Just back from this year’s HITEC in Toronto, Canada, and wanted to give you an insight into what I thought was new and interesting.
As background, The Hospitality Industry Technology Exposition and Conference (HITEC®) is the world’s largest and oldest hospitality technology event having started in 1972.
Back then Technology was in its infancy and large hotels were looking into the first renditions of front-office property management systems, electronic cash registers, and point-of-sale systems. Today, HITEC is a well-known, global event with thousands of attendees and hundreds of companies. In Toronto this year there were over 4,500 attendees, over 325 exhibitors, and a top-notch education program at the Metro Toronto Convention Center from June 26-29.
Not sure if you picked up. HITEC is a 100% hotel technology show. No F&B, No Beds or in-room furniture just Tech. As you would expect all of the major players in hotel technology are there. Whilst many of them use HITEC to announce new products and features, I have found that most of the innovation lies with the smaller, often first-time attendees at HITEC and of course with the E20X start-up program which I talk about further below.
Artificial Intelligence (AI)
Each year there is an unofficial theme at HITEC. A few years ago it was Voice Assistants. This year it was Artificial Intelligence (AI) which is not surprising given the press that ChatGPT has received. There were lots of companies referencing AI and ChatGPT. I think at this point a lot of this is marketing speak. There were a few companies that are truly using AI and I will talk about a number of them below.
As you know I have written about robots quite a bit and this is an area that is starting to gain some real traction. This was evident with a number of robotics companies at the show. Three vendors were first-time exhibitors (Aethon, Piaggio Fast Forward & Robotis) and two prior exhibitors Relay Robotics (formerly called Savoike who are pioneers in hotel Butler robots) and Tailos (formerly Maindbot with their vacuum robot, Rosie).
Virtual Voice Assistants
One of the solution areas that really sparked my interest was Virtual Voice Assistants.
These solutions combine intelligent IVR with AI technology and machine learning to answer calls and have conversations with guests. With an almost human-like interaction, these solutions can take both external and internal calls. They can take bookings, answer frequently asked questions, take requests for wake-up calls, room items, and even maintenance requests. These assistants can reduce calls to your team by up to 75%. This takes the pressure off your team freeing them up to carry out other duties and engage with guests face-to-face.
It also results in a better guest experience. All calls are answered, there is zero hold time and it’s a consistent experience every time. Of course, the guest can be transitioned to an actual team member along with the full dialogue of the call.
Back in 2015, HITEC introduced the Entrepreneur 20X (E20X). The program features ambitious start-ups presenting their innovative hospitality technology concepts to a room full of HITEC attendees and a panel of expert judges including hospitality CIOs, angel investors, serial entrepreneurs, and industry insiders. Participants compete for the chance to be recognized as one of the top startup business concepts, voted on by the panel of expert judges (Judge’s Choice Award) and the audience (People’s Choice Award).
At this years HITEC, seven companies participated in the E20X competition: Aphy, Buk, eTip, Laasie, PassiveBolt, PricingService.ai, and WrkSpot.
PassiveBolt won the 2023 Judge’s Choice Award and PricingService.ai for winning the 2023 People’s Choice Award! I thought both wins were well deserved.
PassiveBolt is using Self-Sovereign Identity (SSI) to decentralise personal data storage so that every traveller is the guardian of their personal information. What this means is that guests allow the hotel access to their travel profile for the length of their stay. This means that hotels will longer need to keep all of their guests’ personally identifiable data in a giant data warehouse, which then becomes a target for cybercriminals. Instead, guest’s own and store their own personal data. As it’s a single source and owned by the guest they will be more willing to keep it up to date and therefore hotels will have access to more accurate data. PassiveBolt’s solution is designed to connect the guest with hospitality & travel companies including hotels. PassiveBolt doesn’t store any data either. I recently published an interview with Nick Price former CIO for Mandarin Oriental & Citizen M on Self-Sovereign Identity and how it will change the hospitality industry. It’s early days but it’s great to see companies such as PassiveBolt commercialising self-sovereign identity.
PricingService.ai was the winner of the People’s Choice award and got my vote. They have an AI-based pricing service that can automatically price your hotel rooms. No revenue management personnel, systems or experience is required! It’s software as a service (SaaS) which means it’s like Netflix, with a simple monthly charge. It integrates with the hotel’s PMS and updates hotel pricing behind the scenes without any human interaction required.
It was great to see two local companies exhibiting at HITEC; Goki with their WiFi door locks and Myma.ai (formerly BookmeBob) with their AI Chatbot which is now also using ChatGPT to answer even more questions for guests.
It also integrates with competitor pricing information (OTA Insight), NOAA (weather data), and event data sources. PricingService.ai will update your room pricing every few hours 24 x 7, 365 days a year. The solution is ideal for independent hotels that do not have Revenue Managers and many general managers are spending 10-15 hours a week on pricing. PricingService.ai provides a way to give them that time back while also ensuring pricing decisions are made both smarter and faster as market conditions change.
GAIN – Growth Advisors International Network
You may have seen that I am now part of global advisors group called GAIN. It’s a global network of advisors and exceptionally talented leaders with real-world experience working together to grow travel and hospitality companies.
We operate within a hub that provides companies looking to grow their business with advisory talent and services around finance and operations, funding, product development, IT, PR, sales, and marketing.
There are 27 of us from all around the world and HITEC was the first time that many of us met.
It was also an opportunity to truly launch GAIN. This was done via a VIP event at the Hockey Hall of Fame. Over 200 people attended and many said that it was the best event at this year’s HITEC!
In Good Company
I am already in discussion with many of the companies I mentioned above about helping them bring their technology to the Australian market. I have been doing this since 2005 and it’s the reason our parent company is called Business Development Asia Pacific.
We are already working with Beekeeper who won the E20X peoples choice award at HITEC in 2018 and SABA Hospitality who won the same award at HITEC in 2019.
Beekeeper is a cloud-based internal communication platform for sharing information and providing secure business messaging. Think LinkedIn & WhatsApp combined with SOP’s just for your property. Secure and accessible by all of the team via a mobile phone. If you’d like to learn more, click here.
SABA is a digital compendium, ordering solution, and chatbot. Your guests accessed it via a QR code so there is no need to download anything. SABA is being used by 60 plus hotels in Australia including Wyndham Destinations, Star Entertainment Group, Meriton, Amora Hotels as well as many others. If you’d like to learn more, click here.
Need help considering or selecting the best technology for your Hotel and guests? Technology 4 Hotels can save you time and hassle, and help you increase your revenue. If you have feedback on this article or would like to connect, please get in touch via phone +61 2 8317 4000, or book a time for a complimentary 15-minute Tech Chat, just click here.