Accom News Magazine Q&A

Responses attributed to Jeff Rhode, Director at Liveport:

Wifi specialist - Jeff Rhode

Q. How have guest wifi needs changed recently – has there been a change in trends and demand since COVID?

A. With many guests continuing to remain socially distanced within their rooms instead of venturing out into more public areas, property Wi-Fi services have only become all the more crucial in meeting guest needs and maintaining satisfying experiences. From entertainment to locating hotel information or requesting amenities, today’s guests want to be able to use personal devices as a safer, more convenient service alternative that requires a working and trouble-free internet connection. More guests simultaneously using a property’s Wi-Fi to accommodate a growing range of online behaviours has stretched the capabilities of networks which for a significant number of properties, means the need to perform an upgrade in order to maintain fast speeds and high service quality. As guest-facing services increasingly become digitalised, including the availability of digital keys, self-service kiosks and mobile app-based F&B ordering, property networks will undoubtedly require additional infrastructural investments as issues such as insufficient bandwidth become more prevalent.

Q. What wifi flexibility is required to meet the variety of guests’ needs and the demands within different types of accommodation properties?

A. A hotel’s Wi-Fi is now expected to accommodate a wide range of online guest behaviours: from browsing websites and content streaming to hosting video conferences and downloading files. However, guest needs are constantly evolving especially when it comes to technology. A network once able to comfortably address guest connectivity expectations over the last couple of years may no longer have the capacity to accommodate more bandwidth-intensive behaviours. To sidestep the need for a costly network replacement each time either technology or guest expectations progress, hoteliers must work to adapt scalable networks that can be enhanced with new capabilities and functionalities without calling for complete hardware overall. This can include common scenarios such as when a hotelier seeks to adopt faster speeds, enhance network security or expand effective Wi-Fi coverage to new onsite areas.

Q. What are the best solutions?

A. Wi-Fi brands such as Ruckus or Aruba have a proven track record for meeting the industry’s needs and are approved for the most stringent of brand standards. For new network builds, Liveport recommends placing wireless access points in rooms where guests are located to ensure a strong and consistent signal, so hoteliers should be sure to add cat6 cabling in each room when planning out their network.

Q. Tell us about in-room connectivity solutions and how can accoms provide a reliable high-speed connection to meet the standard expectations of today’s travellers.

A. Ensuring that guest devices receive a strong and consistent Wi-Fi signal comes down to effective network layout planning as much as it does siding with any particular type of hardware. For years, many property network designs consisted of access points being placed in hallways which while once sufficient, is no longer enough to accommodate today’s more high-powered devices. Hoteliers now recognize the need for such access points to be placed within guestrooms to ensure adequate signal penetration, and by working with a reputable provider, can design a network placing access points within strategically located guestrooms to minimize costs without reducing service quality.

Q. How can accom managers/operators deliver internet service to guests while also marketing smarter?

A. A property’s Wi-Fi can serve as an ideal opportunity to promote services and offerings due to the vast majority of guests seeking to connect at least one of their devices at some point during their stay. Hoteliers can work with network providers in creating Wi-Fi login pages that simultaneously serve as a means to provide online access allowing guests to easily find out how they can enhance their experience- from details on drink specials to spa service options.

A hotel’s Wi-Fi service can also provide property staff with invaluable information on how to tailor experiences to suit the individual preferences of each guest. When enabled with the appropriate technology and once a guest provides permission, guest Wi-Fi services can offer insight into purchasing behaviours, disposable income, hobby interests, organisation memberships and more. This can provide hoteliers with an unmatched ability to identify exact guest expectations, with any promotional messaging highly targeted to maximise marketing success rates.

Q. What solutions ensure a high-quality service is maintained throughout the whole property – conference rooms, in-room guest services, pool, bars, restaurants and the administration network?

A. As with in-room connectivity, ensuring high-quality service throughout all property areas involves the strategic planning of a network’s layout. Businesses regardless of the industry often make the mistake of believing that high-quality Wi-Fi can be achieved by simply purchasing and deploying the latest hardware. However, many will find that they continue to experience slow speeds and spotty coverage due to a poorly designed network. For example, this can sometimes result from too much hardware being installed which leads to signal interference. The best recommendation for hoteliers to avoid such issues is to work with a network provider they can trust from the outset of their project. A reputable provider will always perform an onsite network survey to identify the root cause behind any issue and will provide recommendations for precisely what is needed to achieve expected results, nothing more.

Q. Tell us about the future of wifi technology within hospitality?

A. Hospitality-based environments are becoming more connected than ever before in order to cater to guest demands for faster, more convenient and personalised service. This has led to a dramatic rise in the number of properties adopting IoT technologies such as smart door locks, lights and thermostats. With each platform requiring a stable internet connection in order to function, property networks have become even more indispensable to meeting the needs and preferences of today’s guests. Expectations over a property’s Wi-Fi capabilities will only continue to increase at an ever-faster pace as new IoT-based solutions emerge and as both hoteliers and their guests seek out the ultimate in interconnected, seamless and hassle-free environments. This is why it is critical that hoteliers begin to adopt scalable networks that are able to adapt and keep pace with suddenly shifting business needs.

Q. What should accom providers prioritise in this area when it comes to guest satisfaction?

A. Guests undoubtedly expect fast, reliable and easily accessible Wi-Fi, which will continuously remain the top priority for properties as a result. Yet industry professionals must also address growing concerns over data security and guest privacy as the global market is seemingly hit with more security breaches with each passing year. Whether updating an existing network or performing a complete overhaul, hoteliers must work closely with their provider to ensure that previous vulnerabilities aren’t overlooked while eliminating the potential risk of creating new ones. At the same time, properties must also be careful not to let enhanced security measures reduce satisfaction rates by creating a more cumbersome device connection process that leads to a rise in the need for troubleshooting assistance.