Time for technology
If you're visiting Hotelympia at London's ExCel this month, then why not allocate some time to find out more about the technologies and technological issues likely to affect the industry this year by visiting the Hostec-EurHotec exhibition and conference? Whether you're a hotelier, restaurateur, caterer or pub operator, Hostec-EurHotec gives you the opportunity to see the latest hospitality technology all in one place. The last time the exhibition and conference was held in London - alongside Hotelympia in 2002 - about 7,000 people attended. This year's event is expected to be even busier.
The show is organised by Fresh RM, but is co-produced by Accuvia Events and the International Hotel & Restaurant Association (IH&RA). Accuvia Events, which is based in Maryland, USA, also manages and produces the FS/TEC Foodservice Technology Exposition, a four-day educational conference for the food service industry, held in the USA. The IH&RA, meanwhile, has its headquarters in Paris and represents over 750,000 establishments in more than 150 countries, including all the big hotel chains, and provides a voice at international level for the hospitality industry.
At Hostec-EurHotec, sponsored by Micros Systems, visitors will find more than 80 exhibitors, including well-known names in hospitality technology such as Micros-Fidelio, MCR Systems, GuestLine and exciting new companies such as UKSeeka.
The technology and technological issues likely to dominate the show - both in the seminars and on the exhibition floor - are chip and PIN (due to come into use in January 2005), telecommunications (including high-speed internet connections), equipment such as point-of-sale systems and IT and data security.
Hostec-Eurhotec is now one of several hospitality technology shows around the world. But how useful are these shows to the hospitality industry? Robert Grimes, chairman of Accuvia, believes they are very important. He explains that as the hotel business is a multinational one, hospitality technology has to be able to work in that multinational environment. Multiple currencies and languages are two of the many issues hospitality technologies - and especially booking systems - have to be able to cope with.
Grimes says that having seminars running alongside the main technology exhibition helps hoteliers. "The seminars at Hostec-EurHotec feature information that is critical to a hotelier, no matter where they are found, and address such hot topics as chip and PIN and data security."
Specialist shows are particularly important, Grimes says. "It's difficult over the course of the year to follow everything that is going on with technology for the hospitality industry. By coming to a single event, the visitor is able to see everything all at once and make comparisons between products. General technology shows will not show how applications in both hardware and software are relevant to the hospitality industry."
Because Hostec-EurHotec is run alongside Hotelympia, hoteliers who perhaps haven't thought about the benefits that technology can bring have the chance to see how their area of the business can be run even more efficiently - without having to visit separate shows at different places.
The Hostec-EurHotec exhibition and conference runs from Monday 23 to Friday 27 February. It is open 9.30am-5.30pm Monday to Thursday and 9.30am-4pm on Friday.
What's on show?
With everything from the latest computer software to new ways to market your hotel, there's something for every business, large or small.
A few exhibitor highlights are:
TeleAdapt, which will be showing its DeskHub range. DeskHub allows guests to connect portable technologies such as PDAs (personal digital assistants) to a hotel's internet connection, without the guest having to bring their own cables.
Call Systems Technology, a wireless call paging company, will be showing two new products, ResPAK (below) and HostAlert. These are designed to help organise reservations, meetings, weddings and so on.
Trintech will be launching its chip-and-PIN solution, SmartPIN Link, which will allow hotels and restaurants to accept the new chip-and-PIN credit cards at the guest's table.
If cashless payment systems interest you, then look for VMC, which will be at Hostec with its Metro system. Money can be stored in either a card or a key, allowing staff and guests to buy items from point-of-sale terminals and vending machines.
Micros Fidelio will be displaying its latest point-of-sale system, Micros 9700. And if you're interested in marketing your hotel to guests by mobile phone, then UKSeeka's stand will be showing the UK's first SMS (Short Message Service) accommodation directory.
Cisa will be showing how it can help hoteliers overcome "ease of access" problems for the disabled. The electronic locking systems company will be showing Hotel Doorset - a new automated door control system.
Who's speaking at the Conference?
In addition to the various technologies on show at Hostec-EurHotec, there are also free seminars to attend. These are held in the open-air theatre near the centre of the exhibition hall.
Each day has a special focus. On Monday 23 February, sales and catering will be discussed; on the Tuesday of the show, delegates will be able to look at the changes in restaurant technology; Wednesday will view hospitality automation; Thursday will study the developments in telecommunications, while on Friday the spotlight will be on training.
The conference runs from 11am to 6pm, Monday-Thursday, and from 11am to 4pm on Friday.
Each day there are two main talks, one in the morning and one in the afternoon, a panel discussion, an "ask the vendor" session and on every day, apart from Wednesday, a case study.
Monday 23 February
Andrew Gilmore of Agile Solutions will be talking about how to select a sales and catering system. With technologies evolving all the time, selecting a system that will meet your needs now and grow with you in the future can be a tricky job.
Mark Jones of the Eden Project will be speaking about setting a new culture for managing hospitality operations.
Tuesday 24 February
Bruce Gardner, IT director of the Laurel Pub Company, will be leading a panel discussion on justifying point-of-sale system investments.
Cihan Cobanoglu, professor at the University of Delaware School of Hotel, Restaurant & Institutional Management, will be speaking about how operators can make the most of their restaurant website.
Wednesday 25 February 2pm-2.45pm
Marco Correia, regional IT manager at Orient-Express Hotels Portugal & Spain, will be talking about selecting a property management system. This session will walk you through the process of selecting a system and steps you need to take.
Connie G Penn of Kilrush Consultancy will be speaking about chip and PIN and what value-added services you can introduce to help justify implementing it.
Thursday 26 February
Nick Scavone, senior consultant at Accuvia, will speak about telecommunications - what is available today and what is coming in the future?
Friday 27 February
Dr Dolf A Mogendorff, research director, Eproductive, will be speaking about evaluating your training and service needs. As the vendor community becomes more diverse, and the labour pool shrinks, how do you determine which types of training and services are absolutely necessary for your organisation, and which are inessential luxuries?
Willi Tinner, IT director of technology and security at Gate Gourmet International will be talking about IT security and data protection. The hotel industry is exposed to many information security risks that could lead to severe financial or legal damage. In this session the various risk areas will be explored and practical advice will be given.