Hotel Technology Forum 2012: Hotels Navigate High-Speed Innovation

Senior executives from across the hotel industry gathered at Hospitality Technology’s eighth annual Hotel Technology Forum (HTF) to discuss challenges and opportunities facing the hotel industry, and the role technology can play as an enabler to service and growth. This year’s conference, held April 18-20, 2012, saw record attendance, as more than 150 hoteliers came to host venue The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas for three days of networking and educational sessions. With a theme of “High Speed Innovation: Navigating the Lodging Technology Revolution,” HTF 2012 delivered valuable insights on topics ranging from negotiation expertise, to in-room innovations, to cloud computing.

During the opening night cocktail reception, attendees were eager to see what solutions were being presented in the exhibit hall. Kris Singleton, CIO of host hotel The Cosmopolitan, admitted she was most excited about discovering new technologies that would allow The Cosmopolitan to advance its real-time enterprise data warehouse and fully utilize its systems for interactive and predictive analysis. “I think that’s going to be the real game-changer in making sure that we are meeting all of our guest expectations at all touch-points,” she said.

A packed networking hall helped make the Forum a must-attend event for hoteliers seeking low-pressure dialogue with both their peers and leading technology partners. “HTF is an excellent conference with the right length and balance of hotelier and vendor engagement,” noted Vivek Shaiva, CIO for La Quinta Inns & Suites.

The opening keynote, presented by Bill Garcia, managing partner of TableForce, was titled, “The Art of Negotiation: Expectations Impact Outcome,” and focused on effective negotiation skills, while preserving healthy relationships. The keynote session was followed by the presentation of the 2012 Hotel Visionary Awards by Hospitality Technology editor-in-chief, Abigail Lorden. This year’s winners were Flamingo Las Vegas, Hilton Worldwide, La Quinta Inns & Suites and Gaylord Entertainment (profiled in this month’s cover story.)

Lorden also presented the results of HT’s 2012 Lodging Technology Study. The research, conducted in partnership with University of Nevada, Las Vegas, offered insights into hotel tech budgets, trends and priorities. The session concluded by identifying several key challenges facing the industry, and HTF attendees were prompted, via live text message polling, to identify which of those takeaways was highest on their own priority lists. The top challenge, said attendees, will be providing robust bandwidth across the entire property (39%). Keeping pace with guest expectations came in second (23%), followed by having the right IT talent to get the job done (17%).  Concerns over mobile application development (13%) and having the necessary budget (9%) rounded out the list. “The stats in the study were really informative, especially the spending and budget stats. I will go back and use that information through project planning on budgets,” shared John Edwards, director of IT for Dolce Hotels & Resorts.

The second day of sessions was keynoted by Bruce Hoffmeister, global CIO, Marriott International, who spoke on “Management Excellence for IT Leaders.” The session discussed many of the issues facing IT leaders and offered insight for creating departmental excellence, including recruiting and retaining the right IT executives; fostering cross-departmental collaboration; managing and prioritizing demands; and determining when to develop and when to outsource.

The complete schedule was rounded out with an array of sessions and concurrent workshops led by high level hotel executives from across the industry on such topics as network security, business intelligence, sustainability, cloud computing, mobility, and more. In a lively session on “Tackling the Guestroom’s Biggest Challenges,” Scot Campbell, vice president & CIO, Pinnacle Entertainment, moderated a panel comprised of Randy Dearborn, vice president, multimedia & guest technology, MGM Resorts, Monika Nerger, CIO, Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group, and Kris Singleton, CIO, The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas. The panel discussed a wide range of issues affecting the guestroom, including mobile apps, in-room controls, tablets, televisions, bandwidth and more. The session concluded with Nerger voicing a sentiment that could be applied to the hospitality industry as a whole: “Hold onto your hats, it’s going to be an interesting few years.”

New this year was the 2012 HTF conference app, available for iPhone/iPad and Android devices. The app allowed registered attendees to view the conference schedule, create a personal agenda, upload and view photos and live feeds from HTF, plus download maps of the hotel and conference space.

HTF 2013 will take place in April in Las Vegas. Stay tuned to for complete details.

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