New Year’s resolutions for independent hoteliers | hotel management software uk

So, 2020 is on the way. Another new year. Time to stop, take stock (after the Christmas rush), and start the new year with a bang.

But how do you do that as a busy independent hotelier? With chain hotels continuing to pop up everywhere and brands such as Airbnb redefining guest expectations, what new year’s resolutions should you be making?

The good news? They’re pretty simple and don’t require any immediate action - just a promise to yourself, the hotel and its team that you will make headway on them as 2020 kicks off.

Review your hotel tech

New Year’s resolutions for independent hoteliers | hotel upselling

Hotel technology evolves at a rapid pace. In fact, it’s so fast-paced that you can be forgiven for lagging behind a little as an independent hotelier.

However, there are a few areas in which you might need to invest if you’re to continue providing a range of services and an experience that befits the modern guest.

Pay particular attention to the following:

  • The property management system (PMS): is it web-based, reliable and fully integrated with both your website and the OTAs on which you rely? Does it connect to your other hotel technology such as your POS system?
  • In-room guest services and entertainment: you don’t have to spend big here - the simple addition of USB plug sockets might be enough to satisfy the digital needs of your guests, but if budget allows, perhaps 2020 is the year you finally upgrade the in-room TVs to be fully on-demand and add complimentary iPads to rooms, complete with a bunch of boredom-busting apps for the duration of guest stays. Have a look at last year’s guest feedback on TripAdvisor to spot areas where you might be lacking.
  • The restaurant: can you accept online bookings for your restaurant? If not, you might be missing out on a raft of reservations; people are far more inclined to book tables digitally nowadays.

Schedule some events

2020 hotelier tips | hotel booking systems

Staging events at your hotel is a great way to find new revenue streams.

Advertising yourself as a wedding and conference venue is no longer enough. What about running networking events for local businesses, or cooking competitions hosted by your talented head chef?

Live music, social dining experiences and tie-ins with local events can all be explored next year and might just result in a host of corresponding room bookings and new advocates of your property.

Turn your website into a conversion machine

hotel website tips | hotel software uk

Hotel websites are no longer simply digital brochures - they’re designed to bring in more bookings for the property; lots more bookings.

They can only do this if they’re set up for conversions in the same way an online store is. And if that sounds a bit cold or lacking in the personal touch for your hotel, you might need to leave some of your preconceptions at the door.

When you buy something on Amazon, it’s hassle-free; they’ve mastered the online shopping experience. The same should go for your hotel’s website. If someone wants to book a room, they should be able to check availability and rates and place their reservation as conveniently as possible.

It should be just as simple on whatever device they have to hand and fast no matter how weak their connection.

Try out your online booking experience with the mindset of a guest in a hurry for a decent room at a decent rate. If you get frustrated, it’s time to look for a new platform.

Touch base with your OTA reps

2020 hotel management tips | management systems for hotels london

Yeah, let bygones be bygones and all that - it’s the new year!

The relationship between independent hotels and OTAs has always been rather tetchy, but OTAs aren’t going anywhere and with the latter stages of the calendar year hopefully making you feel more reflective, now is the time to get back in touch with your OTA reps.

If you don’t hear from them regularly, be proactive and seek out their help. For all you know, there could be much better ways to manage your listing and there might even be new tools you can use to optimise your presence on such sites which could result in better placements.

Make 2020 the year you foster a healthy relationship with the OTAs you rely on. Challenge them but accept their help when it’s offered. Combined with a conversion-tastic hotel website (see tip above), this is the best strategy for a stellar online presence that will result in plenty of profitable bookings.

Wrapping up

What’s your hotelier new year’s resolution? What have we missed?

Tell us what you’ll be doing next year to bring in more bookings and draw guests away from the big-name competition by commenting below!

