Poor Wi-Fi often means poor guest reviews and a dip in repeat business for hotels, but it’s often difficult for owners and operators to empirically measure Wi-Fi performance compared to other hotels. A hotel industry group with HTNG is working to change that.
REPORT FROM THE U.S.—Poor Wi-Fi can be a huge detriment to a guest’s perception of a hotel, but for owners or operators, there’s no quick and easy way to gauge how Wi-Fi at their properties stacks up against the competition.
A workgroup under the umbrella of Hospitality Technology Next Generation’s Improving the Guest Wi-Fi Experience is working to change that, devising a reliable way to benchmark Wi-Fi performance across different properties.
Richard Wagner, network architecture and emerging technologies technical consultant for Marriott International, said the process is still ongoing but the end goal is to devise an algorithm that can go in and quickly judge various aspects of a hotel’s network to spit out a simple score—possibly a scale of 1 to 10—that can be compared against other properties.
“The long-term direction after we get through this exercise (of trying out an initial scoring metric) is build something, test it and see how (those scores) compare against guest score,” he said. “After that, the thought would be to take it into machine learning or artificial intelligence and kind of predict what’s going to happen and what you need to do to fix it.”
Wagner noted it’s important to realize what the HTNG group is building is not a diagnostic tool to figure out where a hotel’s network might have problems but rather a broad indicator of end-user experience. The final score also is not intended to be something guest-facing or even something hotels can compare against their competitive sets.
Instead, the tool is meant for use among individual brands or management companies as an educational opportunity for ownership that might be reticent to invest in bandwidth and networks by showing how their Wi-Fi performance potentially performs poorly compared to other hotels and how that correlates to low guest satisfaction.
“When you go to an owner to convince them to spend money on their bandwidth, it’s always a battle to convince them they need to do something,” he said. “So it could be useful if we had something like this, and now you’re comparing (their hotel) against all the other Marriotts in their city.”
The metric won’t measure just a single part of the Wi-Fi experience, Wagner said, but various aspects including the speed of the bandwidth out of the property, signal strength and how quickly a device can connect to the network.
A clear, objective metric will be useful, in part, because guest satisfaction scores aren’t a completely objective measure when it comes to the Wi-Fi experience, Wagner said.
“If you wind up in a room where the toilet is blocked and the shower doesn’t work, you might score everything (on a guest survey) a zero and say, ‘This sucks,’” he said. “What we’re trying to do is separate out the guest experience from an internet perspective.”
Desmond Owens, COO of Epitiro, is also part of the workgroup and said he believes the tool will be important as networking technology and standards quickly change. This will allow hotels to re-evaluate their Wi-Fi going forward and help identify when they have a problem they need to address.
“There are lot of claims that get made about new technologies,” he said, referring to things like Wi-Fi 6 and 5G. “So if one is able to establish a baseline of performance for their systems, that will help people understand this new technology and if it makes a difference to the things that matter.”
Wagner said the group’s efforts are still very much a work in progress, and even after they wrap up, it will be up to individual companies to take the tool and customize it to their needs.
“We kind of have a solution, but we have to find some company or vendor to implement it,” he said. “We’re not building a product, but we’re validating that what we’ve done is of value.”
He said his goal will be to “Marriott-ize” the scoring tool upon completion, and he wouldn’t be surprised to see other big brand companies like Hilton and Hyatt Hotels Corporation to do the same.
Owens noted guests are only going to put more importance on good Wi-Fi, so it make sense for hotel companies to do everything they can to maximize that part of the hotel stay.
“Just look at airports,” he said. “The speed (of airport Wi-Fi) is so much different and better than just a few years ago. And now people are even publishing rankings of the airports with the best Wi-Fi.”
Wagner said a high-end Wi-Fi experience is part of the price of doing business for hotels today.
“It’s part of our culture, now,” he said. “Everyone has good Wi-Fi at home, and they want the same performance when they’re staying at a hotel.”