With mobile technology an everyday part of life, WiFi is no longer a luxury. People now believe they should have access to fast broadband wherever they are, and that includes hotels.
A hotel’s ability to provide fast and secure Internet access is an important decision factor when booking accommodation. A recent study by Exterion Media found that 73 per cent of Londoners choose their holiday accommodation based on whether or not it has WiFi – a significantly higher priority than air conditioning or a swimming pool.
Plus it appears that guests often head online before they’ve even unpacked. A survey by hotelier Roomzzz uncovered that 65 per cent of guests went online within seven minutes of checking in and a third requested the WiFi password on arrival.
Today smartphones and tablets are rapidly displacing TV as the main medium of entertainment and while mobile Internet is ok for occasional use, it remains an expensive way of getting online for a length of time. With this in mind it’s no surprise that research firm Analysys Mason found that WiFi accounts for 80-90 per cent of smartphone data traffic.
Clearly hotel WiFi is no longer just about business travelers. Holidaymakers regularly go online not just to keep in touch with friends and family, but also to research local information.
“It’s often far easier to use Google or TripAdvisor to check for restaurants or museums than flick through a guidebook, or use the Uber app rather than calling a local taxi,” notes Matt Powell, Editor of Broadband Genie.
Plus, with the growing popularity of smart home technology, such as remote lighting, heating and WiFi cameras, “more people are hopping on the hotel WiFi to control utilities, check in on pets or kids and ensure their home is safe,” Powell says.
Many hotels are responding to this increasing demand for WiFi, as a Travel + Leisure survey last year highlighted. When questioning hotels across America, it discovered that many budget hotels were offering free and fast WiFi, with luxury accommodation providing exceptionally high standard speeds.
Clearly hotels are taking the need for WiFi seriously, but it is important to understand what guests expect from hotel WiFi services.
“While guests are unlikely to expect superfast access so they can download large files, it would be disappointing if a hotel’s WiFi cannot comfortably accommodate web browsing, email and mobile apps,” Powell highlights.
“Perhaps the most demanding task which is likely to be frequently used is voice or video calling using tools such as Skype or Facetime. Guests may be disappointed if they’re unable to use these services, though video calls in particular require a fast and reliable connection.”
“They’d like it free of course,” adds Analysys Mason Research Director Rupert Wood. “Most know full well that the marginal cost to a hotel of additional data on a WiFi connection is next to zero, and many would expect WiFi to be treated as electricity and plumbing. Failing that, at least bundled in with the hotel charges,” he concludes.