The results of the study by NETGEAR show that one third of leisure customers, and two thirds of business guests, will not return to a venue if the WiFi does not live up to their expectations. However the study also showed that a number of hospitality businesses remain unaware of the importance of this service, with 76 per cent of venues believing that the quality of service and facilities are far more important to visitors than WiFi. In addition to this, 43 per cent believe customers think poor or non-existent WiFi is a price worth paying for the experience that they offer.
Beliefs such as this could result in a drop in occupancy rates as customers don't come back to visit again. Visitors are also likely to choose not to use on-site restaurants and cafes, instead going out to places where they can connect.
Change in WiFi use
The change in how people use WiFi in recent years could be one of the factors that means smaller hotels are failing to keep up with the trend. Jonathan Hallatt, NETGEAR's regional director for the UK, Ireland & South Africa explained to us that with the rise in smart phones and tablets, consumers like to remain connected everywhere.
He said: "I think the research shows that it’s partly because the use of devices has changed so fast in such a short space of time, even within the last two to three years it's changed pretty fast in terms of everybody's understanding of what WiFi is, and the use of smartphones and tablets etc. I also think that this is not just about trying to connect to work anymore, it’s about trying to connect to organise your life and to be able to carry out basic tasks.
“If you're in a hospitality location like a hotel then there's always a requirement for WiFi, people want to take pictures of what they’re doing and upload them. I think the speed of the change in what people use WiFi for is the reason some organisations haven't caught up. Consumers are aware how much it costs them to use the cellular network to upload and download, and they are much savvier with apps and social networking, they want to be able to use them.”
Worth the cost
Hallatt advises that hotels and other hospitality businesses will actually see an increase in revenue if they have WiFi services and that it is worth the added cost.
He said: “I'm convinced hospitality businesses can justify the extra expenditure on upgrading as a way of generating more revenue other than just being a cost for a business.”
He also advised that free WiFi was becoming expected, though consumers will accept charging for more advanced packages.
“I think free WiFi does matter. There's a certain hotel chain whose only advert is the fact they give free WiFi, they don't mention the quality of the rooms or the fact they have ensuites, they just talk about the free WiFi. I think that is something which will edge more people to them, they obviously do or they wouldn't have invested that money in their campaign.”
“I would say however that if organisations and venues wanted to offer a basic service for free and a specialised one for a little bit extra they might be able to charge for that.”