The pandemic has been a boon for tech vendors; on top of the huge potential for cost savings, now you have the critical need for physical distancing and contact tracing. But for all these systems to work, you have to have a flawless internet hookup. Moreover, the benefits of speedy connectivity go far beyond the back of house. So, in this article let’s think about WiFi from the guest perspective, especially in light of many of the travel behavior changes since COVID-19.
This past year has witnessed a profound shift in how, when and where people work. Digital nomadism was a trend well before 2020, but the pandemic accelerated this movement by making remote work mainstream. Although it’s inevitable for the office commute to return, many will choose to keep the flexibility of staying home throughout the week.
Whatever name you choose to call this now-common psychographic, the revenue opportunity for brands is in knowing that if a person can work from anywhere, then that means they can work from your hotel. But much like all of our BOH tech stacks, guests need a fast and uninterrupted internet connection in order to accommodate all those Zoom meetings then chill out afterwards with some Netflix, perhaps streamed poolside.
No doubt you’ve already spent loads of CapEx to install a great onsite WiFi network and deploy a team to vigilantly monitor it every day. It’s not just the system, however, but how confident these digital nomads are in your network prior to booking.
Suppose for next winter, and long after you’ve gotten your vaccine, you and your loved one opt to escape the drudgeries of the cold, gray urban life for a week in the Caribbean. Why a week? If your company policy going forward allows you both to work remotely and you have no in-person gatherings on the books, then you can in theory spend a whole month down south. After a quick check of the finances, you decide just that.
Something is stopping you, though—a lingering fear in the back of your mind. You are hesitant to book a whole month rather than just a week because you aren’t sure if the hotel will have good enough WiFi to support videoconferencing once you arrive. Most people in the modern, globetrotting, professional class can afford to go one week without going online for work. A month is Russian roulette.
Therefore, a lack of confidence in your hotel’s WiFi speed is a dealbreaker for travelers hoping to squeeze in some inbox clearing between mojitos on the beach. For you, the hotelier, it’s a huge difference in the type of guests you can attract as well as how much you can increase length of stay. There’s also TripAdvisor. Given this third-party’s influence, one ‘bad WiFi’ comment can cost you many thousands of dollars in reservations as guests avoid properties where work may be compromised.
With all this in mind, here are some concluding considerations:
- Test your WiFi. Go all around your property and locate any weak points, especially during peak hours. It’s one thing for the lobby network to function smoothly on a Sunday afternoon; it’s a whole other for it to maintain the same speed on Friday night when you’re at full occupancy and every other guest is streaming videos. Given the recent trends for guest privacy and seclusion, this is doubly true for rural resorts where digital nomads may want to visit but also have the luxury of bringing their laptop out to that gazebo a few yards from the suite’s terrace. Do what can be done for these outlier scenarios.
- Damage control. Invest in a first-class social media aggregate and guest sentiment platform so that you can identify customers who feel let down by your WiFi prowess then react as quickly as possible to address the issue. Ideally, you would want to initiate some sort of mid-stay recovery to help prevent any negative comments from reaching the public realm.
- Update your owned online presence. Think of all the digital assets in your control—the website, its booking engine, social media pages, OTAs and so on. You must make sure that you go through all these to write some new copy or amenity descriptions that inspires confidence in your onsite wireless connectivity. Then there’s also the ones that are beyond your control, for which you should consider using a content parity platform that can update all these disparate vendors on your behalf.
- Develop packages. Tiered WiFi speeds were all the rage five to 10 years ago, and it’s questionable at best if such tactics would work nowadays. Rather, consider advertising your WiFi prowess as a selling feature within a package or promotion aimed at customers looking to work from a hotel (either for the aforementioned digital nomads or for day guests). To build these effectively, you will need rich guest profile data in your PMS or CRM in order to discern what other services these types of prospective customers want from their hotel stays.