The 4 biggest trends from this year's HITEC show

HITEC 2016

The Hospitality Industry Technology Exposition & Conference, held this year in New Orleans, is a place to showcase innovations and ideas of every stripe. Here are four of HOTEL MANAGEMENT's picks regarding the biggest trends on the show's ground level. 

1. Connectivity

The industry has a fascination with gadgets and applications, many of which were available for attendees to play with on the showroom floor (such as the Microsoft HoloLens, which had a proof-of-concept on display with housekeeping applications courtesy of technology developer Amadeus), but many of the largest developments at HITEC stressed connectivity. 

As discussed in HOTEL MANAGEMENT's Technology Roundtable, the industry is inundated with disparate systems that are either unwilling or unable to interact with each other. Offering guests the ability to print a document in the lobby from their guestroom is convoluted due to the growing web of back-end systems used by hotels, and developers are acknowledging the issue.  

In response, companies such as ALICE (A Life Improving Customer Experience) are offering the option to network an entire suite of services at a hotel through a single smartphone app, simplifying the process. 

"Boutique hotels used to buy products from three entities in order to offer this kind of service," said Alexander Shashou, founder & president of ALICE. "If it's all under one umbrella, you can understand what guests are doing at every interaction in the hotel."

 2. The User Experience 

Comparing the user interface of a property-management system or data analysis-tool to nearly any app in the consumer space is not fair. Commercial applications tend to have unvarnished, bare visuals that are often overwhelming for new users. But as tools become more sophisticated and turnover rates remain high, hotels are recognizing that they need programs that are simpler to understand. 

ProfitSword, a business-intelligence-software provider founded in 2001, just completed its first ever UI upgrade. The new layout is streamlined to allow for an easier understanding of the tool's processes, and was designed to be more user-friendly overall. 

"We have added technology to the system in the past, but customers were demanding more," said company co-founder Mike Patton. 

China

3. An Eye on China 

China is turning heads at nearly every conference. The country is the No. 1 source of outbound travel in the world, and its 128 million international travelers spent $292 billion in 2015. An entire session at the show was dedicated toward understanding the mindset of Chinese travelers and developing technology and practices to be more accommodating to them.  

But if your hotel is starting the process now, you have some catching up to do, according to Chris Garland, SVP of operations finance at Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts. "China is global already," he said. "From every angle." 

Hacker

4. Security 

HOTEL MANAGEMENT covered security discussions at HITEC earlier this week, but it's presence and importance at the show bears repeating. Christopher Pogue, SVP of cyberthreat analysis with security software developer and consultant Nuix, said there are only three types of businesses out there from a security standpoint: Those that have been hacked, those that are currently being hacked and those that are about to be hacked. 

"At last count there, has been $3 trillion made on the Internet's black market," Pogue said. "There is no mandatory sentencing for crimes regarding credit card information, unlike other crimes, making this a safe haven for criminals." 

Pogue offered many answers to the industry's hacker problem, but chief among them were admitting you have security flaws and dedicating time and energy to changing them. 

"Understand there is a return on investment for security," Pogue said. "It's not a waste of money. There is a loss of money, customer confidence and damage to the brand. It takes at least one year to recover reputation wise."  

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