As the country packs its bags and forms an orderly queue in crowded departure zones, the plethora of smartphones, tablets and laptops coming along with us, highlights a need to stay connected on holiday. This is the age of the connected consumer. As travel surveys and online review sites repeatedly confirm, the most important amenity for the connected consumer is Wi-Fi.
Whether venues like it or not, wireless internet access is now as important to customers as electricity, or water in the bathroom, and for many more important than a clean room or a brilliant hotel restaurant.
Yet when we spoke to 150 small and medium-sized hospitality and leisure venues in the UK, a worrying number told us they believe guests secretly welcome a lack of connectivity (45 per cent), that visitors need time offline to recharge (53 per cent) and that no Wi-Fi or poor Wi-Fi is a price worth paying for the experience on offer (43 per cent). In fact, 76 per cent of the hospitality venues we spoke to believe that the quality of service and facilities available are far more important to customers than Wi-Fi.
Unfortunately, few visitors agree with them. We asked 2,000 UK adults who had at some stage been confronted by poor or non-existent WiFi while on holiday whether they had welcomed being offline for a while. Just a quarter said yes.
Young visitors, in particular, struggled with the lack of wireless access while staying at a hotel, both for personal communications (29 per cent of those aged under 24) and for keeping in touch with work (22 per cent of the same age group).
This lack of mutual understanding could spell disaster. A third (33 per cent) of leisure travellers said they would not return to a hotel that offered inadequate wireless access, and this number rose to two-thirds (67 per cent) of business guests. Such a dramatic drop in return business could decimate room occupancy rates. Then there's the loss of revenue from on-site restaurants, bars and cafes as guests flock to more connected locations. As if that wasn't enough, there's the potential negative impact on brand reputation as increasingly vocal consumers turn to online review sites and social media networks to complain.
So what can, or should, be done to address this mismatch?
Despite the fact that our research covered businesses from owner-managed through to 250-employee venues, the trends remained remarkably consistent across the board, suggesting the obstacles (both practical and perceived) may also be similar. In practical terms, concerns around expense, time and lack of IT skills all feature, and all of these are incredibly easy to address.
There are easy-to-implement and cost-effective yet high-performing solutions on the market that do not required advanced IT skills, can be installed quickly using existing infrastructure and that deliver consistent wireless access across the venue.
The best solutions are those designed and built around the needs and limitations of firms, and with security integrated as standard.
It is also worth choosing a solution that can adapt to future needs. Demands for bandwidth will only increase over time.
There are those who could, and in fact often do, argue that all this connectivity isn't good for peace of mind and relaxation and that people should be able to disconnect from work and fully experience the richness of their new surroundings. All of that is true. But the choice about whether or not to connect should be with the customer, not the business.
Jonathan Hallatt is the regional director UK, Ireland & South Africa of NETGEAR