With every aspect of our lives now infuenced by digital interactions, our reliance on being connected – 24/7 – has never been greater.
Business and leisure travellers generally expect Wi-Fi as a standard feature of their hotel stay and the clear majority of hoteliers in Europe recognise this, with 95% including unlimited Wi-Fi within their room charges. However, there is something of a disconnect between what guests feel is adequate Wi-Fi provision and the significance placed upon Wi-Fi services by hoteliers themselves.
Guests want the same seamless Wi-Fi experience they have grown accustomed to in their own homes, but this is often not what they encounter during a hotel stay. Of the 405 hoteliers surveyed, poor. Wi-Fi was the second most commonly cited complaint after noise.
Zyxel collaborated with international market research firm 2Europe Ltd. to understand the views of hotel decision makers on how their guests are using Wi-Fi services, and the opportunities and challenges this presents.
While the hospitality sector is now starting to think seriously about how to introduce new revenue streams through value-added Wi-Fi enabled services, it would appear many hotels have some way to go until they’ll be in a position to do so.
The smartphone has become a phenomenal success story in Western Europe. One decade on from the launch of the first mass market smart phone, Apple’s iPhone, close to 75%* of the phones in people’s pockets are now ‘smart’. As accessing the internet becomes as simple as tapping an icon, or increasingly ‘asking’ Siri, Cortana, or Alexa,
it’s not surprising that we’re spending more and more time online.
The impact of the internet has perhaps been most obvious in the media industries, where the old certainties of the print and TV sectors have been hugely disrupted by new digital- first entrants to the market. Although the hospitality sector is yet to have been adversely impacted to anywhere near the same extent, travel agencies have found themselves cut out of the supply chain, and sites such as TripAdvisor and the online marketplace Airbnb have sewn disquiet across the sector.
Digital is a double-edged sword: on one hand the potential for new players to entirely shake up the market cannot be disregarded; however, it also presents an opportunity for the incumbents to press the advantage and consolidate their position at the head of the market.
This report tackles the point of view of hoteliers from nine key markets across Western Europe. The research was developed to ascertain how the hospitality industry is using Wi-Fi services to support guests’ increasingly connected lifestyles. It covers what visitors want, how the hoteliers themselves are meeting those needs (or not), what the pain points are, and what’s coming next.
This report complements Zyxel’s ‘Connected Hospitality Report: UK’, which looked at the state of hotel Wi-Fi from the perspective of UK consumers and hoteliers.
Guests: The customer is always right
For the hotels surveyed, the primary guest types split roughly into thirds: 32% catered equally to business and leisure, 35% were used mainly by business travellers, and the remaining 33% hosted mainly leisure guests.
As you might expect, location was a factor in what types of guests chose a hotel. In geographic terms, most countries attracted equal proportions of business and leisure visitors; notable exceptions were Italy, which was weighted towards leisure visitors, and the Nordic countries (Denmark and Sweden), which hosted higher proportions of business travellers.
“While the use cases for business and leisure visitors may vary slightly, the growing pervasiveness of cloud services means Wi-Fi provision is taking on greater signi cance for both groups. Regardless of whether the user needs to access a cloud storage service to download or share the latest version of a sales presentation, or merely wishes to back up their holiday snaps or stream movies from Netflix, a reliable Wi-Fi service is key.”
Although Wi-Fi did not make the top three reasons why guests chose a particular hotel: Location, price, and reviews were, in descending order, what hoteliers believe lead visitors to select one venue over another. However, it is worth noting this doesn’t appear to tally with the views of the 1,028 UK adults that were surveyed for the ‘Connected Hospitality report: UK’. This ranked Wi-Fi as being the second most important factor when choosing a hotel and was raised by nearly half (49%) of all respondents.
The simple fact is Wi-Fi is now expected as a standard ‘utility’ by most hotel visitors and this fact was identified as being the primary business case for deploying Wi-Fi services by over half (57%) of those surveyed. Even though it may not be a signi cant driver for bookings, it has clearly become a signi cant factor on a guest’s arrival.
