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The conference hotel of tomorrow

Building on the work done as part of the ‘Finnish Hotel of Tomorrow’ project, a follow-up project has recently been launched to address the challenges of tomorrow’s meetings, conference hotels, and the services they offer organisers and participants.

HAAGA-HELIA, one of Finland’s largest private educational institutions with over 10,000 students, was closely involved in the ‘Finnish Hotel of Tomorrow’ project (www.fhot.fi). This collaborative initiative was aimed at developing new concepts suited to the needs of future business and leisure travellers – and brought together technology and service companies, researchers, students, and others to brainstorm and experiment.

HAAGA-HELIA’s R&D activities focus on new operating models, products, and services, and on leveraging new business opportunities.
This has now been followed up by a project focused on meetings, conference hotels, and the type of offerings they are likely to need in the future. Launched in November 2010, the ‘Finnish conference Hotel of Tomorrow’ project (www.tomorrowsmeeting.com) will run until the end of April 2012. The project is funded by Tekes, the Finnish Funding Agency for Technology and Innovation and 14 companies, and is coordinated by HAAGA-HELIA.

The project will build on the knowledge amassed as part of the first project and extend it with a user-driven focus on meeting participants, particularly in the conference hotel environment, and the type of services they need and expect. As part of the project, a meeting room in the Best Western Hotel Haaga in Helsinki will be upgraded to simulate a meeting room of tomorrow. This will be used to test new meeting product, service, and concept innovations provided by participating companies with real end-users, such as meeting organisers and participants.

Understanding the needs of organisers and participants

Following the Finnish Hotel of Tomorrow project, HAAGA-HELIA is now coordinating the Finnish Conference Hotel of Tomorrow project.
The main questions that will be addressed are: what are the physical, virtual, and social space needs of tomorrow’s meeting organisers and participants, particularly in respect of conference hotels, likely to be, and how can this type of hotel best adapt to the changing needs of their clientele?

By trying to answer these and other related questions, the idea is to catalyse the development of new, competitive business models that can benefit hotels, business travellers, companies offering meeting products and services, as well as educators and students in the hotel field.

Testing meeting concepts in a hands-on trial environment, and making use of input from a range of paying guests and other users, will ensure that practical considerations are taken into account; it will also help spread overall awareness of the business opportunities that lie in this area of the hotel industry.

In a world where the competition for meeting and conference destinations is likely to get tougher rather than easier, nationally and internationally, the hotel business needs a future-driven perspective on the products, services, and networks likely to prove most useful and most attractive to organisers and participants.

The focus will very much be on these two latter groups throughout the project and services and products that truly engage them. Although individual hotels and service providers will always need to develop their own ‘take’ on these services and products to distinguish themselves from their competitors, everybody will benefit if better services become the norm rather than the exception.

New insights, new business

The over 10,000 students enrolled at HAAGA-HELIA University of Applied Sciences study hotel and restaurant management, business, tourism, sports management, journalism, IT, and vocational teacher education. Around a quarter spend a semester or two studying at a partner university or working as an intern abroad.

HAAGA-HELIA has more than 190 partner universities globally, and its international degree programmes attract some 1,000 foreign students representing over 100 different nationalities. Twelve degree programmes are taught completely in English.

HAAGA-HELIA’s research and development activities are aimed at generating new solutions and innovations for business and developing future competencies. Students, lecturers, and corporate partners have the opportunity to take part in a variety of research projects, which are currently focused on three strategic themes: service concepts and sales expertise, new business models and technologies, and innovative learning solutions.

Around 30 large collaborative projects are currently under way, including the ‘Finnish Conference Hotel of Tomorrow’ project. Past projects have focused on areas such as a new operating model for enhancing the quality of software production, a smart solution aimed at promoting better cooperation among travel companies, and various user-based development environments and online service concepts.

“Integrating projects with teaching is central to the HAAGA-HELIA approach to research.”

> Lauri Tuomi
(Published in HighTech Finland 2011)