Tourism Talks Tech

Industry leaders convene at NOLA Talks event

Every industry struggles with how best to use technology. Tech is constantly changing, consumers’ comfort levels are frequently adjusting and demands for convenience are increasing. That being said, the tourism and hospitality industry is, at its heart, an industry about human interaction.

There is novelty in receiving your food on a conveyor belt. There is discovery in asking your server for recommendations of where to eat next. There is efficiency when you check in to your hotel remotely and your phone becomes your room key. There is a feeling of being a guest when you are greeted warmly by front desk staff who offer you a cookie and ask if you remembered to pack your toothbrush.

Industry conversations about technology are critical, and New Orleans & Company recognizes that. On Tuesday, Nov. 19, it convened NOLA Talk: Tech, a panel of thought leaders and an audience of stakeholders to consider technology’s role today and in the future.

“New Orleans & Company is committed to cultivating the next generation of industry leaders within our community by providing curated panel discussions like this one. Through events such as NOLA Talk, we are able to provide a forum that allows New Orleanians to learn from peers,” said Cheryl Teamer, senior vice president of public affairs at New Orleans & Company.

The topic of emerging technology is significant, especially when considering New Orleans is in competition with other destinations for visitors.

“From keyless door entry to finding transportation to get from one destination to another, technology plays a vital part in our visitors’ experiences,” said Teamer. “It’s important to provide our members and industry professionals with information that can be applied to their businesses allowing the New Orleans hospitality and tourism industry to continue its evolution and maintaining New Orleans’ reputation as a premiere travel destination.”

The event took place at the New Orleans Culinary and Hospitality Institute (NOCHI) where more than 100 people networked during an opening reception. Attendees were treated to lessons about making limoncello and a cooking demonstration featuring butternut squash gnocchi.

The panel discussion was moderated by Jeremy Cooker, vice president of marketing and special projects at New Orleans Tourism Marketing Corporation (NOTMC). The panel consisted of four experts, including Andrea Chen, executive director at Propeller, a nonprofit organization supporting entrepreneurs; Lawrence Martin, president of Connect2Black, an app that promotes black-owned businesses; David Piscola, general manager at Hilton New Orleans Riverside; and Prashant Vashisht, commercial account manager of British Airways, North America.

Over the course of an hour, the panel discussed the latest technology that enhances the customer experience, balancing customer service with emerging technology and challenges that technology has created. The panel also answered questions from the audience at the end.

Each of the panelists brought a unique perspective to the event, and they were thoughtful in their responses. Hilton and British Airways have the reach of millions of customers and hundreds of thousands of staff to test and implement new technologies. Connect2Black is working with New Orleans businesses in real time and constantly tweaking its offerings. Propeller gives startups sure footing to bring their products to market.

Something that I was intrigued to observe was how this panel and the audience were talking about technology that separates people from each other while connecting them to services, and in doing so in this setting, we were sharing a group experience. The panelists were listening to each other and building on one another’s statements. Some of the questions from the audience became mini-pitches and those entrepreneurs were able to talk to decision-makers in the industry. For all of the discussion of travelers who use technology to limit human interaction, there was some very old-fashioned interacting and idea sharing happening at the event.

The two biggest takeaways from the panel were to let guests determine the amount of interaction they want, and offer them innovative technology that you can insure is secure.

New Orleans & Company has hosted two NOLA Talks previously, one featuring women-owned businesses and another on the restaurant industry. It hopes to host another in 2020, but no date or topic has been set for the next installment.


Categories: Technology, Tourism Biz