Written by: Jatin Khemlani
It has been over a month since I got back from Toronto after another successful and fruitful HITEC. It was a week of learning, networking and volunteering experiences I will never forget. I had the opportunity to explore a new city but more importantly, a new country. This is so valuable as a hospitality student to experience how the hotel and travel industry differs by country.
With HITEC North America 2023 being held in Toronto, attendees had the opportunity to meet new vendors based in Canada, while American vendors had the opportunity to reach a new audience in Canada — a win-win situation for everyone.
HITEC student volunteers are assigned duties to assist HFTP staff (the producers of HITEC) in the event’s execution. Alongside these duties, we are encouraged to attend many of the educational sessions to learn more about the industry from experts and veterans. In addition, we are also encouraged to walk around the HITEC Exhibit Hall to learn more about the different vendors on the show floor.
HITEC 2023 started off in a way I could not have imagined, as I attended “Today’s Traveler: Your Guide to Current Expectations” in the afternoon after my volunteer shift. While the panel included many great minds of the hospitality industry — Frank Wolfe, Rich Siegel and Ted Horner — I was in awe to be sitting just inches away from panelist Anthony Melchiorri, host of “Hotel Impossible.” I aspired for a career in the hospitality industry in my teenage years when the Travel Channel show was on, and I watched it on repeat. I used his show more as education than entertainment. It helped me understand the basic standards of operation in the hospitality industry, or really in any business. Watching his show also made me realize that, as an owner or entrepreneur, we have to treat our employees right and fairly, as they are giving their time and effort for our organization to grow and be successful.
I had the opportunity later in the evening at the HITEC Opening Headliner to have a few words with Anthony. I let him know what an inspiration he has been to me in choosing to enter this industry and make a career out of it just like he did — and I thank him for giving me this opportunity to interact with him on such a personal level.
Besides this amazing moment, I enjoyed networking with so many other great individuals and vendors. I reconnected with professionals I had met at HITEC 2022 in Orlando, and also made new connections. I want to take this opportunity to highlight a few of the exhibitors I was able to interact with during HITEC 2023 which have brought new tech to the industry. Phunware Inc. is reinventing how clients can interact with customers through creative app development. Tip&Go aims to assist guests effectively and efficiently tip housekeepers directly through an app, just by scanning a QR code. As we move and grow in the hospitality industry, tech will always advance and become more prominent in the way we travel. Hotels rely on this new tech to advance the ways they operate and ensure guests have the best experience they can provide.
As students and young professionals, it is up to us to be creative and find new ways to help the industry move forward, as well. HFTP organizes a YP social event at HITEC for attendees aged 35 years and younger, which gives young professionals like me the ability to network with other young professionals on a more personal level. I enjoyed this event, as I met others who have just started their own careers and gave me advice on how to navigate the job market, as I am on the hunt for an opportunity to break into the industry.
I want to conclude by thanking the entire HFTP team, especially Brittany Brewster (HFTP Membership Director and head of the HITEC Student Volunteer Program), for making 2023 another memorable HITEC volunteer experience. I cannot wait until HITEC 2024 in Charlotte, North Carolina — where I hope to attend as a full conference attendee to see what new technology will be introduced to help advance the hospitality industry.
Jatin Khemlani is a hospitality student at San Jose State University and student volunteer at HITEC Toronto 2023. He is expected to graduate this Fall with a degree in hospitality tourism and events management.