By: Mark Pate Sr., CHAE, CHTP, MBA, HFTP Global President
What an experience these past two years have been serving as HFTP Global President. There are so many adjectives to describe this unique epoch within HFTP’s 70-year history — challenging, tumultuous, surprising, impressive, inspiring — and I am quite proud to have been a part of it.
Taking on the position as HFTP Global President is not one where you are suddenly placed without much foreknowledge. But rather the HFTP leadership journey is built over years when you gain an understanding of the association’s strategic goals and direction. Usually it starts with a Director position on the HFTP Global Board. And if you choose to apply and are selected, you work through the three positions on the Executive Committee leading to President.
I am explaining this because it was the many hours participating as an HFTP leader, the guidance of my predecessors and the perspectives of this leadership group that were key to my capability to lead our association during a very extraordinary period.
No Success Without a Team
Before continuing, I would like to take a moment to thank the HFTP Global Board of Directors for their willingness to volunteer their time and expertise — even extending their allotted time serving on the Board. I also want to extend gratitude to my mentors on the executive committee: Michael Levie, CHTP, Scott Campbell, CHTP and Timothy Nauss, CHAE+ who were on the Executive Committee when I started as secretary. And serving alongside me these past two years are Neil Foster, CHTP; Stephanie Anderson, CHAE, CPA, CGMA and Justin Taillon, Ph.D., CHTP. Thanks to each of you.
I cannot go on without recognizing the individual who keeps all of the gears moving. That is HFTP CEO Frank Wolfe, CAE, FIH, who celebrated his 30th year at HFTP in 2021. We are blessed to have such a dedicated individual running the association. Frank’s dedication and innovative thinking continue to amaze me. Thank you Frank.
Unknowns and Pivots
My installation as HFTP President was very much a representation of the time. It was part of HFTP’s first virtual Annual Business Meeting in October 2020. It was quite fun and done at a moment when we were all grateful to interact with fellow HFTP members regardless how it was done.
By this time, the HFTP team had already become quite experienced with the virtual presentation format. As we should all remember – because it wasn’t so long ago – HFTP was already providing virtual Zoom Hangouts since the Spring of that year.
Then when we couldn’t host an in-person HITEC for the first time in decades, the first ever CYBER HITEC was held. I don’t think I can adequately express how exciting it was for me. I was amazed by the keynote speakers, the phenomenal education sessions, the high-tech booths of our business partners. All experienced from my own computer screen.
At the start of my term as President we had to proceed when there were still a lot of unknowns — especially whether we could actually return to the in-person, networking gatherings that so many of our stakeholders enjoy. Because of this, the HFTP Global team maintained a strong virtual education program that has helped our members and stakeholders learn and converse. The program remains and the offerings have been plentiful, diverse and informative. Not only are they available live and for free, but past sessions are kept in an archive to accommodate everyone’s schedules.
A Return to What We Know
Thankfully, we were able to return, with caution, to in-person events in 2021. Starting with the March 2021 Club Summit in Fort Lauderdale, Florida and following up that Fall with the co-located HITEC 2021 and HFTP Annual Convention in Dallas, Texas. And as the Pandemic eased and the industry rebounded, so has our in-person programming.
I am pleased that we just celebrated the 50th Anniversary of HITEC in Orlando this past June. The results were stunning. There were over 6,100 attendees and countless comments on how valuable the experience was. Just perusing my LinkedIn feed that week, you would’ve thought there was nothing else going on but HITEC. An illustration of how well our business partners viewed the show, already 83 percent of the 2023 exhibit hall floor is reserved.
Launching into its next era, HFTP plans to invest in the strength of this established event. Especially with the announcement of a brand-new, competing event on the same days of HITEC North America in 2023. We are confident in HITEC and already promising are the unique locations for the next two years: Toronto in 2023 and Charlotte, North Carolina in 2024.
Also gratifying is the show of support for HFTP and HITEC by our allied associations. Supporting HFTP are HSMAI — Hospitality Sales and Marketing Association International Americas; the International Hospitality Information Technology Association — iHITA; International Council on Hotel, Restaurant, and Institutional Education — ICHRIE; Asian American Hotel Owners Association — AAHOA; Women Leading Travel and Hospitality — WLT&H; Club Management Association of America — CMAA; and the Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association — CHTA. Together with our partners we will collaborate to share knowledge for the betterment of the industry.
My involvement in what has just been described would not be a reality without my having taken a step to volunteer with HFTP. My closing request as president is to ask you to volunteer for HFTP. It’s time to take your skill set to a whole new level – volunteering to serve on any of the amazing councils and committees that help get the work of HFTP done. By serving on a council, you will meet some of the most talented people in the hospitality industry. You will also be working with the phenomenal HFTP Global team – the men and women who make HFTP work on a daily basis.
I have had the privilege to serve on the CHAE (Certified Hospitality Accountant Executive) and CHTP (Certified Hospitality Technology Professional) Advisory Councils, the Young Professionals Council, the HITEC Advisory Council, the HFTP Annual Convention Education Advisory Council, the Education Advisory Council and the Editorial Review Council that have been formed over the years. It is by serving on these councils that you are introduced to the inner workings of HFTP and face the challenges that come with moving a one-of-a-kind association like HFTP forward.
Thank you to all of the HFTP members and stakeholders. This has been an experience of a lifetime and I look forward to remaining involved with the association.