Written by: Jatin Khemlani
This was my first experience at HITEC as a student volunteer and what an amazing week I had in Orlando. 2022 marked the 50th year anniversary of HITEC, an event where partners in the finance and technology sectors of the hospitality industry come together to showcase how they support the industry and bring the guest experience to the next level when traveling, staying at a hotel or even just placing an order at a restaurant.
As a student volunteer and hospitality major, I got to experience a lot more than what I had expected. During this week, we were assigned to different duties and responsibilities around the convention center, from registration to education sessions to exhibitor tutorials conducted by different vendors. This opportunity helped many of us gain experience on the service side of the industry by allowing us to interact with, serve and assist attendees in getting their credentials and answering some of their queries.
About the Education
On the first day of the convention, I attended a couple of education sessions. The first was “The Crypto NFT Hotel: A 101 Approach to What It Is and How It Applies to Hospitality,” as I was intrigued on how crypto would affect the hospitality industry. During the session, an attendee posed a question to the panel on whether there would be technology or a service in the future to help hospitality companies accept crypto/NFT payments and convert these currencies into a dollar amount in real time, considering the volatility of the value of crypto/NFT currency. It is just a matter of time when such a service will be available for the hospitality industry, but the real question is how hotels and the industry will adapt to accept such a service.
Another session I attended was “Data Science for Smarties: Data is Key, and You Are Behind…Time to Catch Up” led by Rik van Leeuwen from The Netherlands. The environment we live in now is mostly powered by technology, and data is everything. Companies use all sorts of data for making decisions to not only move the company forward but also move the industry forward as a whole. Hotel operators, restaurant managers and airlines are more focused on operations and service than data collection and analysis. Leeuwen shared on how important it is to collect this data and dissect it for companies to understand what is happening within their business. He even talked about hiring staff to do such work or a third-party vendor to perform such services, as cost can be a factor in generating such data-focused reports . Besides cost, the validity and accuracy of data is important: would companies want to take the risk of hiring staff internally or outsource this service to experts who have the experience and the correct tools and technology to convert the data safely, accurately and efficiently?
Attending both sessions really opened my eyes to how technology has impacted the industry from a financial perspective and has helped management change the way they manage their operations of hotels, restaurants and airlines.
About the Exhibition
Besides attending the education sessions, the HITEC Exhibit Hall was filled with many great companies showcasing their products and services. I have never seen this many companies providing a wide range of products and services to the hospitality industry. There were some familiar companies which I knew and many new companies which I got to learn about their services. Never did I imagine seeing this many companies providing data security, data management, property management system (PMS), global distribution system (GDS) and guest experience solutions. Walking around the exhibits and seeing the software, technology and products offered to the industry was incredible. It was also great to learn how big companies such as LG and Samsung are committed to working with industry partners to create new technology and user interfaces (UI) that would enhance the guest experience and help companies provide a better brand experience for their guests and customers. Companies like Venza and SkyPoint Cloud work tirelessly in the background to provide data security management services and customer data solutions to hospitality operators and do not get the recognition and exposure they deserve from guests and customers.
HITEC is not only a convention but a place for the industry to network — and as a student, this is a perfect opportunity for us to learn more about the industry from veterans and take the opportunity to hear about their experiences. There were many after-event functions throughout the week that the students were invited to attend, network and learn more. A special thanks to the many companies who invited us to their after-convention events. These functions allowed students to network and speak to many professionals in a more relaxed atmosphere without the fear and tension of being overly professional.
Overall, I had an amazing week attending HITEC 2022. I was able to experience working on the front line, interacting with attendees and helping in any way I could from registration to directing them to different educational seminars. I learned about the different companies involved in hospitality and the products and services they have to offer, especially the new technology and software being developed with AI and crypto.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank my professors at San Jose State University and HFTP for giving me and the other student volunteers the opportunity to attend and volunteer at this convention. A special thanks to HFTP Director of Membership Brittany Brewster for being an amazing point of contact during the convention. I look forward to working with HFTP in the future, attending HITEC 2023 in Toronto and its future events beyond 2023!
Jatin Khemlani is a hospitality student at San Jose State University and student volunteer at HITEC Orlando 2022. He will graduate Fall 2023 with a degree in hospitality tourism and events management.