Is Wi-Fi a deciding factor for hotels and restaurant choices?

Not long ago free Wi-Fi was an extra benefit offered by a handful of restaurants and hotels looking to lure new business customers.

April 15, 2013

Ruckus Wi-Fi Challenge sees the Techie Guy scouring hotels for the elusive Wi-Fi hotspot

Not long ago free Wi-Fi was an extra benefit offered by a handful of restaurants and hotels looking to lure new business customers. However as more and more consumers have become reliant on access given the proliferation of smart phones and tablets, Wi-Fi has been not just a ‘nice to have’, but a deciding factor for many looking for a restaurant or hotel. Just ask the Techie Guy, Liron Segev, who, with the Ruckus Wireless, Inc. (NYSE: RKUS) Wi-Fi Challenge well underway, has been scheduling business meetings solely based on the availability of Wi-Fi.

“Interesting enough, during my search for Wi-Fi hotspots, I frequently find myself scheduling meetings in restaurants and or hotel lobbies where I know I can find Wi-Fi access,” says Segev. “And that got me thinking, how many people actually base their outings and more importantly their hotel bookings based on the availability of Wi-Fi?”

For Michael Fletcher, sales director of Ruckus Wireless sub-Saharan Africa, it’s non-negotiable. “Wireless is no longer just another amenity at hotels. It’s like having running hot water – a requirement and a prerequisite for doing business — period. Many people frequent hotels across the country for business and require access. The easiest and simplest method is Wi-Fi and with hotels aiming to increase Revenues Per Available Room (RevPAR) and maximise profitability they are jumping on the wireless bandwagon and it’s easy to see why,” adds Fletcher.

Hotel staff can use mobile Wi-Fi devices to securely access reservation and administration tools from anywhere on the property, ensuring high levels of service. Wireless point of sale (PoS) systems can allow staff to take orders for food and other amenities at the poolside and around the property. Wireless voice communications between hotel employees can help keep everything running smoothly. Handheld devices can be used to check-in guests at valet, and hotels can offer Wi-Fi in guest rooms and common areas for free, or bundled in a communications package.

“Yet despite the hype for hotel guests there’s the added frustration of inconsistency. Some hotels charge for Wi-Fi per device, others offer it free; some chain hotels offer free Wi-Fi at their budget brands but charge for it at their luxury ones, so with no set rules, the customer never knows what to expect,” adds Fletcher. “And until some ‘rules of engagement’ are identified and agreed upon, you are going to find that the hotels that offer free Wi-Fi are going to come out ahead of the pack.”

Based on his experience Segev added: “Wi-Fi is a must. Places that offer Wi-Fi as a service to their customers see an increase in revenue. When people look for hotels, they ultimately identify their top 3 or 4 choices and a major swaying factor is the Wi-Fi facility that the hotel provides. Those that don’t mention internet access don’t even make it onto the list. We might be on holiday, but we still want to connect with the world. This is especially true when South Africans travel overseas and want to avoid those exorbitant costs of data roaming.”

Concludes Fletcher; “As the demand for Wi-Fi connectivity increases in light of a more mobile consumer, Ruckus Wireless is proud to be at the forefront of innovative Wi-Fi solutions for the hospitality industry – where we have already begun implementing our solutions to hotels operating in the South African market, with the aim of assisting this sector in meeting the needs of its customers – such as our ‘Techie guy.”