Last Friday I attended the HBAA Technology Showcase, held at the Holiday Inn Regent’s Park, London. It was the first Technology Showcase event organized by the Technology, Innovation and Environment committee of the Hotel Booking Agents Association, and was made up of several supplier stands and a main conference style event with speakers from the board and from the hospitality industry alike. Being employed within the hotel technology industry and this being my specialist area, the show was of particular interest, as it’s one of the only UK based technology forums purely for the hotel industry.
In attendance where a mixture of suppliers, including Amadeus, Sabre and Travelport, ABC Connection, Conferma, Hotelzon, Lanyon, Travel Click and Rate tiger, along with numerous hoteliers and some HBA’s.
Peter Ducker, the Executive Chairman of the HBAA introduced the day to delegates, shortly followed by an excellent presentation from Trevor Elswood (BSI / Capita) commenting on how the technology industry works in different ways for businesses to pull together their own bespoke in house development systems. Trevor delivered a great speech to the delegates, clearly mapping out where several high profile hotel businesses sat in this world and shared his own experiences heading up BSI, one the biggest hotel booking companies in the UK.
Jacqui Bentley Mckenna was next on stage, sharing her views on the different operators in the technology jungle, from the various GDS’s to how online travel agencies operated and sourced content.
The day was also made up several supplier sessions, where each technology company had five minutes to describe where they fit into the technology arena and what they do. Suppliers included Venue Directory, Travelport, Sabre Hospitality, Pegasus, Lanyon and a rather impassioned presentation from ABC Connections.
Other topics discussed during the day included content, hotel distribution, off the shelf and bespoke systems, as well as everyone participating in a roundtable discussion, largely based around content.
So what were the key take-aways? Actually, for me personally, nothing particularly new. The biggest talking point, both in the conference sessions and when talking to delegates, was that “content is king”. Nothing new there, I am sure we all know it. There’s no point choosing a technology partner that doesn’t have the right content, and the right quality of content. If you’re a UK specialist, worldwide content has no bearing in what your offering customers, so choose UK specialist. If you’re a meetings and events organiser, the content you see needs to be accurate and preferable contain all the information you need on the meeting space, from size of rooms to full facility lists. Picking the wrong provider (or going on cost) isn’t the answer.
Although not directly from the conference, but from the many conversations I had with delegates, the other big point I took away was the need to really make sure your technology suppliers are investing in their technology, and therefore, you. So many people told me that nothings changed in what they have taken from the technology guys in the last 5 years, and frankly, that’s unacceptable. Technology in moving at the fastest rate possible, more and more bespoke companies are setting up and offering mind blowing technology. Bookings are now even possible directly on Facebook pages (something else spoken about in detail during the conference sessions). So it you’re left behind, even for a year, its you that suffers and becomes uncompetitive. My advice is to genuinely check what any potential technology supplier if committed to delivering in their product roadmap. If they can’t tell you, chances are there’s no plan.
Of course, social media was discussed, and actually it was the hoteliers in the room showing the most concern over latest developments rather than the HBA’s. There is genuine concern over the latest moves from Groupon and Expedia, along with technology opening up yet another distribution and booking channel – being able to book directly on a hotels (or OTA’s) Facebook pages etc.
So what did I think of the event? It was great! It was a perfect place to discuss and debate how technology is shaping our industry and what’s ahead. My only comment is that there should have been more HBA’s in the room, as there were more suppliers and hoteliers in attendance. Remembering this was the first such showcase, I am looking forward to more to come in 2013.