What’s the most important factor when choosing accommodation? Good breakfast? Knowledgeable staff? High thread count? No, not even close. It’s the cost of Wi-Fi that’s most likely to make a guest pick one hotel over another, and the speed that’s the most likely cause for complaint. In one study, nearly half of all business travelers, and a quarter of those traveling for leisure, listed free hotel Wi-Fi as the single biggest factor in their hotel choice.
In a different survey
, 84% of respondents said they’d been adversely affected by slow hotel Internet. Eighty. Four. Percent. That’s a remarkable statistic, and not in a good way.
Expectations Are High, and There’s Nowhere to Hide
There’s no hiding bad connections. TripAdvisor, along with other major booking sites like Expedia and Hotels.com, prominently show ratings from a company dedicated to testing hotel Wi-Fi speeds
. Even so, you could spend days just reading the negative reviews of otherwise good hotels with slow, expensive Internet.
People typically now travel with multiple devices, and it’s not unusual to have half a dozen wireless gadgets or more in a family room. Le Parker Meridian, a four-star hotel in New York City, regularly sees up to 2,000 simultaneous connections during the evening. Providing reliable, high-speed Internet to that number of devices is a daunting, yet necessary, task.
Quality Wi-Fi is no longer a luxury, and hotels can’t afford to treat it like one. It’s a service, just like power and water – and customers expect to get more than a trickle out of the faucet, or to use more than one lamp at a time.
The days of only offering a connection in the lobby, or throwing up a router at one end of the corridor and calling it done, are long gone. Multiple access points per floor, or even one per room, are the new normal, plugged into a high-speed, managed network designed for peak usage and built with the future in mind.
For venues that run conferences and events, the stakes are even higher. Hundreds or thousands of extra connections quickly flood an unprepared network, leaving attendees and other hotel guests frustrated, and event planners looking to book somewhere else the next time around.
It’s Not Just the Guests That Benefit
While the costs of installing and maintaining quality wireless infrastructure are dropping year over year, they’re not insubstantial – but then again, neither are the lost bookings from bad reviews. Hotels that have upgraded their networks aren’t shy about letting potential guests know
, realizing their competitive advantage.
Customer satisfaction alone is reason to make the investment, but for hoteliers, there are other business benefits that come alongside.
The Internet of Things (IoT) is currently the hottest part of the tech sector, and connected, embedded devices will play a big role in hotel technology
over the next few years. Smart lightbulbs will reduce their output during daylight hours, while air-conditioning systems change temperature based on how many people are in a given area. Power sockets will report high usage, elevators will log support calls when they detect a fault, and noisy guests or unauthorized pets will be reported to the front desk long before anyone complains.
Coupled with high-bandwidth devices like wireless security cameras, the business requirement for a fast, reliable wireless network is obvious. With all those devices wanting access, those 2,000 customer connections at Le Parker Meridian will soon be dwarfed by the needs of the hotel itself.
The Bottom Line
Fast, reliable Wi-Fi is non-negotiable for hotel owners and guests alike. No longer an expensive afterthought, customers now demand free, speedy Internet in their rooms and event venues, and will stay elsewhere if they don’t get it.
If satisfied customers aren’t enough reason to upgrade, connected infrastructure certainly is. Savings from better management of power and heating help offset the costs, and the network provides a base for new opportunities in coming years.
The right wireless network can meet the needs of a wide range of users, both now and into the future, but it doesn’t happen by itself. Online reviews quickly point out hotels that haven’t made the investment, and competitors that have taken the leap are only too happy to fill the gap.
Hotel owners need to decide which side of that divide they want to be on. TripAdvisor is watching.
Bio: Dave Dean is the founder of Too Many Adapters, the technology site for travelers. On the road for over five years, he’s experienced enough bad hotel Wi-Fi to last a lifetime.