Three-quarters of hotel guests who regularly use Wi-Fi facilities have said they would prefer capped free Wi-Fi access over charged-for options promising greater connection speeds and reliability.
That's the result of a new survey by the Mystery Dining Company, which also found that the availability of Wi-Fi was an important factor for at least eight in 10 consumers when choosing where to stay.
Some 76% indicated that would prefer a less-reliable, slower connection offered for free with a capped limit, compared with more reliable Wi-Fi charged either by time or download usage. And 99% of respondents said that if they had paid £100 or more for their room then they would automatically expect free Wi-Fi access.
More than three-quarters (78%) of the 216 people surveyed also said they would be willing to visit a dedicated "Free Wi-Fi Zone" within a hotel if it meant access to a more reliable and faster service, which might offer smaller hotels a means to help meet customer expectation in the short-term.
Just under half (48%) of respondents said that downloading and sending e-mails was the main reason for needing Wi-Fi when staying away from home, while 39% said browsing websites and using social networking sites accounted for the majority of their usage. Only 8% generally used it for financial transactions and 1% said they used it to stream TV programmes or films on a regular basis.
When travelling for business the majority of guests said they would spend between 30 minutes and two hours online during each 24 hours of their stay, while one in five indicated they would spend more than this online. Comparatively the majority of leisure guests said they were likely to spend under 60 minutes using internet access. (1)
Wi-Fi access was considered a very important factor when it came to choosing a hotel for 72% of business travellers, while a further 20% rated it important. While not as critical for leisure travellers, 25% rated it very important and 48% said it was still an important consideration.
Steven Pike, director of the Mystery Dining Company, said: "The fact most people have broadband at home these days, coupled with decreasing costs and widespread availability of free Wi-Fi access in restaurants, cafés and retail operations, guests are now reluctant to pay for it and can feel as though they are being held to ransom by a venue when it is not offered for free or a nominal charge. The exception to this is if you can demonstrate that guests will have a superior service, such as a minimum connection speed.
"If you are a hotel charging for Wi-Fi usage then I would suggest that you do regularly review your charges and the service that you are offering for to ensure they are suited to the expectations of today's customers, rather than those of five years ago when internet access it was less widely found nor expected out of the home and office environments. This will help to ensure that you are not unintentionally giving the wrong impression about your business.
"The other big issue seems to be hotels not equipping the guest with adequate information about Wi-Fi provision. Many found that there were either insufficient instructions available in their room to gain instant access or there was a need to return to reception in order to purchase an access card or acquire a password. While this may not be a huge undertaking on the part of the guest it is something which interrupts the flow of the hotel experience and will add in the "hassle-factor". Regularly reviewing your in-room literature is important, so if you use in-room comment cards why not include this as a prompt to find out whether there is anything missing from the customer's perspective?"
By Neil Gerrard
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