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Highlights from HTNG's North American Conference

“Loyalty, Schmoyalty,” said former Forrester analyst Henry Harteveldt, founder of Atmosphere Research (, to a packed house of hotel technology executives and industry solution providers at HTNG’s 2016 North American Conference (March 1-3, Amelia Island. Fla.;  “Guests are fickle. If they don’t find what they want from you, and you aren’t leveraging your data in the right way to serve them, they will move onto a competitor.”

This was the first North American members meeting under the helm of HTNG CEO Michael Blake, and membership turned out in record numbers for the association’s flagship conference. “I’m very pleased with the outcome of this year’s conference. Beyond the record attendance and beautiful beach setting, the guest speakers were spectacular and the workgroup sessions were a huge success — the best so far,” said Blake.

Workgroup meetings focus on standards development, best practices, white papers and general technology guidance. At the annual conference, these groups of hoteliers, vendors and consultants gather to hone in on challenges within the global hospitality industry, focusing on topics such as PII, credit card security, Internet of Things, bulk data, scalable cellular systems, new hotel construction and more. 
On the main stage, executives discussed immediate and critical objectives in the “IT Leaders” panel. “The low-hanging fruit is in rich data. We need to access it, turn it into knowledge, and eventually into wisdom,” said Kris Singleton, who has held CIO roles with Omni Hotels & Resorts, and the Cosmopolitan Las Vegas. The panel was rounded out by HTNG president and CIO of Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group Monika Nerger, Darla Morse, CIO for Seaworld Parks & Entertainment, and Page Petry, chief IT officer of the Americas at Marriott International. The panelists received commendation from the audience for not only their expertise, but for the powerful example they set for other women in the industry. “We must take a moment to acknowledge that this IT Leaders panel is populated by all women, and the great example that sets,” observed consultant John Burns during the Q&A.

Attending members voted in the winner of the annual TechOvation Awards. The awards showcased 15 technologies, with each entrant given five minutes to present their solution. The winner was selected via a live web-based poll. Interel won the Tech Ovation Award for developing the world’s first touch-controlled, IP-based water management system. The solution includes an icon-based guestroom basin and shower control panel, combined with an electronic water valve controller.

HTNG offered an update on a joint venture with University of Central Florida (UCF) to create a Center for Innovation in Hospitality Technology on the grounds of the UCF’s Rosen College of Hospitality Management. The Center will include an IT test lab where technology suppliers can demonstrate new solutions, and both University students and consumers will provide feedback to influence solution development.

“The school is in the midst of the tourism zone of Central Florida, next to the convention center. We’ll be able to bring in customers and test solutions — it will be open to everyone to exhibit and explore,” said Dr. Abraham Pizam, Dean of UCF’s Rosen College. HTNG expects the center to help to set standards for the hotel room of the future. Industry association HFTP has signed on as a founding sponsor.

At the annual board meeting all officers were re-elected for another year. “I’m honored to serve as your president for another term, alongside so many great leaders in our industry,” said Nerger.  
In his closing remarks, Blake hinted at the future of HTNG as growing “even bigger and better.” “Next year, we have some interesting changes planned, so stay tuned for more information in the upcoming months.”   

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