When guests are willing to pay for Wi-Fi
 
When guests are willing to pay for Wi-Fi
14 MARCH 2014 6:24 AM

Who says guests won’t pony up for Wi-Fi? One study found the opposite to be true, as long as the connection fits one important criteria: portability. 

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In a fragmented distribution landscape, direct bookings have emerged as something of a Holy Grail—and for good reason. Converting a guest on brand.com not only keeps more money in hoteliers’ pockets, but it also allows them to collect valuable customer data to help facilitate repeat bookings. 
 
But how to funnel a larger share of business through this channel? TripAdvisor lends some insights gleaned from some “competitive research” regarding its Special Offers tool. Among their top tips: Create packages that deliver value.
 
“Combining discounts, perks and free amenities into package-style Special Offers is very popular. Travelers are drawn to perceived value, so packages are like Special Offers synergy,” according to the report. 
 
Others include feeding guests’ hunger for freebies (e.g., free breakfast), getting perky with perks (e.g. free airport pick-up), or using “accelerators” to speed up planning (e.g., offering a free night after minimum length of stay). 
 
The report mentioned Wi-Fi in particular as a useful demand-inducing lever. Whether including as part of a package or a standalone value-add, it’s perhaps the top in-room draw for today’s value-conscious guest. 
 
But leveraging the power of Wi-Fi needn’t be constrained to the footprint of a hotel room or property. Forward-thinking operators may just as well offer a Wi-Fi network that expands throughout the entire destination. 
 
I was treated to this very perk while attending the Fitur International Tourism Trade Fair in Madrid. Myself, along with a cadre of other media professionals, received a portable router device upon check-in that granted us a 4G connection wherever we went as part of a broader pilot program conducted by Instituto Tecnológico Hotelero and WiFiMotiON 4G, in collaboration with Vodafone.
 
The experience was simply fantastic. My exuberance undoubtedly was amplified by the fact that my iPhone is rendered useless when I step outside U.S. borders. I don’t have a global data plan, so I rely instead on a shared dinosaur of a BlackBerry during my travels outside the U.S. That means no Twitter or Instagram, no intuitive mapping software, limited Web browsing capabilities and a general sense of being cut off from the world and everything and everyone I know inside it.
 
Oh, and it also makes getting work done a real pain in the arse. 
 
The portable router bridged that chasm of connectivity, granting me unfettered access whether in Madrid’s IFEMA conference hall, traveling in the tube, or bellied up to a bar. 
 
Simply put, it was the best Wi-Fi experience I ever had during countless trips and travels. 
 
And here’s the good news for hoteliers: I’d be happy to pay for it. I’m not alone in my thinking. According to the pilot program, 66% of guests would pay for mobile Internet connections. Half of all guests would be willing to pay up to €5 ($6.97) per day.
 
Guests willing to pay for Internet? That’s a business proposition I’m sure the entire travel community can get behind. 
 
Now on to the usual goodies …
 
What’s making me happy this week?
The obvious answer would be the boxes of Girl Scout cookies that just got delivered to my office. In keeping within the confines of hospitality, however, I’ll point to the pending rollout of true keyless entry in several major chains, as reported in a piece from Hotel News Now’s Jason Q. Freed.
 
We’ve heard about this technology for years—smartphone enabled guestroom key locks that would allow travelers to bypass the front desk and time-consuming check-in process that often comes with it. But because of a fragmented smartphone manufacturing industry, varying worldwide cell signal standards and expensive locking system upgrades, mobile keys have yet to become more than just a fixation. 
 
There finally appears to be some light at the end of the tunnel, with Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide readying brand-wide rollouts in its W Hotels and Aloft chains by the end of 2015. Let me speak for all the jet-lagged road warriors out there when I say, THANK YOU!
 
Stat of the week
$186.5 billion: Projected business travel spending among Germany, the United Kingdom, France, Italy and Spain during 2014, a 5.1% increase over 2013, according to the Global Business Travel Association.
 
The projected rate of growth is expected to increase in 2015 as spending picks up another 6.5% growing to $198.6 billion. The outlook for four of the five markets included in the analysis were all revised upward from the GBTA’s half-year 2013 outlook. 
 
Quote of the week
“The gloves are off, and hotels need to use every available tool to them to fill their hotels when demand is soft. And when demand is hard, there’s going to be a little bit of blood here and there and a few broken noses.”
Hotel consultant Graham Dungey describing how a ruling by the U.K.’s Office of Fair Trading, which allows hoteliers and OTAs alike to offer discounts to fenced groups, will impact distribution and search engine marketing. 
 
Reader comment of the week
“Finally an article that recognises the value of net rates. Hoteliers have options- OTAs, net rate distributors, MICE, groups etc. and there is room in the market for all. As a net rate model operator, I often hear the hotels wanting to ‘protect’ their BAR rates- which often undercut the nets! Surely there is value to be had in operating both OTA/BAR model and net where there is a sensible differential in both. Then the hotel is not held to randsome (sic) by ever increasing commission demands from major OTAs. The old adage of eggs in one basket has never been truer.....”
Reader “ASkelly” voicing approval after reading “‘Gloves are off' in hotel, OTA search skirmish.”
 
Email Patrick Mayock or find him on Twitter.
 
The opinions expressed in this column do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Hotel News Now or its parent company, STR and its affiliated companies. Bloggers published on this site are given the freedom to express views that may be controversial, but our goal is to provoke thought and constructive discussion within our reader community. Please feel free to comment or contact an editor with any questions or concerns.
 

1 Comment

  • Anonymous March 15, 2014 2:44 PM

    Girl Scout cookies! I hope some of them were Tagalongs.

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