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Welcome Anywhere has over 30 years of experience in helping independent hoteliers deliver guests an unforgettable experience with its simple property management system that controls your daily activities. The best part -  it’s all cloud hosted! We develop scalable solutions for your property such as PMS, a Booking Engine and Channel Manager. Our team has a wealth of experience in the hospitality industry and we serve you to better serve your guests.

Call us today at + 44 (0) 33 0100 1090, or email us at sales@welcomeanywhere.com. We will be happy to walk you through Welcome Anywhere’s all-in-one solution for your property management needs.

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5 tips for maximising direct bookings in 2020 | hotel software uk

Hosted by TripTease, the Direct Booking Summit is now in its second year and is the first event of its kind devoted to helping hoteliers increase the number of direct bookings they receive.

The fact direct booking now has its own summit is a clear indication of how big a challenge it is for hoteliers (particularly independents) to drive bookings through their own websites as opposed to the commission-based alternatives.

The good news? If you’re an independent hotelier, there are five things you can do in 2020 to maximise your direct bookings - and they’re easier than you might think!

1. A blatantly-obvious online booking button

new website design for your hotel | hotel management software uk

We’ve offered this tip so many times in the past, but there’s no harm in reiterating it.

When you have a new website designed for your hotel, it’s easy to get lost in everything but the most important element - the call-to-action (CTA).

For a hotel, that’s the ‘book now’ button, courtesy of modern online hotel booking systems. If yours can’t be found immediately (i.e. without scrolling, or pinching to zoom on your phone [see tip 5]), you’re missing out on direct bookings - simple.

2. Nail the user experience

hotel industry tips | management systems for hotels london

A beautiful website isn’t necessarily a functional website or one that’s a pleasure to use.

Given the visual nature of this industry, we’ve seen far too many hotel websites where there has been too much time spent on the design, leaving the user experience to chance.

You need beautiful, original imagery and video if you’re to engage potential guests, but you also need to make it easy for them to navigate. Here’s our user experience golden rules:

  • Make it easy to book (see tip 1)
  • Put all of the important information within the upper-third of each page
  • Create a simple, clear menu

That’s it. Easy, right?

3. Make security a priority

5 tips for maximising your hotel's direct bookings in 2020 | hotel booking systems

Understandably, there’s a lot of nervousness about data protection and cybercrime these days, and your hotel website needs to give its visitors the confidence to hang around.

You can do this by investing in a PCI-compliant online booking system for their credit card payments, and by ensuring that you have an ‘https’ security certificate for the website. The latter displays the little padlock icon in most browsers and is an industry-standard form of security.

These little things will add credibility to your brand and encourage people to hang around long enough to book.

4. Rate parity

rate parity to maximise direct bookings | hotel upselling

If you’re advertising rates higher or lower on your website compared to the OTAs, you’ll be both breaking their rules and confusing guests.

Sound odd? Not really. Guests want transparent pricing, and finding multiple prices for the same room at the same hotel across multiple websites including your own doesn’t exactly inspire confidence. Why are they different?

If you have price parity across all of your online channels, the choice of booking method for the guest will usually come down to whichever website they land on when they’re at the buying stage of the customer journey. If yours keeps them engaged and makes it easy to book, why would they head back to an OTA?

5. Mobile compatibility

5 tips for maximising direct bookings in 2020 | hotel booking systems

Test your hotel website on your mobile phone.

Most of the people who visit your website will do so on their smartphone. And that means everything should auto-adjust to fit any screen size, while keeping that all important CTA (re-read tip 1!) front-and-centre.

Whats the experience like? Painful?

You’re missing out on direct bookings!

Wrapping up

You’ll never achieve 100% direct bookings for your hotel. If you do, we’d love to hear from you.

But you won’t - sorry.

That doesn’t matter though, because by using our tips above, you’ll significantly increase the portion that originate from your own website and in turn establish a brand that people want to return to again and again.

