The hotel and leisure industry is based on understanding and meeting customer needs. But new research from network hardware company NETGEAR suggests that this doesn't stretch to the importance guests place on good Wi-Fi connections.
The study finds that 76 per cent of hospitality venues are convinced that their quality of service and facilities are far more important to customers than Wi-Fi. As many as 43 per cent believe customers think poor or non-existent wireless access is a price worth paying for the experience on offer.
However, the report's findings show that consumers disagree with these assumptions. Around a third of leisure travelers say they would not return to a hotel that offered inadequate wireless access, a number which rises to two-thirds of business guests. For boutique hotels, this could result in a potentially damaging drop in occupancy rates, further compounded by guests abandoning on-site restaurants and cafés for places where they can get a good connection.
The study also suggests a blurring of the lines between work and leisure travel. People on a leisure break - in particular young professionals below the age of 24 - are now just as concerned about losing online contact with work (22 per cent) as they are about missing updates from friends and social networks (29 per cent).
"Smaller hospitality and leisure venues must accept that for many people Wi-Fi is now a basic need," says Jonathan Hallatt, NETGEAR's Regional Director UK, Ireland & South Africa. "Wherever we are, whether it's for work or pleasure, we immediately look for Wi-Fi access so we can stay in touch with our online world. People expect to be able to decide for themselves whether or not to connect, not to have that decision made for them. Failure to provide a reliable wireless network means customers will spend less money while they are with you, shorten their visit and never return. The financial impact of this cannot be ignored. Strong and consistent Wi-Fi should be seen as a revenue generator, not a cost".
It seems the message is starting to get through with 29 per cent of hospitality venues admitting that poor Wi-Fi could result in guests complaining during a visit, 23 percent accepting it could lead to negative online reviews and 37 per cent saying that it could mean the loss of repeat business.
Another recent survey by Pixmania shows that 31 per cent of UK holiday-makers rate good internet access above a clean room or a good hotel restaurant. A Wireless Nation report by Arquiva last month also showed that one in three customers will stay longer, and one in five will pay more, at a venue that offers reliable Wi-Fi.
How much does Wi-Fi influence your choice of place to stay? Let us know via the comments.