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Not only are consumers looking for free Wi-Fi in hotels, they are also looking for it to be of an impressive standard and available throughout their chosen resorts, according to industry bosses.
Speaking at the Does The Beach Need to get Connected debate, held at WTM and moderated by Travolution’s Lee Hayhurst, Mark Maddock, UK managing director of Lastminute.com, said connectivity had become more and more important over the years.
Citing feedback from research by Lastminute.com, he said: “One of the biggest frustrations people cited in the survey was that it is no good having free Wi-Fi connectivity in the reception area; we now want it in the rooms as well and we don’t want to pay £25 a week for it and it has to work well.
“There is no point having it if it isn’t a strong reception all the way through resorts. These things frustrate people.”
He said the research had shown that 40% of the 2,000 holidaymakers surveyed said they would rather stay in a three or four-star hotel with Wi-Fi than a five-star hotel without it.
Steve Endacott, chief executive of On Holiday Group, questioned whether children wanted to go on beach holidays where they are no longer connected. He described that thought as “scary for a tour operator”.
When looking at the frustrations of Wi-Fi he said: “Everyone wants to charge for it, they don’t deliver it properly and I think as an industry we need to look at the requirements and how we move that product forward.
“Otherwise, we are losing the next generation of holidaymakers. I know it sounds like a bit of an exaggeration and it’s not going to happen, but it could do.
“You will get more customers as a three or four-star hotel if you deliver a very cheap differentiation. Wi-Fi isn’t expensive.”
Endacott said hoteliers needed to wise up to the fact that Wi-Fi can make them a differentiated product.
Mark Hall, Tui product director, said his brand was able to closely control connectivity in resorts to a great extent than other companies. He said: “Technology is so important now from the booking process and even before it.
“Our customers are looking online and working out the kind of holiday they want; we know they want it [Wi-Fi] all the way through and in the destinations itself.
“Because of the nature of our business we are able to control that ourselves, we think, in a closer way than other companies can. This summer we did a trial in Cyprus where we gave all our representatives iPads to give guests direct access to reps.”
Talking about the new My Thomson app, Hall said that he saw the possibility of being able to book excursions on it as an opportunity. He added: “We are developing My Thompson to be a one-stop-shop so whatever information you want about your holiday or what you want to do on your holiday, you should be able to do that.”
Endacott said the industry wasn’t exploiting the opportunities available with user reviews. He said hoteliers should be encouraging customers to leave reviews while on the resort, through free Wi-Fi.
He said: “We all know of the importance of user reviews for our product these days.
“If a hotelier was bright and gave free access to Wi-Fi in exchange for an email address and then they emailed the customer saying could they please leave a review and lead them straight to the web, that is very powerful.
“It is making that customer an advocate for the product and doing it while they were warm and on holiday rather than when they are cold.”