Wi-Fi is Your Most Important Amenity

By Marcio Avillez Vice President, Network Services, iPass | February 27, 2011

The impact of Wi-Fi services at hotels cannot be underestimated especially when trying to ensure solid guest retention rates – it is, in my opinion the most important amenity. Don't take my word for it, though, JD Power's July 2010 survey highlights a conclusion that I have held for quite some time – "The top five 'must-have' amenities for hotel guests in 2010 are wireless Internet access; complimentary breakfast; bedding and pillow choices, pillow-top mattresses; and free parking. In particular, hotel properties have increased offerings of wireless Internet access during the past several years, with 77 percent of guests in 2010 indicating they have used Wi-Fi rather than cable Internet connections in their guest room, compared with 55 percent in 2007.

Regardless of whether the cost of the Wi-Fi service a hotel provides is presented as an additional paid service or included in the room rates; hotel guests want access to email, instant messenger tools, websites or to connect to their corporate networks or make telephone calls or video calls via Skype or similar offerings. Travel website Orbitz released their Insider Index Looks Ahead to Travel in 2011 last month and said: "Hotel offerings such as wireless Internet…can make or break a consumer's decision to book a particular hotel property."

Hotel guests are not just accessing the internet via laptop computers; they are increasingly accessing the internet via mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets, which have no wired connection ports and so the need for Wi-Fi in hotels is increasing. While globally, smartphone penetration among business travelers (69 percent) has outpaced the consumer market there is still a strong push from the consumer market for these devices too. The reality is that today's traveler, whether business or pleasure now carries a device stack consisting of a smartphone, a tablet and a laptop. Hotels will continued to be challenged by the travelling public to support a seamless user experience across all these form factors.

Mobile devices, whether it's a smartphone or tablet such as the iPad, are great devices to channel your marketing efforts especially with the opportunities to build specific applications or drive your brand with special deals, stronger loyalty and deeper conversations with both new and repeat guests. With splash screens it's possible to promote your hotel, gain valuable guest feedback or drive targeted advertising that's geared towards your hotel guest's stay. The proliferation of devices has an upside of creating more opportunities to communicate offers in different formats and with different content to the same user.

Location based services, which are built in to most smartphones or tablet devices can enable hotels to develop innovative mobile marketing strategies and campaigns that target new guests or increase room stays with targeted advertising.

Over the next year, Near Field Communication (NFC) will become more prevalent as it's built into new mobile phone or tablet (as rumored with the new iPad), which could offer guests a new way to pay for their stay or as a key to enter their hotel room. Offering more way to make payments will be an attractive offering for many guests.

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Coming up in June 2019...

Sales & Marketing: Selling Experiences

There are innumerable strategies that Hotel Sales and Marketing Directors employ to find, engage and entice guests to their property, and those strategies are constantly evolving. A breakthrough technology, pioneering platform, or even a simple algorithm update can cause new trends to emerge and upend the best laid plans. Sales and marketing departments must remain agile so they can adapt to the ever changing digital landscape. As an example, the popularity of virtual reality is on the rise, as 360 interactive technologies become more mainstream. Chatbots and artificial intelligence are also poised to become the next big things, as they take guest personalization to a whole new level. But one sales and marketing trend that is currently resulting in major benefits for hotels is experiential marketing - the effort to deliver an experience to potential guests. Mainly this is accomplished through the creative use of video and images, and by utilizing what has become known as User Generated Content. By sharing actual personal content (videos and pictures) from satisfied guests who have experienced the delights of a property, prospective guests can more easily imagine themselves having the same experience. Similarly, Hotel Generated Content is equally important. Hotels are more than beds and effective video presentations can tell a compelling story - a story about what makes the hotel appealing and unique. A video walk-through of rooms is essential, as are video tours in different areas of a hotel. The goal is to highlight what makes the property exceptional, but also to show real people having real fun - an experience that prospective guests can have too. The June Hotel Business Review will report on some of these issues and strategies, and examine how some sales and marketing professionals are integrating them into their operations.