The International Hotel, Motel + Restaurant Show (IHMRS), which was in conjunction with the Boutique Design Trade Fair (BDNY), drew to a conclusion yesterday. Every year, the IHMRS brings in thousands of business owners and industry professionals, as well as hospitality faculty and students to New York City. IHMRS has become an important event where people find business opportunities, build professional relationships and identify future trends for the hospitality industry.

I attended both IHMRS and BDNY this year with 15 students, faculty and staff from the Collins College of Hospitality Management at Cal Poly Pomona. Being a five-time attendee of IHMRS since 2009 and a professor who often shares hospitality trends and industrial updates, I paid special attention to new products and ideas that were different from those in the past.

Here's a look at what I found.


In the past, I saw many travel service websites, such as TripAdvisor and LivingSocial, taking big space in IHMRS. But this year, I only found a few app developers in the exhibition hall. Does that mean e-commerce sites, OTA (online travel agency) sites or mobile apps are no longer important or trendy in the hospitality and tourism industry?

Not exactly. Websites and mobile apps are still important, but their absence is probably because they are not new or trendy to the industry anymore. In fact, I would expect many consulting firms in social media marketing or mobile apps have already been doing a good job in marketing their businesses online, making it unnecessary for them to purchase a booth.

In terms of hardware that is built on new technology, I saw a couple of manufacturers promoting TV mirrors, which would allow hotel or restaurants guests to watch TV on a mirror. The TV screen can be showed in the corner of a mirror or take up to a quarter, half or 100 percent of a mirror. When the TV is off, guests can then use it as a whole mirror.

I like this invention and think this product has a place in some hotel brands. But at this point, it is probably more of a "good-to-have" item than a "must-have" item for a hotel or restaurant.

Green practices

Consumers' demand of green practices will continue to push more businesses to use recyclable products. However, because recyclable products often cost more than nonrecyclable goods, not every business is willing to replace the plastic with other green alternatives — even though they both can be durable.

My concern was eased a little after I visited the booth of a manufacturer that specialized in single-use, recyclable food packaging products. According to the sales representative, the company was targeting high-end hotels or restaurants where customers would be happy to pay more for a healthy sandwich in a recyclable box.

It makes sense, doesn't it? At the same time, I hope new technology will come soon to help manufacturers bring down the costs of making recyclable goods.

Innovations that help increase productivity

There were three interesting innovations that caught my eye. One was about "special" textiles for different purposes and facilities. Some fabrics were designed to have a longer life cycle; others were resistant to flames (fire). Some had antimicrobial protection that controls the growth of microorganisms that cause stains, mold or odors; others built in a liquid barrier.

Another innovation was about preserved vertical gardens. Vertical gardens look nice, but can cost a lot of time and money to maintain a live and healthy-looking garden on the wall. With a preserved vertical garden, businesses can still use real plants. But at the same time, they spend almost nothing on water, soil, lighting or other gardening expenses.

Last but not least, there was a small innovation that helped prevent clogs in drains. Two entrepreneurs who are husband and wife invented a tool called DrainWig. DrainWig connects six small plastic two-leaf "fans" with a chain; the plastic fans will collect the hair moving through the drains.

When the water runs slowly through the drains, an old DrainWig can be replaced with a new one or reused after the hair is removed. This small tool will not cost much, but can make maintenance jobs much easier.

Made in China

I found it interesting to see a whole China section in the exhibition hall that is made up of about 15 to 20 Chinese manufacturers. When sales and marketing are concerned, that could be a good strategy if "Made in China" becomes a reputable brand.

If you attended this year's IHMRS and/or BDNY, please share your experience with us. If you missed this year's event, you may find some pictures about the show in my Facebook photo album.