As such, the vast majority of hotels (95%) include unlimited Wi-Fi usage within their pricing structures, with Wi-Fi available in 96% of bedrooms of the hotels surveyed. More surprising perhaps is that it is only available in just over three quarters (87%) of hotel meeting rooms. The UK is currently the only European country where a signi can’t proportion of hotels deny guests unmetered Wi-Fi use as standard – 16% offer it with a data cap or time limit.
Guests: The customer is always right
“Currently, it would seem Wi-Fi is being built into costs by the majority of establishments, merely because it’s expected, but also to drive incremental revenues. For example, encouraging residents to remain on- site or attracting non-residents in for food and drinks.”
Wi-Fi was commonly cited as one of the top three services requested by guests, appearing in over half (55%) of responses. In particular, it was highlighted in over three quarters of the responses from hoteliers in Spain (83%) and Germany (76%).
What is perhaps more significant is that poor Wi-Fi service was the second most commonly cited complaint after noise, and was raised by almost one fifth (18%) of those surveyed. Clearly, as a ‘utility’ people just expect it to work and, if the Wi-Fi doesn’t meet those expectations then it can be a signi cant problem. Such a high complaint rate should be a concern for the hospitality sector, particularly given Wi-Fi complaints were highlighted by one quarter or more of the hotels surveyed in three separate territories – Germany (33%), Italy (30%), and Spain (25%).
Hotel guests questioned for the ‘Connected Hospitality report: UK’ put the consequences of poor hotel Wi-Fi into stark relief: 13% of those surveyed indicated that had missed an important work email; 11% couldn’t download the documents they needed for their work; 6% missed an appointment, and; 15 out of the 1,028 taking part in the survey suggested this had caused them to lose a client!
Hoteliers: It doesn’t pay to be complacent
Despite what would appear to be continent-spanning technical problems for the hotel industry, over half (56%) of those surveyed were still ‘very satis ed’ with their service. By contrast, a mere 10% of hotels were ‘not very’ or ‘not at all satis ed’ with the Wi-Fi service they were able to offer to guests. The top three reasons identi ed for dissatisfaction with their service were poor bandwidth, poor signal strength, and poor speed.
Even though hoteliers generally seem to be a happy with their Wi-Fi provision, only 37% reported they had not experienced any problems with their service. In fact, Denmark was the only country where over half (61%) of respondents had never had a problem. A fifth of hotels surveyed indicated they had previously struggled with drop-outs and speed issues, while 15% had faced bandwidth dif culties.
“Almost two thirds of the hoteliers we surveyed have experienced problems with their Wi-Fi, yet there seems to be a sense of complacency. After all, Wi-Fi is the most requested service from guests and as 4G services are being rolled out across Europe, people increasingly expect seamless connectivity at all times.
That said, there are still plenty of places, particularly in rural areas, which still do not yet have reliable cellular data services. Equally, not all overseas travellers bene t from data roaming caps so Wi-Fi can be the only viable and cost-effective way to get online. From this perspective, it’s surprising to say the very least, that so many hotels appear to be content to offer a substandard service to their guests.”
The challenges will become more pronounced as business services move to the cloud and users in general consume more and more online video content. However, the greatest strain on Wi-Fi networks at this point is too many devicesaccessing the network concurrently. Figures from GlobalWebIndex placed the average number of connected devices owned by individuals at 3.64. Bear in mind the average business traveller will likely carry at least a smartphone and a laptop and the number of devices connecting to an access point can soon add up.
Over half (52%) of those surveyed indicated the number of devices looking to connect could be problematic, 12% of respondents indicated this is a regular problem they face. In particular, it seems Italy may be a country to avoid if you need to get online at peak times – with 61% of hoteliers reporting access as frequent problem.
