“Forget Michelin stars, it’s Mbps that matter,” says Mark Ellwood, journalist and traveler. Seamless wireless connectivity is no longer a buzzword or a snappy gimmick in the hospitality industry. It has become as essential as clean linen, leg room and air-conditioning; in fact, both business and leisure travelers rate free Wi-Fi as a top deciding factor when choosing hotels. While there are many anecdotes to show that a reliable, high-speed Internet connection weighs heavily on a customer’s decision to return to a property, hoteliers also can use its availability as an opportunity to increase their revenue stream, build brand loyalty and improve business efficiency.
Monetizing Hotel Wi-Fi
Wireless connectivity goes beyond providing Internet access. Free Internet access can be a window to promote other paid-for services within the establishment. Further indirect monetization opportunities include providing ad space for other brands on Wi-Fi log-in screens, on wirelessly connected digital signage and other connected electronic assets, as well as leveraging Wi-Fi analytics to better understand guests’ dwelling behavior and improve lead generation.
With millennials becoming one of the largest groups of hotel spenders and business travelers carrying an increasing number of mobile devices, establishments have had to upgrade their wireless infrastructure. Considering that “Wi-Fi is more important than hot water” and customers are willing to pay for a faster connection, tiered bandwidth is becoming an accepted practice in the hospitality industry and a means by which hotels can seek a suitable return on investment. Reliable wireless access is crucial for meetings, conferences and conventions, allowing attendees to log in and attend, irrespective of location. While free Wi-Fi is reasonable for access to email, social media and regular browsing, when it comes to HD video streaming or multi-party video conferencing, customers are being asked—and are willing—to pay for premium speeds.
Enhancing Guest Experience with Wi-Fi and IoT
Internet of Things (IoT) adoption has enhanced both guest engagement and business efficiency. Wi-Fi, the backbone of IoT, also allows hotels and resorts to streamline, customize and automate service delivery through smart rooms. One common delivery method uses smart TVs to enhance guest room personalization. Imagine checking into your hotel room and turning on the TV, which not only greets you by name and helps you set your viewing preferences but also helps control your climate settings, drapes and lights and even lets you check out early. Customers can access information about hotel services, like spas and health centers, which can be used to deliver special rewards/promotions that tie into existing loyalty programs. Location-based advertising is another opportunity aimed at customers seeking out information on local sights and sounds.
Additionally, smart TVs, flat screens and digital signage networks allow hotels to provide information to guests in public areas such as lobbies and hallways. For large hotels, especially those with business centers, wireless digital signage is an effective means to direct groups in the right direction and display up-to-date information about ongoing conferences, meetings, seminars and expos.
Gaining Business Efficiency with a Mobile-First Strategy
The mobile platform is “poised for ubiquity,” with 84% of hoteliers planning to roll out hotel-branded mobile apps for customers by the second half of 2017, while 25% are planning to implement mobile room keys. Mobile apps can enable a variety of location-based services, customized entertainment, remote check-in/check-out, mobile concierge services and endless possibilities to enhance guest engagement and brand loyalty.
With millennials becoming increasingly dependent on their smartphones, beacon technology can be used to push customized information based on the guests’ location by anticipating their needs at specific locations and providing that information proactively. Beacons also can be used for navigation assistance, personalized promotions, keyless entries, guest feedback and mobile point-of-sales proximity payments.
IoT and mobile services build a seamless guest experience and have financial benefits for the establishment as expenses associated with administrative and human resources costs fall. Integrating Wi-Fi and IoT into back-office operations—including security and response management, reservation management, billing, service access, asset management, building management, corporate unified communication systems and so on—add to business efficiency and productivity.