Why no Wi-Fi at check-in?

The current standard of Wi-Fi connectivity in Australian hotels is under-delivering. If not adapted and updated to support increasing demand the industry risks being left behind the rest of the world.

Our environment is changing. We are no longer a culture of stationary individuals who live and work in the same place. Australians now exist in a nomadic work environment, where we work in multiple offices, from home, from our car and from various hotels as we go on the road for our professions. This behavioural evolution has offered the collective workforce many advantages, however it is depended on the ability to stay connected.

Whether on vacation or away on business, hotel guests expect to connect, stream, watch, download, work, and play without complication and without limit. When travelling for business, access to a secure, reliable Wi-Fi connection is crucial. Whether sending an email, printing itinerary or connecting to a videoconference, we all need to be ‘online’.

So it’s surprising then, to look at the Australian hotel industry and notice that it is significantly lacking in facilities for its guests, both business and otherwise, and if they are readily available, these services come at a cost.

Connectivity goes MIA

We often talk of the internet being ubiquitous, and within the international hotel and hospitality industry at present, around 90 per cent of hotels offer guests wireless internet access at no extra charge, with America (at 93 per cent), and Europe (at 90 per cent) leading the way. On the other hand, and on the other side of the globe, Oceania offers a little over one in two hotels (55 per cent) with free Wi-Fi services for their guests. In Australia specifically, only four out of the top ten hotel chains currently offer some form of free Wi-Fi connectivity. For proprietors, this can seriously effect guest satisfaction, and can result in an otherwise pleasurable stay turning sour, and earn a negative review as a consequence.

For those who travel for business, Wi-Fi has fast become the number one priority when it comes to booking a hotel, ahead of location and included breakfast. The ability to access emails and connect with the office remotely is an absolute must, and should be as stress and hassle free as possible. The Wi-Fi connectivity offered by some hotels can easily become the factor that ‘makes or breaks’ a guest’s overall hotel experience. Poor Wi-Fi signal, slow download speeds and passwords that are only valid for one device just aren’t good enough in a business hotel anymore, and can be reason enough for some patron to choose another location.

The introduction of an updated Wi-Fi service for business guests is vital to improve their experience, however, they are not the only users who will benefit from a more accessible wireless connection. Technology and digital innovations are no longer just the domain of corporate guests, as more and more families follow the trend, and are embracing wireless technology as a travel essential. Whether checking in on a smartphone, amusing the kids on a tablet or sending travel snaps via email, the wireless needs of traveling families are putting the pressure on hotels to place the internet within the reach of all hotel guests for a better experience.

So why is the Australian hotel market so slow to embrace free and reliable wireless access for their guests? Granted there are costs involved for a hotel to put in the necessary infrastructure to bring about change. As such, a pay structure for patrons that allows them to pay as they go is not completely unreasonable; however, the delay in implementing such alternatives is causing patrons (as well as hotels) undue frustrations during their stay.

Bandwidth and range complications

Alongside facilities, bandwidth issues and range are also a problem for hotels to navigate. It’s vital to ensure that access points are in good locations to optimise performance and to limit interference, as signals which drop out as guests move from place to place are extremely frustrating. 

Any changes to infrastructure in hotels are going to take time, and will ultimately require a period of adjustment. The benefits for the user experience and overall guest satisfaction will be motivation enough for the hotel industry over time, however, there is a further advantage to adapting their current, somewhat lacking wireless services.

Fast, reliable Wi-Fi is paramount for the majority of hotel operations. Via up to date Wi-Fi connectivity, hotel operators can shorten check-in wait times, improve turn around for food and beverage orders, make booking and preparing a conference room simpler than ever before and eliminate complexity for administration and operations.

In a competitive market where guest satisfaction and comfort is central, the current standard of Wi-Fi connectivity in Australian hotels is under-delivering. If not adapted and updated to support the increasing demand it will be left behind the rest of the world, and potentially affect the industry’s global tourism reputation. 

Brad Little is vice president & managing director ANZ at NETGEAR.

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