Which is more important to you if you run a hospitality business? “Special rates” or “Free Wi-Fi”?
More importantly, which is more important for your guests?
75% of travelers surveyed chose free Wi-Fi over any special rates.1 In another poll, free Wi-Fi again emerged top out of 33 desired amenities.2
As the global digital community grows, travelers expect to have seamless access to digital technology, regardless of where they are. SMBs in the hospitality industry have no choice but to respond to their guests’ evolving needs.
This technology imperative is made even more critical by the success of AirBnB, which uses technology to level the playing field against traditional players.
But where can you start to get your business on track? Here are some areas for you to consider.
A 2017 study by Hotel Technology magazine3 suggests that hoteliers are responding to guest demands for Wi-Fi, with 45% of respondents saying that they will invest in the upgrade and rollout of guest Wi-Fi, with an additional 5% planning to switch to a new supplier.
But guest expectations aside, some reports also suggest that providing free Wi-Fi helps a budget hotel to differentiate itself from a luxury property4.
Your hotel can strive to give guests a “frictionless digital experience”, with internet access, emails, and an “immersive, personalised experience like never before, from geo-location and push notifications based on their location and personal preferences to simplified check-in/checkout and a more 'homelike' experience while they're traveling."5
This means giving your guests access to a high-speed Wi-Fi network that allows them to use their digital devices regardless of where they are – in their rooms, at the swimming pool, or even in the basement carpark. A stable and reliable network that’s powerful enough to support a guest’s multi-device needs will definitely differentiate your hotel from competitors. However, some hotels have budget constraints and limit Wi-Fi access for each guest to a certain number of devices. That is a business call you have to make.
Connectivity aside, an increasing number of hotels are also providing digital self-service options for busy guests who are tech-savvy and dislike spending time waiting in queues at reception.6, 7
With technology, some boutique hotels can even get by with only a few staff to manage the whole property: guests check in using iPads and they check out using the room’s touch-screen TV. Hyatt Hotel guests, for example, have multiple check-in options: they can use an iPad to check-in with a staff member, use a self-serve check-in kiosk or simply stick with a traditional front desk.
To do all this and more, your wireless network needs the support of switches (they create networks), routers (they connect networks) and wireless access points (WAPs) to integrate and connect. Buying the right (and number of) switches and routers ensures that your network connectivity is smooth and works seamlessly wherever your guests are. The right combination of technology translates into a “surf anytime, anywhere” experience for your guests.
And don’t forget about your employees. A powerful network can provide your staff with a more effective and efficient work environment. They can be alerted to guest requests via their personal mobile devices and no longer need to respond only to landline calls from housekeeping. Maintenance teams will be able to respond to alerts sent to them wirelessly from digital dashboards that monitor and relay issues, again, without the need for human intervention or a ‘middleman’. Every issue, job and guest request is recorded digitally and tracked for further issues, or closed off and archived. Over time, your hotel will amass a huge amount of data – big data – and you will be able to analyze and predict how to better exceed your guest expectations. By tracking your guests’ personal preferences – even after they’ve checked out, your hotel will get better at offering the optimal experience, at the right moment, to the right guests.
If a solid Wi-Fi network is what forms the backbone of your hotel’s digital ecosystem, then a strong cybersecurity system is its spinal cord.
You want to exceed your customer expectations with the best Wi-Fi experience when they check into your hotel, but you may end up disappointing them if you have a weak security infrastructure.
A Morgan Stanley report suggests that, worldwide, cybersecurity spend is expected to hit $128 billion by 2020.8 And for good reasons, as the cost of cybercrime is expected to hit $2 trillion by 2019.9
For SMBs in the hospitality business, cybersecurity goes beyond protecting your corporate digital assets and customers’ personal data. Just as your guests expect you to look after their physical safety when they are staying in your hotel, they also expect the same when they tap into your wireless network. Thus, it is sound business sense to invest in a strong cybersecurity defense system as cybercrimes become more rampant.
Lastly, no discussion on an integrated approach to your hotel experience is complete without a word on cloud services. Cloud services are described as any services made available to users on demand via the Internet from a cloud provider's servers as opposed to being provided from a company's own on-premises servers.
According to a Forbes report,10 78% of U.S. small businesses will have fully adopted cloud computing by 2020.
This is because, besides offering a cost and scalability advantage, cloud computing levels the competition for smaller businesses by offering them the same IT advantages as larger organizations. The cloud removes hurdles to owning high-end IT infrastructures and enable smaller companies to play big like their larger competitors.
It does not take much to exceed your guests’ experience, even before they set foot in your hotel. The use of mobile technologies for geo-location, hotel bookings and payments, and mobile apps, will allow you to know your guest preferences beforehand to help you personalize their experience. Not to mention the use of technology for your guests to plan itineraries and blog about their experiences, anytime, anywhere – all this rides on your hotel’s wireless network.
Talk to Cisco Start today about how you can differentiate yourself from the competition, by providing a superior guest experience with a robust network infrastructure.
 Frictionless Hotels: Enabling the Omni-Experience, page 20, The 2017 Lodging Technology Study, published by Hotel Technology magazine(Note: Requires registration to log in for reading)