The Evolution of Hotel Wi-Fi… and What’s Coming Next

If you immediately connect to the hotel Wi-Fi as part of your “getting settled” ritual, you’re not alone. In fact, according to USA Today, the majority of hotel guests log on to Wi-Fi within the first seven minutes.

For a service that’s so desirable, you’d think guests would be willing to shell out big bucks to make sure they have the functionality available. However, for most travelers, Wi-Fi has become table stakes. Travelers expect to have Wi-Fi access in their rooms and expect to be able to connect to their own media wherever they are. And, according to surveys from everyone from J.D. Power to Accenture to industry leaders, paying for Wi-Fi is one of the issues most likely to cause dissatisfaction with a guest’s overall stay.

So, what’s next?

Consumers have made one thing clear; they want their MTV. Or, at least they want to be able to stream their MTV, or their Netflix, or their Pandora, in their room and free of charge. While losing this potential for revenue can be frustrating for hoteliers, many brands see other opportunities for relationship building:

  • Smart rooms

If you charge guests for Wi-Fi, you lower your technology adoption rate, which means automatically shutting guests out of other opportunities to connect with you and build loyalty to your brand. As more hotels embrace in-room smart technology like Alexa for Hospitality, smart thermostats, and casting capabilities, they’ll need their guests connected to Wi-Fi to fully make use of these additional offerings and opportunities for brand differentiation.

  1. Premium Wi-Fi

Half of the millennials are willing to pay 5 percent of their salaries in order to have access to super-fast Wi-Fi. While hotels should still make a standard offering with decent speed available, there’s also room at the top for a premium plan for super-users. And, upselling just 12 percent of guests to a premium plan can cover the entire cost of providing Wi-Fi service for the property for the year.

Getting smart when it comes to ads can also make Wi-Fi a revenue stream rather than a drain. If you’re connecting your touchpoints and making good use of a CRM, you should be able to identify the hotel amenities that are most valuable to your guests and highlight spa offers, room service, and more. And, opening up advertising on your Wi-Fi portal for local businesses (restaurants, attractions, etc.) that fit with your typical guest’s interests can also be a great way to capture additional revenue.

  1. Connecting guests with the brand, not just the location

Emerging technology is making it possible to build a better-connected experience before guests even reach the hotel. For example, enabling guests to check-in from home and download a Wi-Fi Passpoint certificate to their device will mean guests’ devices connect seamlessly to the Wi-Fi when they arrive at the property. Your staff can be notified automatically when the guest arrives to kick off the greeting and key issuing process. Even better, you can circumvent this process altogether by automatically issuing a digital key to the guest’s Wi-Fi-powered device.

From there, the sky can be the limit; hearkening back to the smart room, guests can be allowed to complete steps like setting their room thermostat to their preferred temperature before arrival or adjusting their windows to a preferred lighting setting, making the room more personalized and comfortable before they even step foot inside. When these settings are available across the board at all locations, it makes the overall brand seem more welcoming and attuned to guests’ desires, which increases consumer loyalty.

Continued focus on evolution

Just getting Wi-Fi standardized across hotels and brands has been a multi-year challenge. In the beginning, networks were not authenticated, because the technology moved fast and businesses were working just to keep up.

Now, additional security measures are being put in place to ensure we know which guests are taking which actions online. From both a security and a legal perspective, it’s important for hoteliers to know who is connecting to their networks and what actions they are taking (when it comes to illegal behaviors such as downloading copyrighted material or issuing threats).

The main takeaway from this? Make sure your offering adds distinct value to the guest experience.

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