“Over half of the hotels we surveyed indicated that the number of devices connecting to Wi-Fi is regularly hindering performance. eMarketer put smartphone penetration rates in Western Europe at 71% last year and we must also take into account tablets, laptops and other personal connected devices. As our world becomes ever more connected, to the extent that even your home appliances want to keep you updated, this problem is only going to grow.”
On a more positive note, most Wi-Fi issues are easily rectified and it would appear many of the connectivity problems experienced could be solved without significant disruption. For example, some of factors impeding performance were the distance from the router or wireless access point, as cited by 50% of respondents, and the thickness of walls, raised by 46%.
The reason why these are even issues at all becomes apparent when we consider that nearly half (49%) of those questioned either didn’t have, or didn’t know if they’d had a site survey prior to installation. 15% of installations were completed by the hotel manager or another member of staff – and a further 19% didn’t know who managed the installation. Furthermore, 62% had no concept of how much a decent Wi-Fi installation should cost.
“Every hotel is different and each presents particular challenges to the deployment of effective Wi-Fi. However, no problem is insurmountable with the right expertise to advise on the appropriate combinations of products and where to install them, or indeed to manage the whole process.
It seems almost inconceivable that half of the hoteliers we questioned hadn’t completed a site survey or were not aware if one had taken place. Given Wi-Fi is often described as the fourth utility, it seems highly unlikely there’s such a lax attitude towards the other three!”
Best practice for Wi-Fi installations – top tips
1. Always start with a site survey – it’s imperative to understand the building, layout and conditions that your wireless operates in. There are numerous factors that can impact performance and these are different for every hotel. A site survey, whether in person or via online tools, is the only way to determine the best network devices for you – and thus reduce complaints from guests.
2. Understand your guests’ requirements – you cannot successfully deploy a network to meet the needs of all users unless you actually understand their speci c needs. Remember that the right bandwidth is key to giving your guests a reliable and seamless experience – it’s not just about the speed.
3. How can you benefit from the wireless? – put yourself first for once: consider how you can use hotel Wi-Fi solutions to introduce new revenue streams. This could be providing an advertising portal for local businesses; offering guests special offers via a dedicated mobile app; or delivering a simpler way to order room service.
4. Channel planning and band steering – this is particularly important for hotel environments, given the high number of users and devices that will be accessing the network. Ensure you reduce the possibility of heightened radio interference that occurs when multiple access points are broadcasting on the same radio channel.
5. Find out which solutions create seamless client interactions – to reiterate, speed isn’t everything. The days of using the same access point throughout a hotel are long gone. Look for the most reliable technologies to suit your particular requirements. Often it’s worthwhile mixing and matching access points to nd out what will give you the best results in your building’s specific environment.
What’s next for Wi-Fi in the hospitality sector?
At the time of writing less than one tenth (8%) of hoteliers are using Wi-Fi as a means to generate revenue, of which the most significant proportion are in the UK – at almost a fth of those surveyed. We’ve now seen some fantastic examples of how forward-looking hotel groups can use Wi-Fi enabled services to provide value to their guests using their own devices, that go beyond charging for access.
Virgin Hotels’ digital concierge app, Lucy, allows users to order room service, control the temperature in their room, get personalised recommendations on things to do, and stream music and video.
The Marriott Group’s own app enables guests to contact room service via a drop down menu for frequently requested services, such as extra pillows, or engage in live chat for more involved requests.
While 15% of hoteliers surveyed suggested they have considered the opportunity but are, as yet, unsure of how to implement Wi-Fi enabled services. However, as the benefits of the types of digital services detailed become apparent it seems very likely more hotels will find their inspiration. Our 2016 survey of UK hotel guests would suggest there’s clearly an appetite for these types of services: 49% use Wi-Fi services to discover things to do in the surrounding area; 5% look for special offers and discounts locally, and; a further 4% would use Wi-Fi to use hotel services, such as ordering room service, or con rming check-out times.
