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Last month I had the opportunity to travel to Austin with our hospitality industry team to join the more than 6,000 participants at this year’s HITEC technology conference.

I think this year’s record attendance, its record number of exhibitors, the volume of interest, the showcases, even Microsoft’s level of activity to some extent, were all fueled by the same strong undercurrent this is sweeping the industry forward. Which is?

The transformative potential of today’s digital technologies is real. And the hospitality industry is ready to take advantage of it! Here are my top five takeaways and observations from this year’s show.

  1. Guest-facing technologies were top of mind for hospitality organizations and vendors.
    Hoteliers are looking to embrace modern technologies to differentiate their brand and deliver a better, more personalized guest experience throughout their stay. This was a big focus area in the Microsoft booth and our immersive Connected-Room demo and meeting suite—showing how Windows 10, Microsoft’s cloud and partner technologies can come together to create engaging in-room experiences—was a big draw for attendees. You can read more about it here.
  2. The industry wants to be more mobile, offer guests the digital experience they’re used to.
    We saw a lot of interest in mobility, both as a way to offer guests the digital experience and convenience they are used to in their personal lives, and as a tool for staff to also better serve their guests. Our mobility showcase was always busy, with great partner solutions for delivering mobile experiences throughout the property.
  3. Hoteliers want connectivity, but connectivity and insights throughout their systems.
    Systems and data integration have been an ongoing industry discussion for a number of years, but at this year’s show a sense of urgency was apparent. In order to truly drive that transformative guest experience, we saw strong interest and questions towards taking the steps to enable that.
  4. Hospitality organizations need interoperability.
    In additional to touch and voice capabilities, one of the biggest features of Windows 10 that stood out during our meetings is its ability to seamlessly integrate and move with you from one environment to another—from tablet to PC to smartphone. During our Technology Showcase session, Scot Campbell from Caesars Entertainment publicly echoed these sentiments, saying, “Windows 10 blows my mind with its promise of being ubiquitous across form factors.”
  5. The industry walks the walk when it comes to hospitality.
    After an absence from HITEC for the last couple years, the industry was incredibly welcoming to us and we thank you! We appreciated the warm reception and were honored to be able to toast John Inge, the outgoing HTNG President, at our evening reception.

HITEC 2015 was a tremendous showcase of the new digital era of business, and we are excited to see hotels ready to embrace today’s transformative technologies to reimagine the guest experience, connect operations and empower their workforce.
We look forward to seeing you again at next year’s event in New Orleans and what the year will bring in the meantime! What other highlights stood out for you? We’d love to hear about them in the comments.

LinkedIn: Greg Jones
Twitter: @gjonesMSFT