Essential Hotel Wi-Fi: to Charge or Not to Charge?

Date September 9, 2014 Author Comments Leave your thoughts

Essential Hotel WiFi

Walking past a hotel today I was struck (not literally) by a large sign that said “Rooms £65 per night including Breakfast and WiFi”. 

How times have changed; en-suite bathrooms, speciality menus, satellite TV, etc., are clearly all a bit passé now – what everybody needs is WiFi!  Perhaps there’s a new Facebook ‘selfie’ craze to be started here with “Here I am eating my inclusive breakfast using my inclusive WiFi”!

Essential Hotel Wi-Fi

It seems that, as part of the communications revolution that we’re in right now, great data communication is an essential part of everyone’s life whether at home, at work or on the road in restaurants and hotels.  What’s more, despite so many mobile phones having huge inclusive data plans, the WiFi demand is growing – the (limited) mobile network speeds that we experience in many parts of the country may well be a factor here.  Take a look at the various travel feedback websites – the number of “won’t stay here again, no WiFi” comments is growing steadily and should be a significant worry to the affected hotels.

To Charge, or Not to Charge 

For the hotel though, this creates a whole new conundrum; to charge or not to charge?  The problem, of course, for the hotel (or anyone in the hospitality industry) is that it costs money to get a decent WiFi service including adequate data capacity into the internet up and running.  What’s more, a good service gets used more, further increasing the data costs…

From the range of offerings out there, it seems that the choice depends on many factors and, perhaps, simple business preference.  Some hotel chains charge up to £5.00 per day (outrageous) for ‘high speed data’, others give 30 minutes free and charge thereafter, and yet others don’t charge at all.  There’s a balance to be struck between working on the positive benefits of, perhaps, increased room occupancy or a (small) charge for the service when good WiFi is provided and the negative impact of possible loss of business if it isn’t.

Free Wi-Fi?

For the visitor though, beware!  Market research indicates that a good WiFi service (free or otherwise) can increase dwell time in a restaurant by 20 to 30 minutes while customers scan their e-mail, look at venues for the rest of the evening’s entertainment, and so on.  While they’re there, they buy an extra coffee, muffin, drink…  Turns out that the ‘free’ WiFi is far from free!

So, What’s Next? 

Will the next generation of mobile services, 4G/LTE, change the game?  I doubt it.  It looks as though the demand for WiFi is going to keep on increasing for the foreseeable future.

At Ensign, we’ve designed, engineered and deployed wireless networks in many hotels and restaurants.  We know how to work with the décor or other building aspects and minimise the visual impact.

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Author Ian Price

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