I realize that Westerns aren’t exactly the most popular genre of novels or films these days, but I believe the following comparison still stands. Back in the Old West, the gunslinger who draws the fastest wipes out the competition. Replace the word ‘gunslinger’ with ‘hotel WiFi’ and the same can be applied nowadays.
If you aren’t providing free WiFi to your guests by now then you are doing them a great disservice. Guests expect this for free much like they do heating, air conditioning and tap water (or at least have the costs buried into the nightly rate). It’s 2014, so get with the times.
But it’s no longer just about offering complimentary internet connectivity, but giving it out at a satisfactory speed. To comprehend why fast is just as important as free in this regard, you should first understand the theory of cognitive drift. The basic idea is that if a website takes too long to load, users lose interest. This varies based on patience levels but I’d ballpark it for millennials at around one to two seconds.
Many hotels now offer free WiFi to customers (definitely a good thing) but slow connections frustrate people. It makes them impatient. It makes them feel like they are being slighted. Free WiFi that’s slow rings of false advertising; you’re marketing a service to guests to get them through the door but then you don’t sufficiently fulfill your end of the bargain.
I’m sure you can recall your emotions at a time when you were a victim of false advertising. It’s not great, hateful even. I doubt you’d want those feelings bestowed upon your property for something as small as failing to offer adequate free wireless connection rates. Do yourself a favor and get up to speed (pun intended).
One other note is the use of smartphones and tablets for browsing. I’m not one to tout endless numbers to prove my point, but if you were to look up any current statistics on the topics, no doubt you’d find that these mobile devices represent a very sizeable portion of total internet traffic in relation to laptops and desktops.
Seeing as how smartphones and tablets are wholly reliant on WiFi or 3G/4G, this puts extra emphasis on getting your internet running with enough bandwidth to support an abundance of users. Moreover, websites generally do not load quite as quickly on mobile devices as on computers, further driving home the need for lightning fast WiFi.
While delivering fast and free WiFi to all your guests is a noble goal that I’m sure every hotelier would love to see realized sooner rather than later, for many of us it’s simply not feasible – not with our budgetary constraints and not with the way consumers voraciously gormandize bandwidth through the likes of streaming videos (eg. Netflix) or gigabyte downloads (eg. torrent files). We have to find a middle ground, a compromise as we ease into a world where free internet connectivity becomes the expected norm.
Another unrelated problem with the state of our industry pertains to the way OTAs are stealing our customers and cutting into our profit margins. Suppose you offer basic, slow WiFi to all guests, but if guests book directly through you and not through a third-party websites, they get a complimentary internet upgrade. It’s a little like killing two birds with one stone – a perk that satisfies guests’ need for fast access while also deterring future bookings through high commission vendors. This is one possible solution; get your team together and I’m sure you will be able to think of several others.