51% Planning U.S. Vacations for 2015

BY Courtney Huckabay
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Guests‰Ûª increasing reliance on using their smartphones during hotel stays for browsing information and streaming entertainment means that properties with lackluster Wi-​Fi might unknowingly deter customers from returning, according to a report from Hotel Internet Services.

Some of the notable points:

Devices: Guests are carrying more and more devices. Over 75% have smartphones, 68% laptops and nearly 62% take their tablets on the road. Wearable technology is starting to show its face and will make more of an impression as these devices proliferate throughout the marketplace. In short, more devices demand more bandwidth and robust Wi-​Fi networks are a necessity!

‰ÛÏNot having a robust and trouble-​free Wi-​Fi network will ensure guests do not return again,‰Û said Gary Patrick, president ofåÊHotel Internet Services and BeyondTV, Palm Harbor, FL. ‰ÛÏNotably, 81% surveyed experienced poor signal coverage."

Streaming Content: Guests and hoteliers alike are tuned in to Netflix, Hulu, iTunes, etc. Streaming content is still an emerging technology embraced by nearly half of our respondents. They want to watch what they want when they want and of course where they want. The room‰Ûªs television has become a focal point with guest‰Ûªs desire to access personal streaming content as well as hotel amenities including housekeeping, in-​room dining, billing, checkout, etc.

"If hotels maintain Wi-​Fi networks built primarily for laptop devices, the quality will severely suffer, particularly when guests use it while outside or while streaming platforms such as Netflix or Hulu in their rooms," Alex Samuely wrote in Luxury Daily's "How problematic WiFi affects relationships with mobile-​savvy guests: report."

(Marriott International hotels will offer Netflix in-​room video streaming, according to the press release, "Hotel Internet Services Releases ‰ÛÒ An Intimate Look at Hospitality Wi-​Fi.")

Ubiquitous: Wi-​Fi has become omnipresent in many hotels. It pervades everywhere from lobby to restaurant to shopping areas and the pool. Guests want to be connected everywhere not just in their room or in the business center. Wi-​Fi is no longer an amenity. It is a utility like electricity and water, just different pipes.

‰ÛÏGuests want the same level of access that they have become accustomed to at home,‰Û Patrick said. ‰ÛÏWi-​Fi is no longer an amenity. Guests want quality Wi-​Fi access throughout the property and not just in their rooms or a business center. This includes restaurants, lounges, and pool, etc.‰Û

Monetizing the Network: So how can you monetize free Wi-​Fi? One solution is to go to a tiered pricing system, where guests are paying an extra fee to access more bandwidth. Most guests (53%) are amenable to paying for an upgraded Wi-​Fi speed up to $4.99. As streaming becomes more prevalent, expect that percentage to increase as well.

Upgrading the Network: It is significant to know that more than 50% of the Wi-​Fi networks of the hoteliers surveyed are over 2 years old. These networks are just not sufficient for the number of devices that guests are using. 45% said they intended to upgrade their WI-​FI network with approximately 40% planning to do it within the next two years. The balance are not planning to do anything for 3+ years.

"The rising prevalence of mobile room keys, which allow guests to unlock their rooms with their device, also lends credence to the notion that hospitality marketers should check their network structure for optimization," Samuely wrote. "Problematic Wi-​Fi for smartphones and tablets may also have a detrimental effect on the slew of new mobile-​first services that hotel brands are beginning to roll out. Hotel concierge applications are becoming a must-​have for major hospitality brands seeking to tap into guests‰Ûª smartphones to anticipate their needs before arrival on premises (see story). Some properties are going so far as to allow their customers to place orders for food and beverages from the hotel pool or other facilities, suggesting the Wi-​Fi must be spotless for these functions to work seamlessly."

"Meanwhile, 37.9% enjoy using iTunes while traveling, with 20.7% skewing in favor of Google Play. This suggests that mobile users may be more likely to download travel-​friendly applications during their stays, such as OpenTable or Yelp."

Hotels have got to please the 51% of the U.S. population planning domestic vacations in the next 12 months. AudienceSCAN can tell you more about these travelers. Like, 22% of Domestic Vacationers are registered Republicans. 46% own dogs, so are they bringing Fido on vacation with them and looking for pet-​friendly lodging? 24% celebrated Valentine's Day at a restaurant or hotel. 28% are using iPads. 23% are using Yelp and TripAdvisor; 19% are using hotels​.com. 33% saw a spot on television (over-​the-​air, online, mobile or tablet) in the past 30 days and took action, so get your hotels on TV!

AudienceSCAN data is available as part of a subscription to AdMall for Agencies. Media companies can access AudienceSCAN data through the Audience Intelligence Reports inåÊAdMall.