BITAC hosted its first live in-person event since last March in Key Biscayne, FL, this week and hotel executives were elated to be back enjoying the face-to-face conversations.
Taking place at The Ritz-Carlton Key Biscayne, Miami, BITAC Purchasing & Design East brought together a blend of repeat guests as well as first timers and all of them touted the importance of being together in person again.
Chris Medaris, senior manager, customer engagement, Hilton Supply Management, pointed out this was his first event back as he noted that the past week also marked the return of all Hilton employees to the corporate office.
“I miss the community, that’s what it’s all about in hospitality is the face to face. We [at Hilton] like to say it’s like ‘creative collisions’ that happen when we’re together like this. People that are in different communities with different functions and in different aspects of the business that you may not necessarily bump into, but you have those creative collisions. That’s kind of what’s missing on the virtual side,” he said.
Alice Limer, founding principal/CEO, Fusion Architectural Interior Design, Inc., also relished “the opportunity to reconnect in person” during the event.
“It’s kind of hard to put into words because you just forget what you missed and how much you missed that face-to-face time. Zoom can only capture so much connection. It’s the setting and hospitality all of that is so conducive to a more relaxed environment to do this with, it’s been phenomenal. I’ve really enjoyed it,” she said.
Limer went on to add, “I don’t know if it’s because we’ve all been so crazed that this is so special?”
Paula Azevedo, vp, design, Duncan Miller Design, also noted that this represented her first conference back since the pandemic.
“It is exciting, it’s great to see colleagues and experience all the energy and positivity. I’ve been traveling since the beginning of the year for project work, but not everybody has. It is exciting to be out and about and do what we do best, which is connect with people,” she noted.
Rene Smilek, director of lodging operations, Evermore Resort, added the perspective of a group business hotel and conference center as she reflected on her previous tenure with the Walt Disney World Swan & Dolphin Resort while looking ahead with her current property.
“We’re certainly ready to see conferences come back and business come back. We couldn’t wait for our groups to start showing up again. I think what a lot of people don’t realize is there are so many jobs that are dependent on just the group side of the business,” she said.
Darrell Jones, vp, operations and development, Globiwest Hospitality Group, Inc., also pointed out this is his first event since the pandemic.
“It’s been awesome. I’m just grateful that things are getting back on track. This is one of the first signs of life for me,” he said.
As first-time attendees, Medaris and Smilek also weighed in on the BITAC format.
“This is how conferences should be done; it’s so intentional. To be able to pick the people you want to speak to so you know that you’re talking to who you need to talk to and they know that you’re interested, it kind of eliminates any guesswork and the fatigue that I think happens at conferences…It’s so efficient, really well run,” said Medaris.
Smilek added, “it’s a great format and platform. You’re getting people together that have [similar] needs, it’s a win/win.”