A View From The Testbed — Reflecting on HITEC Houston 2018

It’s the end of four hectic weeks at Testbed.Vegas and Cheyne and I are back in Las Vegas focusing on the next events for the community in July.

Time always offers great perspective and since there’s been a little that has passed since being in Houston now is the time to reflect.

There’s a voice in my room!

Rich Siegel of Hospitality Upgrade asked me to give him a hand in his Super Session on Wednesday morning, bright and early at the show.

Alexa at Wynn Las Vegas

It was a spirited session lead by Rich with views, opinions and observations from Nick Price of CitizenM, Ken Barnes of Omni, Gustaf Burman of Montage and Carlos Flores of Sonesta on the topic of, ‘Is More A Perfect Hotel Room’.

The session delved into the state of the guestroom and the various technologies that might be applied in todays environment. Representing such a diverse range of brands did bring about wide ranging views of the application of technology and the dialogue could have continued all day.

When the question was posed to the 200 person audience on whether they would deploy voice based devices into the guestroom only 10% of the audience were in favor.

Naturally, the topic of voice devices in the room was discussed vigorously!

The big takeaway;

When the question was posed to the 200 person audience on whether they would deploy voice based devices into the guestroom only 10% of the audience were in favor.

What would seem to be a fait accompli for the guestroom still has significant hesitation on the part of hoteliers and technologists.

E20X — A tale of two continents

The audience at E20X

This year I have had the good fortune to join the judging panel of HFTP’s E20X Startup Pitch competition in both Amsterdam at HITEC Amsterdam in April and then at HITEC Houston in June.

I’ve particularly enjoyed being a part of the review process with the opportunity to consider the contestants from both a vendor and hotelier perspective based upon my personal background. Also to hear from people who are trying to tackle some of the unresolved challenges in industry via technology.

Cheyne has commented on some of the technology that we thought was interesting or had an angle at HITEC in his previous Medium article. I will focus on the two competitions or more specifically the entrants.

I found the two competitions a reflection of the status of the travel & hospitality technology industry on either side of the Atlantic;

In Amsterdam and as it follows, Europe we are currently seeing a frenzy of technology startups and an industry generating a great deal of attention to the move toward cloud based software platforms.

In North America while established vendors are making that shift, the nature of the contestants also reflected larger more established players looking enter new markets with good ideas based upon technology.

The smart shower from Orbital Systems

It was a different flavor in both competitions, and at the end of the day encouraging to see so many companies making an effort to improve travel and hospitality through technology. Also great to see entrants out of Asia participating.

For the record my stand outs from both shows are;

Kitro — Food and Beverage waste management.

Arrivedo — Local hotel guides and metasearch.

Orbital Systems — It’s a desert out there. It might take a while but it is something that is a great innovation.

Jibestream — Who doesn’t like a good map? These are even more useful.

Sencity — Smart interactive public facility installations. Early days but it’s coming.

What have hotels become?

I love hotels. It’s natural having spent thirty years directly involved in the business of the industry. As such I always look forward to staying in hotels and dare I say it, ‘the experience’. Forgive me.

Service has left the building

Cheyne and I stayed at the Hilton Americas Houston, right next to the George Brown Convention Centre where HITEC was hosted. A good thing as the weather and humidity was tough for a couple of Australian’s now accustomed to the dry heat of the desert.

Overall not a bad hotel. A pleasant stay and a reasonable room product with a good range of food and beverage to please all.

A special mention to Roland in the Lobby Bar who was both an excellent hotelier and provided exemplary service over a six day period.

Of course there is a catch. Due to printing problems with business cards I had to divert a delivery of cards to the hotel for Cheyne.

On the Monday morning I went to the Bell Desk to enquire about my package. They called Fedex to see if they had the package. Fedex? It was then explained to me that Fedex handled all of the mail for the hotel. Upstairs to the Fedex office to collect the parcel. “That will be $2 please.” “What for?”, I ask. “For receiving your parcel.” “I didn’t send you a parcel. I sent the hotel a parcel as I am a guest here. I didn’t ask you to receive my parcel.”


“Could you deliver the cards to Mr Cole’s room please?” “Oh,ahh. Hmm, let me see if I can…..” Never mind. I can see this is going to be a problem. I collect the parcel and head back down to the Concierge.

“Good morning. Can I ask you to deliver this to Mr Cole’s room please?” “Can’t he come down and collect it himself?”, replied the Concierge of the 4.5 star hotel.

Once upon a time hospitality was about extending the services of the home to the guest. Many hospitality companies and hotels market themselves on such a platform. With all of the technology that has come into the market to make service more efficient to deliver, instead we find less service and more “DIY” hotel guest experiences. I wonder why AirBNB is popular?

First Dinner Data

Cheyne and I were fortunate to be invited to dinner by the host with the most, Jacob Buckstead of First Data. Quite the Texan experience from a man who knows Texas, featuring a never ending tasting of various cuts and styles of beef complimented by only the most appropriate pairing of wines. The meal was a first class experience.

Jake Buckstead holding court.

But if hospitality is about anything it’s about great people and great company. It was a memorable evening surrounded by many known and newly met kindred spirits from the industry. No name naming. If you were there you know you were there.

Thanks for the kind hospitality, Bucky!

Beers in Bed

It’s a social industry and as Testbed.Vegas is built around a community we decided to extend our community to Houston for the week of HITEC. We were glad to receive our fellow Las Vegan’s at HITEC, as well as non-Las Vegan’s curious about the Testbed.Vegas story.

Tim Kinsella from Amadeus, with fellow Las Vegan’s Mukund Mohan from Infor and Daniel Montellano from Shift 4 at Beers in Bed

Thanks for joining us and if you didn’t quite make it come and join the Vegas Travel & Technology Meetup in Las Vegas some time.

That’s a wrap. This year HITEC Houston 2018 continued the upward trend in attendance. With so much technology coming in to the marketplace for the industry it comes as no surprise. Congratulations to Frank and the team at HFTP.

All points North to Minnesota next year. I’m looking forward to going lawn bowling again!

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