HITEC was fast-paced and brilliant this year, even bigger and better than years past. There were more attendees and vendors than ever, and it showed in the volume (dialed to 20) and in the content. Though there were fresh ideas circulating everywhere we turned, here are what we think are the five most universally useful and important takeaways from HITEC 2016.
The Guest Journey and How to Make Data More Human
Big data on its own is fine, but it is way more valuable when it is integrated and actionable. When these two things are in place, you have far more insight into the way your guests interact with you, your competitors, and each other. Jer Thorp’s keynote spoke to making data more human. When we do this, we create empathy, and empathy is the path to true guest engagement. Rather than a list of numbers—be they phone numbers, website visits, or any number of other possibilities—putting guest data in the context of the bigger picture of your property and the experience means you’ll be present in the right places at the right time at every stage of the guest journey. For more on this, read our series on the Guest Booking Path.
Communication vs. Guest Engagement
The term “guest engagement” is popular these days. There was much discussion during the conference about the difference between communication and engagement. Take mobile check-in, for instance. This is a feature. It’s categorically one directional—a means to an end for a guest—and, therefore qualifies as communication. Engagement, on the other hand, is about the fulfillment of a guest experience. It is personal, tailored, and drives loyalty. Guest engagement continues to be the Holy Grail, but it’s not as easy as adding new mobile features. Digging deep into your data and finding out what your guests want from their experience of your property then figuring out how to give it to them is the answer.
Dos & Don’ts of Investing in Technology
It’s time for a paradigm shift: technology should make you money, not cost you money. Making this happen requires integrating your tech stack so that different departments have access to the same information and can align their goals. For instance, marketing and reservation sales should have access to the same information, so they understand campaign performance and resulting call demand. A big hit at our booth was our “13 Questions to Ask Before Marrying a Technology Partner.” Have a look as you consider your options post-show.
Relevant to all of the above topics is cultivating the ability to think and act like a start-up. The hospitality industry has operated in basically the same way for a long time; it really is time to innovate. Whether you’re trying to improve your guest experience or determine how to reach guests at any point during the booking cycle, ask yourself, “What if?” and “Why not?” Don’t limit yourself; instead consider ideas beyond the status quo—all the possibilities—so that you can truly do something new and turn your guests into die-hard fans.
So Much Fun
As far as HITEC events go, it doesn’t get much better than this one. Our sales team stayed busy with request for demos of NAVIS’s new Competitive Assessment Calculator, which shows how much revenue your missing based on existing demand. Our Bourbon Street party kicked it up a notch with great music and even better friends and colleagues from all over the travel industry. (We hear there are stories!) And, as with everyone who attends HITEC, we came back energized about the year to come and ready to help our clients innovate and engage!