Contributed by Jason Emanis, V.P. of Marketing, SHR

SHR is founded on the belief that companies have an obligation to invest resources not simply for their own benefit, but for the benefit of their clients, and in a larger sense, for their industry and the world. It is through this belief that SHR has simplified the growing complexity of hospitality distribution technology as much as we have while helping hotels get the most out of that distribution.Yet, with our newfound growth, both in capital and personnel, we knew we had an opportunity, even an obligation, to do more. But we would need to stay away from the typical conference environment of product pushing and upselling. We would have to create something new that would be about the participants and not about SHR.

With this fresh mindset, SHR recently held its first Innovation Summit in Houston, Texas. Initially limited to a small group of actively engaged clients and partners, this experimental gathering served as a test opportunity to see if our guests would derive real value from a chance to interact with their peers within a more prescriptive environment—one with an emphasis on an open forum, strategic thinking, and working together in collaboration to uncover subtle issues and, hopefully, to discover new opportunities.

To keep things running in the most constructive direction and to add a sense of fun as well as flow, we enlisted the help of well-known hospitality forum facilitator, Bob Mruz, to create a space that welcomed participation and the brainstorming notion that “there are no bad ideas.” We started with a light guideline of possible topics which led off into many unexpected and rich pockets of thought that bubbled up naturally in the course of conversation. Some themes that emerged included:

  • Dealing with the realities of system integration
  • The new role of revenue management in marketing
  • What it means to truly own the guest experience
  • Understanding the real role of big data
  • Why the GDS is (probably) here to stay

The outcome exceeded our best expectations by a wide margin. A post-event survey has revealed the Summit as indeed being a refreshing and valuable experience for our guests, with participants commenting positively on everything from how good it was to simply have “room to think clearly” to having enjoyed debating diverse issues via “honest and candid dialogue,” and coming away with “not just new ideas, but a clearer focus on what matters, what we can do today.”

Our CEO, Rod Jimenez, echoed this sentiment in his closing Summit thoughts. “Our overarching goal is not to provide just great technology, or just great service, but to bring real balance and order to the tech confusion faced by our hoteliers,” he said. “We know that to do this, we need to really hear our clients, our partners. And we know the conversation we started here in Houston is only the beginning.”

We are already taking action from what we’ve learned through this experience to the various departments within SHR, from development to support, and to the Client Experience team. The seeds of the Innovation Summit have fallen on very fertile ground, and we are looking forward to kicking things up to the next level as we consider future Summit formats.

A sincere thank you to all who participated. The truth is without you, there simply is no us. Armed with our new-found client insights, we know we will continue shaping the future of hospitality—together.

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