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Welcome Anywhere has over 30 years of experience in helping independent hoteliers deliver guests an unforgettable experience with its simple property management system that controls your daily activities. The best part -  it’s all cloud hosted! We develop scalable solutions for your property such as PMS, a Booking Engine and Channel Manager. Our team has a wealth of experience in the hospitality industry and we serve you to better serve your guests.

Call us today at + 44 (0) 33 0100 1090, or email us at sales@welcomeanywhere.com. We will be happy to walk you through Welcome Anywhere’s all-in-one solution for your property management needs.

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Big Data And Hotels: How It’s Changing The Game For Guests | hotel upselling

Travel and hospitality is an incredibly competitive industry which requires the businesses operating within to create unforgettable guest experiences.

Until now, the ability to do this has required massive marketing budgets and inordinate amounts of time.

Now, we live in a world of big data and something called ‘hyper personalisation’. In human language, this means there’s an inordinate amount of information about consumers available to businesses, who now have the ability to use that information to send precisely targeted marketing campaigns.

But what does this mean for independent hotels, their guests and online hotel booking systems?

Big data and hotel customers

Big Data And Hotels | hotel booking systems

It’s easy to dismiss big data as being another indication that ‘big brother’ is watching us all, ready to pounce with unsolicited offers and irritating emails, but that’s a little short-sighted.

The hospitality mantra of ‘customer-first’ runs deep within hotel operations, and big data could help your hotel tailor a much more personalised offering for its guests. And that’s a win-win for everyone.

The more data you collect about a guest, the more you know about them. Demographics, past stay habits and their behaviour on your website can all inform the packages you put together and the offers you send to them via email.

It enables you to segment your guest database, too. An example described on Forbes.com tells of a hotel chain that used analytics from big data to rearrange rooms for either leisure or business travellers.

Why not match your rooms, service and food offering to the data you hold about guests?

Big data and the benefit it offers hotel businesses

Hotel PMS UK | hotel software uk

Big data can be a bit overwhelming. It comes at you from all angles and arrives in such large quantities that it’s understandable if the desire to do anything with it slips further down the priority list.

For instance, if you publish your availability via OTAs, they’ll likely provide plenty of data and statistics on the guests who book via that method. Likewise, your PMS will probably store comprehensive guest contact and preference details, along with stay histories.

Then you have the smartphone-carrying housekeepers who generate data about room cleanliness and turnaround times. And what if you’ve connected your till system to the PMS? All those bar tabs and table accounts will be generating countless transactions that provide invaluable insights into your F&B operation.

Exhausted? Fair enough. But there’s an answer to the big data conundrum.

With the right systems in place, you can take advantage of this data by gaining access to dashboards and reports that make sense of the raw information.

It’ll help you make decisions about the lifetime value of guests; which ones generate the most revenue for you? Who returns regularly but is yet to spend a penny in the bar?

Big data will benefit your hotel operation, even if you’re yet to obtain it.

Big data: is it ‘now’ or ‘future’ for independent hotels?

Big data might not quite be at full adoption stage for independent hotels, but with technology once reserved for large chains fast filtering down the industry food chain, it’s coming.

For your guests, big data will deliver a more personal experience. For your hotel, it will enable you to build profitable relationships with customers, give you a competitive edge and uncover countless latent revenue generating opportunities.

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Welcome Anywhere has over 30 years of experience in helping independent hoteliers deliver guests an unforgettable experience with its simple property management system that controls your daily activities. The best part -  it’s all cloud hosted! We develop scalable solutions for your property such as PMS, a Booking Engine and Channel Manager. Our team has a wealth of experience in the hospitality industry and we serve you to better serve your guests.

 

Call us today at + 44 (0) 33 0100 1090, or email us at sales@welcomeanywhere.com. We will be happy to walk you through Welcome Anywhere’s all-in-one solution for your property management needs.

 

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Last year, the data hack at Marriott’s Starwood division shocked the hotel industry. Affecting over 500 million customers, the cyberattack resulted in email addresses, passport information and, most worryingly, encrypted credit card data being compromised. Fast-forward to 2019, and British Airways is fined a whopping £183 million for a data breach after falling foul of the GDPR’s strict guidelines.

