Vacation. Holiday. Bandwidth. Did I really just use those three words together?
I’ve been hearing—and experiencing—for the past 12 months that the biggest issue for hoteliers is how much broadband guests need and use. It really hit home during my whirlwind tour of Florida last week.
Not that I was actually trying to work while on vacation, but I found myself questioning front-desk personnel at the Hilton and Embassy Suites properties at which my family stayed during our nine-day holiday. Don’t blame me—they both volunteered information, and what self-respecting journalist doesn’t immediately start grilling a front-line hotel employee when the opportunity arises?
During the first conversation at the first hotel, I learned the Internet connection was slow because the sold-out hotel had many guests using multiple devices. The hotel has no plans, according to the front-desk clerk that checked me in, to add bandwidth to alleviate the problem. But, she added, that because I am a HHonors Diamond member, the service was free so I probably wouldn’t mind the slow service.
Later, second and third conversations were had when my room key’s magnetic stripe failed, and I couldn’t get into our room. Yes, I kept the keys away from other credit cards and my mobile phone. They couldn’t explain why the keys didn’t work.
The next revealing conversation occurred during the check-in process at the second hotel, when the clerk informed me that he would check me in as quickly as possibly, but it would take longer than normal because the Internet service was slow.
“Why is that,” I wondered aloud.
“All of our meeting space is in use today, and they are utilizing a lot of the bandwidth coming into the hotel, so it really is slow,” the clerk said.
“Is it always like this?” I asked.
“Only when we’re busy,” he said.
Ouch. Busy or not, I want fast Internet access!
The final conversations at that hotel were eerily familiar. Again, twice I had room-key failure when the magnetic stripe didn’t work. Twice, I traipsed all the way to the elevator, down six floors and to the front desk to get the keys replaced. Yes, I kept the keys away from other credit cards and my mobile phone. They couldn’t explain why the keys didn’t work.
That’s when it dawned on me: I wish I could use my smartphone to serve as my room key. The technology exists—it might not be perfected just yet, but hey, neither are mag-stripe keycards!
Then another thought occurred to me: I wasn’t getting a strong cell signal in the hotel, so I’d probably have to use the hotel’s Internet service to use the phone as a key. And with slow bandwidth, it wouldn’t work.
The morals of this story? First, I’m begging all hoteliers to please, please, please add more bandwidth than you think you are going to need. People staying at your hotel rely on it, and I know I would pay a reasonable price for it! Second, please adopt the technology that allows us to use our smartphones more wisely. It is in your best interest!
What it all boils down to is that technology is one of the chief ways a hotel operator can make a guest happy or frustrated. The industry moves pretty slowly at times, but now is the time for action. Can you really afford not to?
Disclaimer: Not all was lost. The hotels had comfortable rooms that were, for the most part, clean and comfortable. That certainly made me happy, but I still left both properties shaking my head.