HM pioneers hotel track at Avixa’s InfoComm 2019

The annual InfoComm event draws more than 44,000 attendees from 110 countries and features 1,000 exhibitors. Photo credit: Avixa

It’s not every day a 144-year-old gets to be a pioneer in the tech space, but today that’s exactly what Hotel Management will get to do. Our legacy magazine, founded in 1875, is partnering with Avixa, the trade association representing the professional audiovisual and information communications industries worldwide, to present the first-ever hotel track at the organization’s InfoComm 2019 conference, which is running through Friday in Orlando at the city’s convention center. The annual event draws more than 44,000 attendees from 110 countries and features 1,000 exhibitors.

In pioneering the six-session hotel track with Avixa, HM has a unique opportunity to educate on the hospitality approach to the industry Avixa serves, certifies and credentials.

Slow but Steady

It’s no secret that as technology began to infiltrate the lodging industry several decades back, hoteliers were not the fastest adopters among commercial enterprises. Indeed, much of what was done “back in the day” at hotels were time-honored manual processes that relied on historic knowledge and, often, gut instinct. In the years since, however, what once was a wait-and-see stance has turned into an I-can’t-wait-to-see approach when it comes to new technology.

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Nowhere is that more apparent than in the industry’s embrace of contemporary audiovisual and virtual-reality platforms. Even the most veteran hotel owner/operator/developer knows that venerable overhead projector needs to go on eBay under “vintage.”

Much of the rush toward tech instead of away from it has to with the overall global perception of hotels and accommodations as more than just places to sleep. Instead, they are consistently being positioned as single-point destinations, harboring great restaurants, meeting space, fitness areas, bars and other offerings to create meaningful “experiences” for today’s travelers. And in these types of spaces (even smaller properties carve out some dedicated areas) you’re likely to find AV equipment in place—anything from a video wall to a video screen—put there with the goal of engaging the guest, creating a great experience and notching a “will return” customer.

But this guest-facing technology is just the tip of the virtual iceberg. Underneath, at the hotel operations level, is where hoteliers are relying on the new technologies to help them capture market share in an ever more-competitive environment so they can see greater profitability and a stronger return on investment.

This focus will be apparent in each of the sessions Hotel Management is presenting.

Right out of the gate, our session, "Helping Hotels Maximize ROI for Multipurpose Space" (2-3 p.m. Thursday) will find panelists offering suggestions on how to finesse space so it’s bookable for almost any event, even if it’s a single room. Incorporating an AV experience into such a space can help enhance and define it, from displaying beautiful floralscapes on large screens for an intimate wedding to interactive displays on a large-scale video wall for business meetings.

Jeff Loether, president of Electro-Media Design and panelist on the ROI session, noted having the hotel track at InfoComm 2019 helps sharpen the focus on how “hotels ‘consume’ a lot of AV technologies during development and over their service lifetime. Every AV integrator has hotels in their market area, so learning about what hotel developers, designers, brands and operating managers care about will help the integrators know how to approach hotels with relevant solutions.”  

Learning about and understanding the direction the hotel industry is going in terms of the AV experience is important, Loether indicated. “Hotel designers are moving to integrate technology into interior design for both basic meeting AV services and as featured design elements. This is for basic display and sound; very few hotel developers or managers are looking to become technology showcases. Focus on getting the basics done well.”

 As a panelist, Loether wants attendees to take away the knowledge there’s “a critical distinction between the ‘tech-friendliness’ (lighting, power, acoustics) of a hotel event space and how effective the AV technologies are. "We cannot fix a ‘bad room’ by throwing technology at it. Second, most of the ‘wow factor’ technology that is associated with events is temporarily provided by outside AV-rental and production companies; they are not permanently installed," he said. "But the infrastructure necessary to accommodate those technologies must be built in. Finally, hotels increasingly need to have preventative maintenance arrangements with their local AV integrators to keep the technologies operating optimally. Hotels are not equipped to maintain these technologies themselves.”

Training in the 21st Century

Getting down to basics can’t exclude associates at a property and our session, "Using VR to Help Train Your Staff" (12:30-1:30 p.m. Thursday) will have our panel of experts offering tips and suggestions on implementing this virtual-reality process, which can run the gamut from showing a housekeeper the right way to clean a room to training servers how to properly serve food to restaurant customers.

Speaking of restaurants, HM’s third track, "Utilizing Digital Signage to Bring Your F&B Outlets to Life" (12:30-1:30 p.m. Thursday), will look beyond those sports bar big-screen TVs at more ways to use AV technology to entice guests to your restaurants when they are at your hotel and to entertain and inform them once they are in your establishment.

And who doesn’t like to be entertained? Our session "Virtual Reality Entertainment in Hotels" (2-3 p.m. Thursday) will help attendees understand the pros and cons to adding VR entertainment to any size property, whether it’s a small hotel’s VR art gallery or a megaresort’s VR roller coaster.

Hoteliers are understanding that guests more and more want to be engaged in their accommodations stay and it is becoming even more critical on the meetings front. Our panelists on the session "Interactive Virtual Meetings in Hotels" (1:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m. Wednesday) will examine how next-gen AV equipment is changing the way both small and large-scale meetings are organized and is there a way to balance in-person interactions with the appeal of digital communication? And what if the Wi-Fi fails during a remote presentation? These topics and other issues will be discussed by our experts.

Chris Vollmer, communications director at Shackman Associates, is one of those on the panel. He told Hotel Management having a hotel track at InfoComm this year brings the current environment into focus for attendees. "Collaboration and engagement have never been more important when many companies have remote employees globally," he said. "And today's hotels, both at the major-brand and boutique level, understand this. That is why hotel venues are providing a combined remote conferencing and in-person meeting experience."

He also noted it’s important for InfoComm attendees to learn and understand the direction the hotel industry is going in terms of the AV experience.

"Hotels understand that many meeting and event attendees want either very intimate AV experiences, like luxury screening rooms, or [to be wowed] with a touch of local intrigue. Sometimes both. Furthermore, instead of having attendees walking into a venue with the usual visuals, they can experience projection mapping with sounds and images that can lower anxiety and create more engagement. And that includes 3-D components. This also works at much larger levels like conventions."

As a panelist on the “Interactive Virtual Meetings” session, Vollmer said he’s looking to impart a takeaway that, "Cookie-cutter is done. Most attendees want a hybrid AV experience that leads to collaboration off-site, which in-turn, leads to company culture enhancement.”

One area where the lodging industry does not fail is to take into account the special needs of guests and meeting/conference attendees, with Americans with Disabilities Act-compliant accommodations a national mandate. Our sixth session, "Making AV Equipment ADA Accessible for Hotel Meetings" (11 a.m.-noon Wednesday)  targets inclusivity. As hotel sales teams look to capture small and large group business, they need to ensure they’re not missing out on bringing in groups that include those with disabilities. Our panel will offer best practices around making AV equipment and screens ADA-compliant to meet regulations and accommodate a variety of groups and group members.

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