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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