all volunteer their time to discuss and agree upon the various educational sessions. It is drawn from all sectors of our industry: hotels, restaurants and distribution, financial and technical. This ensures that we get a cross-section of ideas and we are able to address the latest ‘hot topics’ affecting our industry.
Without these people volunteering their time and expertise, the educational sessions simply would not take place. Each council member is allocated one or two sessions to organize and to arrange the speakers. This year’s sessions were exceptional, both in the subjects covered, as well as the speakers.
It is the content and quality of the educational sessions that differentiate all of the HITEC conferences around the world from other conferences and trade shows.
From an organizer’s point of view, holding HITEC Europe in Spain was a great decision. The Spanish were very appreciative of our decision, and many attendees said that a show of this quality was long overdue to be held in their country.
What were your favorite moments from HITEC Europe 2019?
We had a great keynote speaker, Rohit Talwar, a futurist who related his talk directly to the hospitality industry. [Talwar’s presentation Destination Unknowable— The Next Five Years of Business and Technology Disruptions was previewed on HFTP Connect. In his keynote, Talwar took attendees on a journey to explore the key technologies that could impact travel and tourism in the next five years and examined how they could transform our organizations, strategies, propositions and business models.]
Another highlight was having the local politicians attend and speak at the event. [Spain’s Secretary of State for Tourism Isabel Oliver and President of the Government of Balearic Islands Francina Armengol addressed HITEC attendees at Thursday’s General Session, The Next Industry Threat.] Local television, radio and press were in attendance, and it made front page news the next day. This was yet another example of how much the town and country appreciated a show of HITEC’s caliber being held in their city.
A first for HITEC was holding educational sessions in the local language. This proved to be very popular and we plan to repeat next year. Holding an international conference on a continent with many different languages and cultures provided us with a whole range of challenges, but I am pleased to report that all of the staff at the HFTP Global headquarters admirably rose to this challenge.
A bonus was the food; Melia, who manages the venue, really excelled in the quality of food that was available on the show floor, at the opening reception and during lunch — far exceeding the typical “conference lunch” usually served at these types of events. Wine and beer were available at lunch, but of course it was — after all, this is Spain!
What did you enjoy about the host city of Mallorca?
Mallorca was a fantastic venue for the show, and the weather was kind to us, as well. The old town is steeped in history, with some really magnificent buildings. The choice of restaurants, as you would expect from one of Europe’s favorite holiday destinations, was varied; and from the restaurants that I visited, the quality was great.
Holding the show in April ensured that we did not have to cope with the thousands of holiday makers, which was also a bonus when we were travelling around and exploring the local area. Because it is such a popular holiday destination, there was no issue at all in regards to the locals speaking English. (Of course, I had the normal issues with people understanding my Bristolian accent!)
The Spanish made us feel very welcome and were genuinely pleased that we chose their city to host HITEC 2019.
What are you looking forward to for HITEC Europe 2020, which is slated to return to Mallorca next spring?
HITEC Europe 2020 is already in the planning stage, with the first HITEC Europe Advisory Council meeting to be held this July. We are all very excited with the thought of returning to this excellent location. The challenge we will have is fitting in the additional vendors who will be attending as a result of the success of this year’s event.
We are also expecting more attendees next year as the word went around that we will be returning to Mallorca — especially among the Spanish.
I cannot finish without thanking the staff at HFTP Global for all of the hard work that was put into making this show the best HITEC Europe yet — especially CEO Frank Wolfe, CAE, COO Europe Carl Weldon and Meeting & Events Manager Celina Mendieta, CMP. Well done, everyone!
Look Ahead to HITEC 2019 and 2020
HITEC Europe was the first of three HITECs that HFTP will produce this year. Next up, the larger HITEC Minneapolis is slated for June 17-20, 2019 at the Minneapolis Convention Centre in Minneapolis, Minnesota USA. Ending the year is HITEC Dubai — a Middle Eastern counterpart — will take place November 12-13 at the Festival Arena by Intercontinental in Festival City Dubai, UAE in partnership with Naseba.
Briana Gilmore is the HFTP Communications Coordinator.
Briana can be reached at Briana.Gilmore@hftp.org or +1 (512) 220-4017.