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In-room hotel entertainment used to be remarkably simple. A TV with access to terrestrial channels and pay-per-view movies was about as far as it stretched until tablets, streaming and a desire to link home devices to in-room tech began to emerge.

The Caterer recently published a round-up of what it expects to be the in-room entertainment of choice for hotel guests during 2019, and it caught our eye. If you haven’t read it yet or would like it summarising, we’ve done just that (you can thank us later).

“Casting” will be the new buzzword

If you’ve invested in a Google Chromecast for home entertainment purposes, you’ll be acutely aware of how wonderfully convenient it can be to beam video content from your smartphone or tablet to the TV.

If ‘Chromecast’ means nothing to you, think about the number of times you’ve found a YouTube video on your phone but have become frustrated by the small screen’s inability to immerse you in the content when you have a perfectly good (and big) TV sitting opposite you.

Devices like Google’s Chromecast enable users to transfer video content from a handheld device to the television, and with more hotel guests wanting to watch their Netflix accounts while staying away from home, offering them the ability to do that at your property could result in plenty of favourable reviews.

WiFi: as essential as hot water

Just as they’d expect running water from taps upon entering the bathroom, modern hotel guests expect WiFi to be available immediately and for free. What’s more, they won’t stand for a weak, slow connection - much like they wouldn’t stand for a lukewarm shower.

In the Caterer article, marketing manager of Airwave, James Grant, explains that “WiFi is at the bottom of it all”. He also points out that, beyond WiFi, guests are increasingly expecting the same level of tech comforts at hotels as they enjoy at home.

Thankfully, rather than a complete overhaul of your in-room systems, this might simply mean implementing stronger, free WiFi and the ability to ‘cast’ (see above) content from personal devices to the TVs you provide in each room.

Familiar EPGs

How many times have you checked into a hotel room only to be frustrated by the infinitely-confusing TV menu system? Imagine, instead, turning on the box to find the familiar sight of Sky’s EPG.

Bliss!

Sky Select is Sky’s centralised HD distribution system for hotels, and it’s starting to make its presence felt in rooms across the UK.

But that’s not all. Savvy hoteliers are beginning to use management software than enables TVs in public areas such as the bar to display special offers and hotel-specific advertising. Imagine being able to signal the start of happy hour during the half time of a big game!

Audio expectations

It’s not all about visual stimulation when it comes to the modern hotel guest. With more and more bringing colossal music collections on their smartphones thanks to streaming services such as Spotify and Apple Music, the ability to play their favourite tracks on decent hotel room speakers will go down very well indeed.

Thankfully, speaker technology has accelerated to the point where a great sound can be produced from a particularly diminutive device, with some - such as Amazon’s Alexa - even incorporating speech recognition and digital assistant capabilities.

Wrapping up

Perhaps the best news about in-room tech expectations in 2019 is, as we’ve alluded to above, the fact that it doesn’t have to cost a fortune for the hotelier to implement.

Technology is reaching the point where services, hardware and software platforms that were once only available to those with deep pockets is now democratised. Guest expectations might be on the rise, but exceeding them won’t break the bank.

What in-room hotel tech are you most looking forward to implementing this year?

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Originally released in 2014, the Amazon Echo (more readily referred to as ‘Alexa’) is now a common fixture in homes across the world.

Cast your mind back to your last few visits to friends and family and it’s almost guaranteed that at least one of them will have attempted to wow you with their digital home assistant.

“Alexa, how old is Elton John?”, “Alexa, play the latest song by Paloma Faith”, “Alexa, turn the living room lights on”; talking to technology has become as familiar as switching the kettle on.

It should therefore come as no surprise that Amazon quickly realised how useful Alexa’s skills could be in the world of hotels. Thus, Alexa for Hospitality was born, and it’s slowly appearing on bedside tables in rooms across the country.