The evidence would also suggest the days of paying a supplement for hotel Wi-Fi are coming to an end. 85% of UK hotel guests agreed with the statement that ‘Wi- Fi should be included in the cost of any standard hotel room.’ Hotels still hoping to charge for Wi-Fi should beware, they could face a consumer backlash in the coming years. Correspondingly, 9% of the hoteliers questioned are planning to roll-out free Wi-Fi services in 2017. It’s interesting to note that the greatest proportion of that gure (27%) are hotels in the UK, where the industry has held out on charging for Wi-Fi way longer than counterparts on mainland Europe.
A quarter (25%) are looking to improve the bandwidth for their existing services this year, so it would seem the industry as a whole is now looking to get the basics right. We are now seeing some hoteliers planning to build in new revenue streams, thorough methods other than metered access. 11% are planning to deploy personalised apps over the course of the year and this will be worth monitoring to see if this trend takes off in 2018 and beyond, or at least once the existing shortcomings have been addressed.
“We’ve seen some really ingenious ways in which hotels are using Wi-Fi services creatively to generate new revenue streams. While initiatives such as branded concierge apps and e-voucher incentives to encourage upselling or cross-selling of in-house or partner services offer us a glimpse of how hotel Wi-Fi services will evolve, it’s clear there’s still some way to go before that’s the norm.”
Final thoughts: Why Wi-Fi must be a priority
The dominance of traditional hotels in the sector is being chipped away by disruptive new entrants, with boutique players at the luxury end of the market and Airbnb for the more budget conscious. It does seem hoteliers underestimate the significance of connectivity to guests. Until they can introduce the types of seamless Wi-Fi experiences consumers are used to at home, they risk losing yet more customers.
What does seem clear is that if hotels wish to maintain their hold on the market, they must align the ways in which they operate to the preferences of Millennials. The smartphone is the key to how these digital natives operate and, as such constant connectivity and personalised services will become standard expectations the hospitality industry would be unwise to ignore.
Meeting the needs of tech-savvy young adults seems to be something the hotel sector is struggling with, perhaps this will be addressed as this generation reaches the upper echelons of hotel management? For the time-being very few hospitality brands are getting it right. Regardless of design or branded social media accounts, the very best way to win the approval of this audience is to simply to offer them an ef cient, straightforward digital experience. In many ways this is as signi cant as the room, the restaurant and the physical customer service. Simply put, reliable and effective Wi-Fi will play a hugely significant role in safeguarding guest retention for connected consumers.
About the research
Zyxel commissioned 2Europe Ltd, an independent market research agency, to conduct quantitative telephone research with 405 decision makers in key markets across Europe. The research was conducted via CATI (computer- assisted telephone interviews) using native-language speaking interviewers. The questionnaire was nalised by Europe; then programmed, translated and piloted prior to going fully-live.
There were at least 40 interviews held in each country and hotels ranged in size from 50 to 500 beds. Each of the individuals questioned held the position of hotel manager or equivalent, and had responsibility for the purchasing and specification of networking and Wi-Fi products and services.
Zyxel was not mentioned as the research sponsor during interviews. A total of 405 interviews took place, with at least 40 taking place in each of the following countries: Czech Republic, Denmark, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Poland, Spain, Sweden, UK.
About Zyxel Communications
Focused on innovation and customer-centric technology and service, Zyxel Communications has been connecting people to the Internet for nearly 30 years. Our ability to adapt and innovate with networking technology places us at the forefront of the drive to create connectivity for telcos and service providers, businesses and home users.
Zyxel is a global force in today’s communications market with an unrivalled track record, including:
· 1,500 passionate associates worldwide
· 100 million devices creating global connections
· 700,000 businesses working smarter with Zyxel solutions
· 150 global markets served
Today, Zyxel is building the networks of tomorrow, unlocking potential, and meeting the needs of the modern workplace — powering people at work, life, and play. Zyxel, Your Networking Ally.