Ask the Experts: Panelists Give Guidance Ahead of HITEC Houston 2018

A few of the experts presenting at HITEC Houston next month have shed interesting light on what attendees can expect during their highly-anticipated panel sessions focusing on hospitality technology: Emerging Technologies — The New, New Things, Investing in Technology and Guest Facing Technology.

HITEC Houston, the world’s largest hospitality technology conference 46 years in the making, takes place June 18-21, 2018 at the George R. Brown Convention Center in Houston, Texas USA.

Emerging Technologies — The New, New Things
Raj Singh, Go Moment

About this session: Technology is advancing at a faster pace than ever before, and this is changing both the expectations of patrons, as well as the way in which the hospitality industry conducts business. Almost every trend that surrounds hospitality technology revolves around making data more accessible, integrated and useful. Discover emerging, big data technologies and how they evolve to better serve the hospitality industry and its guests.

Participating in this session on Tuesday, June 19 are:

  • Amir Amidi, managing partner with Plug and Play, as moderator;
  • Christina Heggie, investment principal with JetBlue Technology Ventures;
  • and Raj Singh, founder of Go Moment, who provided the following valuable insight into his session.

Can you tell us a little bit about what HITEC attendees can expect from your session?
Attendees of the Emerging Technologies panel can expect to learn about a wide range of hospitality tech topics such as how best to leverage data, the future of guest engagement and even artificial intelligence (AI).

What are some specific points you look forward to discussing, or that you would like to address, during your session?
I am excited to share the results we have seen at Go Moment — from applying AI and automation to guest engagement for our enterprise hospitality clients like Caesars Entertainment, Hard Rock and Choice Hotels. As we co-create tomorrow’s guest experience with our industry partners, we are seeing incredible results like 30 percent guest services call volume reduction and 70 percent messaging automation. I look forward to discussing this further during the panel.

As this is a panel discussion with other participants, are there any questions you have yourself that you would like to get answered, or any takeaways you would like to receive from your fellow professionals?
Given that we will have multiple investors on the Emerging Technologies panel, I would love to learn more about how the technology landscape is changing from their perspective, both domestically and globally.

With HITEC being the world’s largest hospitality technology conference, why do you believe that keeping up-to-date with the latest technology is so important, especially for this industry?
In hospitality technology, change is happening faster than most people expected. Technologies like AI, machine learning and blockchain will change our industry completely within 10 years, so staying current with what is happening at the ground level today could mean the difference between thriving or sinking in the years to come.

What are some examples of emerging, big data technologies and what impact do they have for you at Go Moment?
Our company was founded to help hotels leverage emerging technologies. With half a decade of experience with technologies like AI, automation and big data, we are always evaluating how newer technologies like VR, AR and blockchain can be commercialized in a hospitality context to make hotel guests smile.

Investing in Technology
Dave Berkus, Wayfare Ventures

About this session: Ever wonder what it takes to be involved in a startup? Learn why the startup community is so valuable to the hospitality industry and what you can do to support it. Explore the exciting and challenging world of startups with a panel of seasoned investors, entrepreneurs and adopters. From funding to pitch and positioning, this panel is full of valuable information based on real world experiences.

Participating in this session on Monday, June 18 are:

  • Prakash Shukla, managing partner with Wayfare Ventures LLC and a member of the HITEC Houston Advisory Council, as moderator;
  • Matthew Walsh, vice president at Fidelity Investments;
  • Rajesh Chopra, CIO with Oberoi Hotels & Resorts;
  • and Dave Berkus, managing partner with Wayfare Ventures LLC and an inductee to the HFTP International Hospitality Technology Hall of Fame, who shared his thoughts on investing in technology and what attendees can expect during this session.

Why do you believe that keeping up-to-date in the latest technology is so important, especially for this industry?
Perhaps not surprisingly, most new innovations in hospitality technology come from early stage companies, often startups. This is true in most all industries except those requiring heavy investment in production equipment, such as microchip fabrication. For hospitality, many innovations are made in the form of software, hosted Internet services, and inventory-absent services connecting guests with suppliers and with properties.

