Would you choose Free Breakfast or WiFi?

If you said free breakfast or free parking, you are wrong. It is actually free WiFi that ranks #1 in the list of desired amenities!!!

Technology is changing travelers everyday lives including what they expect from hotels or resorts they stay in. A decade ago, if you looked to the future of hospitality, you would have never thought that WiFi would be a key factor in choosing a hotel. WiFi connectivity is the most desired amenity for the guests (runners-up complimentary breakfast and free parking) (Source: https://goo.gl/NPcjGr). Guest reviews that highlight poor WiFi connectivity within the Hotel are known to result in loss of bookings for both luxury & economy hotels. Free WiFi trumps Free Food any day now!!!

Guests Expectations

Most of the guests expect to remain online throughout the stay. The expectation is home-like or even office-like wifi experience. Whether they are using business applications or browsing on social media, guests expect a delightful experience at the end. Bad connectivity and poor video streaming experience are definitely putting hotels on the No-Go list.

Whats important for guests when considering your hotel wifi

  • Speed  Guests want to not only Browse the web for sightseeing locations nearby, Check emails but also Stream videos, make Skype video calls and more. You may have to ensure requisite network performance even when 100s of guests run these types of demanding applications simultaneously.
  • Reliability Seamless wifi is what guests expect. You probably dont want to see your guests roaming the corridors or huddling in the lobby in search of a stable wifi connection. WiFi should be accessible and reliable everywhere within the property.
  • Security  Hotels wifi architects/network admins should understand the importance of secured wifi access to your guests. They might be transacting using their personal, professional, financial information online. Ensure that guest information is not easily hacked.

First impressions

On entering a hotel, before anything else, guests try to connect to your wifi network. If wifi is as expected then they express it out and if it is not, then they express even more on social media, travel blogs, sites like Trip Advisor, hotels.com etc. which affects your reputation & revenue.

Challenges

Providing fast wifi in your hotel probably leads to a Trip Advisor 5* review. Challenges in providing a seamless fast & reliable wifi are:

  • Multiple WiFi Devices per Guest  We live in an Always Stay Connected generation. Each person might be carrying 2 to 3 wifi devices on an average even during their travel. They have smartphones, laptops & tablets and they use more than one device simultaneously for different applications., This increases the bandwidth demanded of your network. To maximise guest satisfaction, network design should account for the multiplicity of devices in each room.
  • Applications  Guests might use bandwidth consuming applications Skype, Facetime, NetFlix, Torrents, Social media posts and a lot more. Your network should be capable of handling these myriad applications and their unique mechanisms at scale. Validating these scenarios before giving access to guests is challenging.
  • Security Public WiFi networks are more susceptible to security vulnerabilities. Most hotel guests are sitting ducks before skilled hackers. Security of your guest WiFi SHOULD always be one of the top priorities. Think through your authentication processes, your network designs, servers and network elements. Keep on top of the various hacks running wild that could potentially lead to your guests being infected from your network. This can potentially affect your brand reputation.
  • Captive Portal Logins Though none of your guests like to enter their information before connecting to the internet, a captive portal is necessary to authenticate and provide secure access to guests. Captive portals not only provide secure internet access but also connects them to your brand. This is the first point of contact between your service promise and your customer. Make sure it is frictionless. Make sure your infrastructure is scalable enough even to handle even the busiest days of the year
  • Seamless WiFi on the move Guests demand seamless wifi across the hotel at all times, even when they are on the move. Is your network connection reliable when guests move from their room to the gym or the restaurant? Do you have enough access points deployed at the right locations? Do they implement roaming protocols properly?
  • Scalability Lobby/reception, meeting hall, recreational areas can become especially crowded. 10s to 100s of devices accessing the network concurrently in these areas creates a significant LOCALIZED load on the network. Your network should be scalable to match the expectation.

Just providing free wifi is not enough to meet guests expectations. You should be able to overcome the challenges and validate the performance before your guests complain about network issues.  When you provide excellent WiFi experience to guests, you could expect

  • Greater satisfaction from your guests
  • Increased guest retention
  • Increased revenues
  • Finally, 5 * rating increased brand value

There have been many blogs, surveys and reports on wifi trends in hospitality sector but very less that explains how hotels address the challenges. In our next post, we will dive into critical factors to consider while deploying a hotel wifi network, how to overcome the challenges and validating the same using our SWAT WiCheck tool.