Outdated wifi policies

Recently we spotted some angry local Tweets, originating right here in Manchester (UK), about the fact that a well-known global hotel chain still charges residents for a wifi connection.

Granted, many hotels, cafes and bars offer the first half hour free but anyone who carries a smartphone with them will vouch for the fact that a concentrated half hour isn’t exactly convenient when you are checking emails and social networking sites from time to time throughout the day.

The more expensive the hotel the higher the charge in some cases but more galling seems to be the suggestion from some hotels that some guests are more important than others when it comes to being connected online, with those hotels offering free wifi to their premium guests only.

Revenue stream or poor customer service?

For far too long, certain venues within the hospitality and leisure sector have viewed internet access as a lucrative revenue stream but as wide adoption of mobile devices has rapidly swept the globe this sector hasn’t evolved quickly enough to meet demands – the reason being, many would argue, that they don’t get anything in return other than a slower connection for their own commercial use. Not ideal when they are positioning themselves as meeting venues then struggle to provide a good connection when delegates suddenly pull laptops, iPads and smartphones out of their bags.

According to a hotel consultant and social media strategist writing for tnooz.com, not all hoteliers are rubbing their hands with glee while predicting how much revenue will be generated through guests paying for internet use. He states that many want to abolish internet fees but simply can’t figure out how to offset the loss.

What these hotels need to do is look at return on investment in a different way. Instead of looking for a direct monetary gain they should be looking at the longer-term picture, the marketing opportunities and the end-to-end customer engagement programme that social wifi can deliver.

By the end of 2013 there will be more mobile devices on earth than people with 56% of those devices being smartphones. That’s a huge audience for hotels to be engaging with through social wifi.

Only 11 per cent of travellers are willing to pay for wifi in hotels, according to a survey of more than 8000 travellers across 28 countries.

While entire cities across the world are announcing their intention to become wifi zones, welcoming online visitors with open arms – and no charge – why does the hotel industry seems so reluctant to do the same?