Over the past few years, intimate hospitality conferences and events have started popping up with more frequency. For the past seven years, the Independent Lodging Congress has hosted meetups across the country for hotel professionals to network, learn, and listen to speakers across all industries. Andrew Benioff, founder and chairman of the Independent Lodging Congress, recently spoke with LODGING about the next Indie Congress, which is taking place on October 16 and 17 in Los Angeles, Calif., and the value he sees in hosting smaller conferences.
What need did you see in the hotel industry for more intimate events and conferences?
If we keep following what hotel people are doing and listening to only hotel people year-after-year, we’re chasing our tail in a shrinking circle and not getting anywhere. We wanted to energize the discussions and think outside-of-the-box. That’s why when we planned our event, we thought it was important to look outside of our industry. We look at thought leaders in society and culture in general to understand what people value today, what trends are happening, and how we can bring those trends to the businesses we run. About 25 to 50 percent of our speakers are outside of the travel industry.
What happens at a typical Indie Congress?
At our events, people spend time together in a quiet environment where they meet new people, develop business ideas, and learn from other industries. We take time to get to know each other at breakfasts, lunches, and dinners. We usually only have between 150 and 300 people at our events. We’re not about being the biggest; we want our guests to learn, make new contacts, and think outside-of-the-box. We welcome what we call “indie”—or independent—leaders from hospitality, travel, restaurants, wellness, retail, and other industries.
What is the value in hosting smaller, more intimate events to a primarily hospitality audience?
If we listen to the same panels and speak to only big hospitality companies, we are going to get the same information. That’s one of the reasons the hospitality industry evolves very slowly. We have been relying on the same operations and design strategies for years. Large companies do hospitality well, but they’re not very creative. We feel like we’re a laboratory for independent hotels in food, branding, retail, and wellness, among other outlets. We’re at the cutting edge of discussing what is happening in the world and bringing those thoughts to whatever businesses we’re involved in. That’s why we do what we do.