For our industry, there has been no dedicated financial investor resource for early stage companies, and only one such investment vehicle for larger and later stage tech companies. Wayfare Ventures was created in 2017 to fill this gap in the ecosystem, benefiting not only the startups funded but the hospitality users and suppliers hungry for new products and services to enhance competitiveness, reduce costs, increase revenues, and inform the guest journey from shopping through completion of stay.

Uber and Airbnb are perhaps the most visible examples of successful startups that disrupt the way we have been doing business for decades and longer. But there are thousands more discovered and undiscovered examples. HFTP itself has supported the creation of this early stage fund, seeing the benefit for its members worldwide. Five partners from the industry and 13 well-known industry experts acting as advisers round out the team. Starting with each E20X HFTP competition worldwide and expanding through searching for relevant early stage companies around the world, Wayfare will be an industry catalyst for advancement and change using technology as its tool.

Can you tell us a little bit about what HITEC attendees can expect from your session?

The panel Investing in Technology will examine the opportunity that exists in hospitality and the broader travel ecosystem and then the process of finding, coaching, investing, creating connections, and ultimately succeeding for candidate startups. This panel is for all attendees, including not only early stage entrepreneurs, but for those in the user community looking for pathways to competitive advantage and suppliers searching for acquisition and joint venture candidates. The panel of experienced industry investors and entrepreneurs should prove to be an exciting place for HITEC attendees to visit before the arriving at the show floor with its hundreds of exhibits, almost all dedicated to demonstrating advances in technology, both incremental and revolutionary.

Guest Facing Technology
Ted Horner, E. Horner & Associates Pty Ltd.

About this session: Guest facing technology is rapidly evolving and it can often be a gargantuan task for properties to be on the forefront of the latest products and services available. How does a property balance what to provide and what to enable? Discover voice activation and the future of apps, and learn how to integrate new guest facing technology into your property to offer guests a seamless journey. Leave the session knowing how innovations are being embraced by guests and how technology is becoming an important differentiator.

Guest Facing Technology is a highly-anticipated Q&A session that will be moderated by Ted Horner, an independent hotel technology consultant and owner of E. Horner & Associates Pty Ltd.

Participating in this panel discussion taking place on Tuesday, June 19 are:

  • Andrew Arthurs, SVP and CIO at Two Roads Hospitality;
  • David Heckaman, regional director technology at Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group;
  • and Thomas Fangar, vice president of multimedia at MGM Resorts International.

As the session moderator, Ted hopes to address many salient talking points among the panel including:

  • Voice activation: Where will it fit in the guestroom? Are guests going to worry about privacy, and whether or not their conversations are being recorded?
  • Applications: What applications are best suited to this kind of technology?
  • Tablets in the room for guest compendium, and in the dining room: What are your thoughts?
  • Hilton’s announcement of an app that allows loyalty members to control all of the functions within the guestroom (i.e. lighting, AC, TV, temperature control): Do you believe this approach will gain traction?
  • Mobile key: Why do you think that, despite having been around for the past four years, the take-up rates are so low? Do you think it will ever become mainstream?
  • Phones in the guestroom: Do they have a future?
  • Guest communication: In your opinion, what is the best way for hotels to communicate with their guests before, during and after departure?
  • Next-Gen WiFi: With the arrival of 5G, should hotels continue to invest heavily in next-gen WiFi?

As moderator, Ted believes his most important takeaways from the session will be the thoughts and opinions of his panel members, and how these opinions relate to his own. From the audience perspective, he anticipates that attendees will glean vital information from the panel as to where technology is headed in the guestroom, and where they should concentrate their investments in guest facing technology.

Join these exciting conversations and more at HITEC Houston. Click here to register to attend if you have not yet already done so. See you in Houston!

Briana Gilmore is the HFTP communications coordinator.
Briana can be reached at or +1 (512) 220-4017.

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About the Author: Briana Gilmore