Guest wifi may be just one little search criterion on the OTA search page (alongside things like ‘pet-friendly’, or ‘swimming pool’), but it packs an almighty punch for customer satisfaction, and for some guests, it’s a deal-breaker.
Should it be free? Expectations have reached that point where the answer is a resounding ‘yes’. It should be ‘free’, and while many are quoting that guests believe it should be uncapped, there’s another side to it.
Luring guests with free unlimited wifi only checks out as a viable strategy, if the user experience is positive. With internet speeds of around 200 megabit per second (200Mbps) as standard in built up areas, but going as high as the new one-Gigabit per second (1Gbps) connections, (where fibre is operated by some more aggressive UFB providers), a snail-paced internet service will frustrate guests. Especially those whose home systems offer high speed connections and support multiple devices per family member. With some definite bones in this conundrum, AMG accessed some industry know-how to flesh out just how to meet the market.
Did you know that 2017 is the Year of the Access Point? Well, if it isn’t, Chris Woodhams of Zenbu says it should be: “If a customer has a slow internet connection or insufficient access points, there’s not much we can do to create fast internet.”
Even if you have a ISP and router are pumping out lightning fast one Gigabit per second, if your wifi signal has to pass through several walls to get to the user, it will lose speed fast.
The solution? Multiple access points. While Mr Woodhams said industry professionals would love to see an access point in every room, great results will still be delivered with one in every second room. “When you have a motel offering free wifi and they have one router strapped to the back of the office wall, facing the rooms, now that’s a problem.” Even with a single additional booster or access point will give a boost but more and more, not what a customer expects.
Servicing multiple devices
While you’d be hard pressed to find a millennial without multiple devices, they’re not the only ones. A typical modern family of four will need access for ten or more ‘critical’ devices to feel adequately connected. While the millennials may be driving the need for multiple simultaneous connections, other demographics are catching on fast.
Hot spots to service multiple devices, safely
Implementing a hotspot system creates a gateway between your internet connection and your guests. You decide the terms of entry – the definition of ‘reasonable use’ for free wifi in any 24-hour period.
For example, Zenbu told AMG that most accommodation sites hover between 300 and 500MB per device per day, though clients can go higher if they choose. As a rough guide, 300-500MB is enough to check your emails, Facebook, download a few photos, and even Skype family or friends. Streaming will consume this amount quickly, so streamers fall into the ‘more than reasonable use’ category and generally will be happy to pay a small premium for additional data bundles.
In Europe, it’s unusual to just automatically connect to your local café’s wifi. The reason may lie in copyright laws, which dictate that if download content illegally, you can be prosecuted and if you own the internet connection, you are responsible for what happens on it. In continental Europe, this law is heavily enforced, with commercial behaviour around free wifi understandably cautious.
In New Zealand, a recent spate of instances of copyright law enforcement may be cause for extra precautions. If someone in room 204 illegally downloads the David Parker fight from Sky TV, you are actually responsible, and have inadvertently broken copyright laws. As online activity proliferates, “more and more premium content will become a topic of litigation,” Mr Woodhams predicted.
So how does an accommodation business pay for all of this?
Simple, you don’t. You set your maximum for free internet and charge thereafter. After the initial investment, it could well pay for itself, depending on the internet habits of your clientele. Passing on the cost to the “internet grabbers”, can be a way to offer those guests who use internet more moderately a fast, free and reliable wifi service.