Another year and another great show! Thank you once again to Hospitality Technology, EnsembleIQ, and HTNG for putting on what is one of Merchant Link’s favorite shows. New Orleans certainly is a great destination and spot to hold this intimate conference with its vast food options and choice of fun activities to build great relationships. Again this year the show was a great mix of fun and the latest in travel and hospitality technology trends.
Though Day One was a travel day and booth setup for me, I did hear that the cruise on the Mississippi was really fun. Day Two kicked off with Keynote Speaker Lee Kitchens from Disney who spoke on using imagination and lateral thinking to solve real world problems. Once the examples Lee gave was how his team used lateral thinking to rid the Disneyworld Park from the entrance turnstile bottleneck. This session was really impactful and will be a tactic I take back and try at Merchant Link. Also on Day 2, we attended a session on mobile hotel rooms, facial recognition in the hotel lobby, and the personalization of the hotel booking process to make a more frictionless experience.
Day Three began with an interesting keynote which piggybacked on facial recognition by Gregory Forbes from Delta Airlines. Delta’s new facial recognition program is exciting technology designed to keep high security standards yet process the ever growing volume of airline travelers through aging and space limited airports. Forbes claimed that this software saves an average of nine minutes of time in the boarding process per flight and provides a more seamless travel experience through the airport. Another very interesting breakout session was the panel discussion on Cultivating Loyalty in a Disloyal World whose panelists included representatives from Best Western, Caesars, Choice Hotels, and Red Lion hotels. The panel discussed new and different ways their organizations cultivated loyalty among their guests. Day Two also featured the HTNG Workgroup sessions. Two of note were the Hospitality Payment Ecosystem (of which Merchant Link is a member) and the GDPR Workgroup meetings. Each addressed the unique challenges facing the hospitality industry from the rise of Alternate Payments, to the ongoing security and virtual card handling challenges, to the unique issues with the increase of prepayment card not present transactions. Finally the IT Leadership Panel, which included members from Marriott, Loews, Four Seasons, and the Atlanta Hawks, discussed using renovations, acquisitions or upgrades as disruptors to improve guest experience. All mentioned picking the right partners in business that are either extensions of the team or that fill in gaps or weaknesses.
Day Four was mostly booth breakdown and last minute client meeting day.
Thank you to all the clients who stopped by, it was great to see everyone and thank you to all who attended our dinner and festivities. A great time was had as always! See you again at HITEC and next year at HT NEXT 2020!