This November, I had the honor to represent HFTP on my first official trip as HFTP president in Shanghai to attend and speak at AHTEC 2.0 @ FHC China. This was the second AHTEC (Asian Hospitality Technology Educational Conference), which was jointly organized by China International Exhibitions, Ltd.; Hong Kong Exhibition Services and HFTP. The conference program was expertly organized by Terence Ronson of Pertlink, Ltd.
The whole trip was an eye-opening experience for me, and any of my preconceived notions of what Shanghai and China were going to be like were quickly thrown out. Instead I discovered a clean and vibrant locale with a lot to offer.
A Bit of Tourism
Upon arrival in Shanghai from Beijing via the High Speed Railway, I was awed by the cleanliness of the station and the city. Luckily, I was able to spend my first day being a bit of a tourist. I had an opportunity to visit and experience the wonderful old town streets and shops – quickly getting a hang of local bargaining practices (never pay more than thirty percent of the asking price– including the walking away trick).
One concern for me before heading east was what I was going to eat. I am a strict Hindu Vegetarian, and was not sure that it would be so easy to find pure vegetarian meals. However, I quickly discovered this was a nonissue. In China, there are many Buddhist followers who also have a vegetarian diet, thus there were plenty of vegetarian restaurants to choose from.
What was funny was, when I first read the menu at such a restaurant, there were categories for Chicken, Pork, Steak, Fish, etc. – which was slightly confusing. When I asked the server how these menu items qualified as “vegetarian,” it was explained to me that all these foods were made from soybean with the different products’ textures mimicking the listed meats. In the end I decided to stick with what I knew, eating delicious vegetable and tofu meals.
AHTEC 2.0@FHC China
Of course I did not travel all this way to be a tourist (although that wouldn’t have been bad). I was there to attend AHTEC 2.0. The next day I went to the Shanghai New Convention and Exhibition Center where AHTEC was hosted with the China Food Show. The crowd was overwhelming and it took me 30 minutes to get into this huge place, needing to ask five people where the registration counter was.
Even though I got there an hour early, I barely made it to the AHTEC conference room by 10 a.m., where Terence Ronson opened the conference with a bang. The room was packed, with no extra seats available – easily surpassing the attendance from the previous year (and going beyond the planners’ expectations).
The planners did a great job with accommodating for the bilingual audience – Mandarin and English speakers. We each had headsets that were used to listen to the translations of the presentations. So for me, it was no problem to understand what was being said by the Chinese speakers, and vice versa for the Chinese attendees who were able to understand the English speaking presenters (like me). Really we were all able to communicate with each other easily through translators and it was quite fun.
Once I looked past the novelty (for me) of being in China, I have to say the program itself was tremendous. The speakers were the best in their field, and the line-up was likely why the conference was a sellout. The topics were current and each speaker did justice to the topic they presented.
The conference offered a two-day program. Some of the topics included cloud computing, a China and Asia Pacific hotel market analysis, a global trends discussion panel(which I participated in), international technology standards, working with Chinese developers, a CIO/CTO panel (which I participated in) and much more. I would recommend visiting the conference page to review the full line-up.
In addition to the educational component, I enjoyed meeting hospitality professionals from the region. This was especially easy to do at the scheduled receptions, where I met with a number of industry leaders from China, as well as with educators who were very much interested in what HFTP does. I am working with the HFTP Global office to initiate the formation of a student chapter at Beijing University.
On top of all this, HFTP also had a booth on the show floor of FHC China. HFTP’s very own Director of Meetings and
Special Events, Steven Stout, CAE, represented our association, handing out information on HFTP and explaining how the attendees could join. He was ably assisted by a young woman from Shanghai, who translated for him. This was quite a help, for I amusingly watched him smile and go blank when he was approached by a local who would engage with him in Chinese.
Finally on the last day, we were invited by the China Hospitality Technology Alliance, an organization that promotes technology companies and brings them in front of buyers, for a wonderful dinner at a restaurant that was in a building that looked like an English castle.
In a nutshell HFTP is well received and respected in China with our partners who we collaborate with. This kind of event is new and everyone was very happy that we were able to bring all the colleagues and peers together to one location where they exchanged knowledge and were able to network with each other. Isn’t HFTP about creating opportunities in education, networking, sharing and learning from each other? We did accomplish that mission.
I invited all the attendees to come and join us at HITEC 2013 in Minneapolis and also offered them to become HFTP members. I can say for sure we will see some of them at HITEC this coming year.
R.P. Rama, CHA, CHTP, CHAE was recently installed as Global President of Hospitality Financial and Technology Professionals (HFTP). Rama is also vice president and CTO/CIO of JHM Hotels in Greenville, S.C. Rama has been a member of HFTP since 1991, and has previously served on the HFTP Global board.