Hotels are failing to meet guest expectations due to a lack of technological understanding, according to industry experts on an International Hotel Investment Forum (IHIF) panel.
As in-room connectivity gains importance for guests, traditional technologies are becoming obsolete, said the ‘Which technology should I invest in’ panelists speaking at the Berlin-based conference in March.
“When I joined the hotel industry I was told it’s a ‘bed, bath and breakfast business’, but now it’s a ‘bed, bath, breakfast and internet business’ and for many guests, internet’s more important than breakfast,” said Nick Price, CEO of Netsys Technology.
Price, who worked as chief information officer at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group for 11 years before setting up his own technology firm, suggested that offering a good internet connection in a hotel room is better than offering a free one, adding that most hotels only currently offered the options of a bad-but-free connection or paid, good connection.
The Rezidor Hotel Group chief operating officer and executive vice president Wolfgang Neumann commented: “Rezidor is not providing internet for free [across all hotels], but the Radisson Blu is. In our midscale brand, Park Inn, we charge for wifi in guestrooms and provide it for free in public areas.
“Radisson Blu is still the only international operator providing good, free internet. Access is like hot water or the bed in the guestroom in today’s age, it’s essential to provide good access.
Some of the players provide it for free, but it’s so frustrating when you can’t download anything because the bandwidth is limited,” added Neumann.
“Last year we provided to guests quality internet by updating the bandwidth for all hotels.”
Neumann revealed that one of the most common guest complaints is that they cannot access the internet “easy and quick enough and on top of that the hotel is charging for it”.
“We receive around 140,000 guest comments a year and the biggest reaction to something not working is related to wifi, even more so than not having hot water — it is something the guest complains about immediately,” confirmed European hotel firm NH Hoteles chief strategy and development officer Francisco Zinser Cieslik. However, he said offering good, free wifi across all hotels could be too expensive.
“I don’t believe in free internet for the sake of it. I’m sure it’s going to come, but it’s an investment issue. If you have 400 hotels and you want to change the internet model, it takes a significant investment.”
But Price said although hoteliers often imagined internet usage in hotels coming from business travellers on their laptops, the reality of usage was much broader: “It’s an explosion of usage happening right before us and we have to respond to it in an intelligent way — we can’t put a dissatisfy [factor] in front of our guests,” he asserted.
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