When I first started in the lodging industry, the year was 2003 and it was a time of great change. One aspect of the business that was particularly critical, not to mention rapidly evolving, was technology. Just a year earlier, Doug Rice had founded Hotel Technology Next Generation (HTNG), a nonprofit membership organization designed to provide solutions and establish a meaningful set of industry standards.
At the time, there were many new technology solutions being introduced, but few were being adopted at the property level. The industry had long been considered to be a laggard in terms of technology. One of the biggest issues back then was convergence, as many hotels were deploying a number of disparate solutions from different vendors, few of which were compatible.
It was Rice who stressed the importance of suppliers working together and figuring out ways to partner for the benefit of hoteliers, not to mention their own bottom lines. One look at the technology landscape of hospitality today shows how much progress has been made. From keyless entry to sophisticated revenue management systems and everything in between, success in any segment of the lodging industry today is simply not possible without technology.
A few months ago, Rice announced he is stepping down in August after nearly 13 years at the helm of HTNG, which has grown to include more than 400 members. He deserves a lot of credit for recognizing the void that existed in hospitality and for growing HTNG into a unifying force within the industry, as well as a source of innovation. And, while collaboration among suppliers could always be better, it’s come a long way over the course of the past decade.
He also has forged meaningful partnerships throughout his tenure. For example, Hotel Business became the exclusive media sponsor this past year for the annual HTNG conference, which included the first-ever TechOvation Award. Rice was instrumental in making that happen.
Michael Blake—whose experience includes a stint as CIO of Hyatt Hotels Corporation, and who has been an active supporter of the group since 2010—will have the tall order of replacing Rice, who will remain on as CEO Emeritus.
The past decade-plus has been a period of great progress for the lodging industry from a technology perspective, and there are numerous individuals and companies that have contributed to that. However, it was Rice that powered many of the connections that will carry the industry forward into the future.