What does Alexa for Hospitality do?

Amazon touts Alexa for Hospitably as ‘the hub of the room’, offerings guests the ability to control in-room devices, find local businesses and play music by doing northing more than talking to the diminutive device.

Depending on the technology you have in your property, Alexa can also integrate with existing services, thus essentially becoming a digital concierge.

Asking Alexa to call the front desk, send additional towels, order room service or provide assistance with self checkout is a compelling way to conduct your hotel stay and one which guests will likely begin to yearn for as digital assistants continue to be such an important part of everyday life.

How does it work?

Thankfully, and as you might expect if you’ve installed an Alexa in your home, Amazon’s personal assistant is pretty straightforward to setup in a hospitality business.

Echo devices in hand, you’re guided through the process of connecting each one to a centralised console (which can apparently manage “hundreds” of devices).

Once connected, hotel staff can use the central console to control individual device volume, reset devices and check their status.

‘Skills’ (the mini apps you can add to an Alexa to make it more functional) can also be administered centrally, enabling you to add ever more wondrous ways for guests to interact with their in-room digital assistant as they become available.

So, what skills does Alexa for Hospitality currently possess?

At the time of writing (and depending on the existing technology you have within your hotel), Alexa for Hospitality will respond to the following guest requests:

  • contacting front desk;
  • assistance with checking out;
  • room service orders; and
  • ordering of certain hotel provisions and guest services.

New skills are being added all the time, but it’s clear at the moment that Alexa’s value for hotels and their customers most commonly resides in the area of digital concierge.

More recently, Amazon has added the ability for guests to sync their Amazon Prime accounts with the in-room Alexa, providing access to their own music playlists, audiobooks and even the ability to watch their favourite TV shows.

Conclusion: is it worth it?

So, the biggie: is Alexa for Hospitality worth it for independent hotels?

Cue disappointingly on-the-fence answer…

Possibly!

The cost isn’t as bad as you might think (Echo devices can be bought in bulk and the latest costs checked out on the Amazon Business website), but with guests becoming more accustomed to such technology in chain hotels, it’d be wise to at least start investigating this exciting guest service sooner rather than later.

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Cloud computing has become a much-discussed topic across most industries, praised for its ability to make modern software solutions and scalable IT resources available to everyone.

In 2018 alone, it’s estimated that around $160 billion (£118 billion) will be spent on cloud-powered services, according to the IDC.

But even in the age of affordable, accessible cloud platforms, some independent hotels are doing more to take advantage of this than others.

So, what can the cloud do for the hospitality industry and what strategies are most impactful in the era of outsourced IT?

Taking the plunge

The cloud is often sold on its ability to simplify IT and help businesses break free of the clunky, complicated systems they have been relying on for decades.

The problem with this is that it can give some hotels the wrong idea about how to approach cloud adoption.

Uprooting legacy apps wholesale and dumping them onto the cloud is a bad idea; it’s better to take the plunge with a service that’s built from the ground up to operate within a cloud infrastructure.

For hotels, this may mean leaving behind outdated booking systems and PMS solutions so that migrating to the cloud can deliver tangible benefits.

Only by cutting back the dead wood can new growth flourish. Only by taking a holistic, strategic approach to cloud adoption can independent hotels hope to remain competitive.

Automation, cost-effectiveness and other benefits

A lot of the hard work involved in managing a hotel comes from keeping on top of time consuming but important admin tasks.

This includes everything from engaging with guests before and after their stay to keeping track of bookings, sales data and other key metrics that help measure hotel performance over time.

All of these things can be achieved by using legacy solutions, but in many cases, you’ll need to do a lot of the hard work manually.

Modern cloud-powered software is all about automation and efficiency. Whether it’s issuing emails and texts to guests before they arrive and after they leave, or rolling out price updates to OTAs, all this and more can (and should) be handled automatically.

