The Hotel Readiness Test: Mega Events and the Connected Guest

By Jon Davis Vice President, Business Development, Indoor Networks, ExteNet Systems Inc. | October 21, 2012

2012 has been the year of the mega events--from the Summer Olympics to the G8, the NATO Summit and multiple political conventions. For hotels, these mega events have directly collided with expectations of the new “connected guest”. This guest has dramatically changing expectations and needs for wireless services in and around hotel properties and hospitality venues.

In many ways, 2012 has been an incubation test for countless hotels located in areas where mega events took place. It’s no doubt that when these events occur, drawing potentially thousands of “connected guests” to hotel properties in the vicinity, hotel executives are left to wonder: will the wireless infrastructure in place meet the changing needs and expectations of these connected guests? Equally important is the future impact. Would the guest experience, relative to their wireless needs, affect their decision to stay at the property in the future? Additionally, were the wireless needs of mega event organizers—and their ability to draw crowds - affected in any way that might influence their destination, location, venue choices for future mega events?

Big Stakes Rest on Changing Perceptions

Not surprisingly, the technology profile of hotel guests has been changing rapidly for years. No longer can hotels simply provide wireless services to support laptop connections and mobile phone use. Today hotel guests expect a seamless wireless experience—no dropped mobile calls or data connectivity — from the moment they leave the taxi, through the hotel lobby, up the elevator and into a private room. These expectations exist because guests are experiencing changing wireless environments wherever they go.

For example, countless sports and entertainment facilities have stepped up their commercial wireless solutions. Fans are using their mobile devices to talk, text, download, view the game wirelessly while watching it live, and even ordering snacks and merchandise while they sit in the stands. Likewise, the consumer’s wireless experience is changing in similar ways in commercial office buildings, shopping facilities, universities and even healthcare facilities, which have all aggressively pursued significant wireless upgrades. Even some high-end hotel properties are doing their part to change consumer wireless expectations. Some are presenting their guests with a media rich experience from the moment they enter their room. This might include everything from a device such as tablet available for guests to use and to order media rich applications, or to interact with concierge services and to place orders from room service.

Clearly, the environment is changing and this is affecting guest expectations. For hotels to capitalize on future business—including being in the running for future mega events, the hotel wireless infrastructure must be primed and ready. Given the mega events that took place in 2012, we wondered: is there anything hotel executives can learn or take away from hotels that experienced the connected guest and mega events in 2012? The answer is yes.

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Eco-Friendly Practices: The Greening of Your Bottom Line

There are strong moral and ethical reasons why a hotel should incorporate eco-friendly practices into their business but it is also becoming abundantly clear that “going green” can dramatically improve a hotel's bottom line. When energy-saving measures are introduced - fluorescent bulbs, ceiling fans, linen cards, lights out cards, motion sensors for all public spaces, and energy management systems - energy bills are substantially reduced. When water-saving equipment is introduced - low-flow showerheads, low-flow toilets, waterless urinals, and serving water only on request in restaurants - water bills are also considerably reduced. Waste hauling is another major expense which can be lowered through recycling efforts and by avoiding wastefully-packaged products. Vendors can be asked to deliver products in minimal wrapping, and to deliver products one day, and pick up the packaging materials the next day - generating substantial savings. In addition, renewable sources of energy (solar, geothermal, wind, etc.) have substantially improved the economics of using alternative energies at the property level. There are other compelling reasons to initiate sustainability practices in their operation. Being green means guests and staff are healthier, which can lead to an increase in staff retention, as well as increased business from health conscious guests. Also, sooner or later, all properties will be sold, and green hotels will command a higher price due to its energy efficiencies. Finally, some hotels qualify for tax credits, subsidies and rebates from local, regional and federal governments for the eco-friendly investments they've made in their hotels. The May issue of the Hotel Business Review will document how some hotels are integrating sustainable practices into their operations and how their hotels are benefiting from them.