Last updated: 12:00 PM ET, Thu July 23 2015

How Are Hotels Keeping Up With Rising Wi-Fi Demands?

Travel Technology | Ryan Rudnansky | July 23, 2015

How Are Hotels Keeping Up With Rising Wi-Fi Demands?

Photo courtesy of Thinkstock

A recent study highlights how important Wi-Fi is for travelers, and how hoteliers are responding to demand.

The study, “An Intimate Look at Hospitality Wi-Fi” by Internet provider Hotel Internet Services, surveyed more than 500 hotel guests and 200 hoteliers in May, asking about mobile device type, Internet habits and desires and what guests need for an ideal digital hospitality experience.

The most used mobile device today appears to be the smartphone, with more than 75 percent of survey respondents saying they carry a smartphone with them during their travels. That’s not exactly a shocker, but what is a bit surprising is that 61 percent of them said they normally carry around a tablet, indicating a surge in tablet usage over previous years.

Apple still rules, with nearly 55 percent of respondents saying it’s their mobile system of choice, compared to 39 percent of respondents who said they use Android. Apple was even more popular among tablet users, with more than two-thirds of them owning an iPad.

More and more hotels have been offering rooms with multiple outlets lately due to a rise in demand. In fact, more than two-thirds of respondents said they connect multiple devices to the hotel Internet.

It should come as no surprise that Netflix is the subscribed content provider of choice, with 46 percent of respondents saying they use the service during their travels and hoteliers beginning to even offer it for free at their properties. Amazon and iTunes were also popular, each used by more than 37 percent of travelers.

High-quality bandwidth also appears to be worth investing in for hoteliers, as more than 46 percent of travelers saying they use services like Netflix to watch movies and TV. More than 52 percent said they’d like to stream content through their in-room TV.

The expectation for reliable Internet has also appeared to increase among travelers. Nearly all respondents (98 percent) said they expect to have Internet in their hotel rooms, while 68 percent expected it to be available in the lobby. Heck, 43 percent said they expect to have Wi-Fi at the hotel pool.

It looks like hoteliers have gotten the idea, too. Wi-Fi was offered in the guestroom and hotel lobby by more than 95 percent of hoteliers surveyed. More than three-fifths of hoteliers (61 percent) said they offer Wi-Fi at the pool.

It’s not just about having Wi-Fi, though—it’s about having free Wi-Fi. Seventy-two percent of guests said they will walk away from a hotel if it doesn’t have free Wi-Fi. In that respect, 80 percent of hoteliers said they are offering free Wi-Fi these days.

More and more hotels are offering a tiered Wi-Fi service nowadays (free for average Internet speeds, with a charge for higher speeds and quality). Right now, it appears to be a viable strategy, as more than half of respondents said they would pay for a higher tier of service.

But charge more than $2.99 for that tier and guests will revolt, it seems. About 34 percent would be willing to pay $2.99, but only 6.3 percent would be willing to pay a dollar more.

About 41 percent of hoteliers surveyed said they currently have a tiered Wi-Fi system, with 29 percent of respondents saying they were considering implementing it for the future. Most said they feel $4.99 is a fair deal, while 10 percent said guests shouldn't have to pay more than $2.99.

As hoteliers know, meeting the demands of guests when it comes to Internet service is no easy task. Most guests are apparently unhappy with a host of Wi-Fi issues, including low speed (64 percent), poor signal coverage (63 percent), connectivity problems (58 percent) and insufficient bandwidth (41 percent). It’s also not a great sign that 40 percent said the hotel Internet has been completely down during a stay in the past.

Hoteliers seem to understand which problems are most widespread…with the exception of low speed. Only 36 percent said low speed is a big problem for their guests (I guess you could say hoteliers need to get up to speed about that). 

But what is adequate Internet speed, according to guests?

More than 31 percent of respondents said 1 Mbps is the minimum speed they would accept for free Wi-Fi, while roughly 29 percent said they would only accept 1.5 Mbps or better. That’s actually not that demanding; major hotel Internet reviewer Hotel WiFi Test deems “adequate Wi-Fi” to be a download speed of 3 Mbps or better, and nearly 45 percent of hoteliers said they plan on increasing their total Wi-Fi bandwidth for guests.

Internet support is also a service most guests demand. More than 60 percent of respondents said 24/7 Internet support is “very important.” Only 11 of the 185 hoteliers who responded said 24/7 Internet support was “not important.”

Internet security was high on guests’ lists, too. In fact, 57 percent said they would pay one to two dollars more for a secure encrypted Wi-Fi connection. Interestingly enough, most hoteliers aren’t aware that guests would pay extra for this, with 55 percent doubting that guests would do so (of course, they are bound to catch on rather quickly when they recognize a viable business opportunity).

And as technology speeds up year after year, an interesting thing has happened: More hoteliers are updating their Wi-Fi networks with greater regularity to accommodate the ever-increasing demands of guests. Only 27 percent of hoteliers surveyed said their Wi-Fi networks are more than three years old, while more than two-thirds of respondents currently have Wi-Fi networks that are three years old or newer. On top of that, more than 22 percent of hoteliers said they plan on upgrading their Wi-Fi networks in the next 12 months, and more than 40 percent plan on upgrading in the next two years.

What does this all mean?

It means that the pressure is great for hoteliers when it comes to guest Wi-Fi these days, and they aren’t taking guest demand lightly.

Welcome to the world at lightning-speed. Jump on board or get left in the dust.



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