UK hotels struggling with substandard Wi-Fi services

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With increasing UK cities providing free gigabit Wi-Fi, can hotels still justify charging guests for substandard Wi-Fi Services?

Research has found that many UK hotels are buckling under the pressure to cope with the number of devices connecting to a singular network. Produced by Zyxel, wireless communication experts, research found 9 out of 10 UK hotels believe that delivering Wi-Fi services to guests should still be chargeable, regardless of how fast the service.

With the inherent demand for instant connection and constant accessibility being an ever-prevalent attitude amongst society, it may come as a surprise that 18% of UK hotels (the highest figure in Europe) are still limiting and or charging for Wi-Fi access. On that statistic alone a question of whether European guests (particularly those that travel for business) are at risk of being disappointed by the UK hotel industry.

The study consisted of 405 hoteliers in 10 European markets, showing that a quarter of UK hotels installed Wi-Fi to make themselves more attractive to international guests, more than any other region surveyed. In spite of this, 41% of UK hotels admit they still struggle to cope with the number of connected devices, second only to Italy at 65%.

These figures come from Zyxel’s Connected Hospitality Report: Europe, which investigates how the hospitality sector in Western Europe is using Wi-Fi to support guests’ increasingly connected lifestyles.

UK hotels in particular had a high proportion of hotel guests staying over for business purposes, with 75% of hotels saying this group made up at least half of their customer base. Notably, business customers often need Wi-Fi for critical use cases and extended periods, meaning poor connections or usage caps are bound to cause frustration.

Jannik Hargaard, president of Europe at Zyxel, comments, “In a world where hotel bookings are directly related to scores on TripAdvisor, small frustrations can have a significant impact on revenue over time. Almost all guests now expect free Wi-Fi for everything from uploading holiday snaps to sending emails, making these services essential. In an attempt to squeeze out extra revenue through charging for connectivity, hotels could be shooting themselves in the foot as competitors provide a better service.”

Of all the regions surveyed, the UK has the highest proportion of hoteliers that are using Wi-Fi as an additional revenue source, or considering to do so at 38% – well above the European average of 23%. The UK also has the highest rate of hotels looking to provide free Wi-Fi in the future (27%), a personalised mobile app (20%), or an upgrade to their website (36%).

Jannik continues, “When looking to monetise Wi-Fi networks, it’s important that hotels think about the bigger picture before charging for usage. Free Wi-Fi allows hotels to communicate deals with their guests, opens up the market to business customers and allows up-selling of media services and travel packages. Importantly, providing personalised services and a great experience drives guest loyalty.”

The underlying reasons for many Wi-Fi issues are made apparent by the fact almost half (49%) of the hoteliers questioned either did not have, or did not know if they had, a site survey prior to installation. Figures also highlighted that 15%of installations were completed by the hotel manager or another member of staff, rather than an IT professional.

“Every hotel is different and each presents particular challenges to the deployment of an effective Wi-Fi network, “says Jannik. “Common problems include distance from access points, the thickness of walls and so on. Hoteliers are clearly not installing Wi-Fi that fits the needs of their building environment, or their guests, which is why they’re struggling with demand.”

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