For smaller hotels with limited resources, these perks will help to make cloud adoption easy to justify.

The affordability also comes from the fact that by migrating to the cloud, you can avoid all sorts of costs usually associated with IT.

Expensive on-site hardware, security, maintenance and software license fees can all be avoided. Outsourcing to a dedicated third party provider makes things cheaper, more flexible and far more convenient.

Wrapping up

IT can be seen as a serious obstacle to independent hotels, but there’s no doubt that cloud computing is empowering businesses throughout this industry.

Welcome Anywhere is part of the exciting cloud movement, bringing communications, booking, performance reports, front desk services and more together in a cohesive package.

Independent hotels that want to get ahead have already made the leap to the cloud. Isn’t it about time you joined them?

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It sometimes feels like the big boys of the hotel industry get to play with the tech toys before anyone else. And while the upfront cost of investing in cutting edge systems can be an obstacle for independents, trends tend to find a way of trickling down… eventually.

If you consider yourself to be a tech-savvy hotelier, here are five movements that are being embraced by the big chains which could soon reach independent operators.

Smart TVs

You may know that smart TVs with internet-enabled abilities are entering circulation at mainstream hotel chains. And with brands like Samsung driving down the price of their intelligent displays, this technology is becoming more accessible.

Smart TVs are about more than just meeting guest expectations and opening up a new world of content; they also appeal thanks to their interactions with other gadgets.

From mobiles and laptops to games consoles and beyond, a modern television can enhance the stay of any guest.

Virtual Reality

VR has gained a lot of traction thanks to affordable headsets and the engaging, interactive experiences on offer. As such, it can be surprisingly effective as a tool for marketing hotels and destinations.

In the not too distant future, you’ll be able to give guests a preview of rooms in full 3D before they visit or highlight local attractions with VR. It’s an exciting opportunity to get creative and sell that empty bed space!

Wireless Charging

Providing guests with a place to plug in their gadgets is standard practice in the age of the smartphone. But modern devices are moving away from cables altogether, thanks to wireless charging technology.

Apple’s most recent raft of iPhone handsets come with wireless charging capabilities as standard, but it was actually a little late to the party; many of its rival mobile makers had already embraced this tech.

Adding wireless charging stations to a hotel room will make things super convenient for guests and could be a real selling point for your hotel (plus they’re relatively affordable, which is a bonus!).

AI Customer Service Capabilities

While true artificial intelligence is still a way off becoming a reality, hotels are harnessing this tech in the form of chat bots which can deal with guest questions in an instant.

Adding a chat bot to a hotel website makes it simple to engage with potential customers from the outset. And if you have limited customer service resources at your disposal, this can be a great way to avoid missing out on guests who may otherwise head to the competition.

And finally… Personalisation

Guests like a personal touch when they visit a hotel. And various technologies are coming together to ensure that each visit is as unique as possible.

In-depth analysis of data is at the heart of this movement. Mobiles are particularly useful here, since they can provide location-based insights into customer behaviour which are highly relevant for hoteliers.

Successfully managing your relationship with guests from the point of first contact to the follow-up marketing after their stay is less of a pain thanks to personalisation.

Tell us what you think!

Which tech trend above excites you the most as a modern independent hotelier? Tell us in the comments section, below!

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The world is driven by the connectivity, content and methods of communication the internet has delivered. And it’s absolutely everywhere.

Virtually every public place and method of transport now has some form of connectivity that enables us all to enjoy high speed internet access on our devices, without paying a penny.

If you’re a hotelier, you can no longer get away with rubbish Wi-Fi. There - we said it. And, if you’re yet to upgrade yours, we’d like to offer five myths about hotel internet connections we feel compelled to dispel:

Myth 1: Your current gear will last for ages

Sorry - it won’t.

In the last decade, we’ve seen countless Wi-Fi standard and methods of security arrive, achieve adoption and then be superseded.

Things move on in tech - fast - and if you hang onto your same internet gear for as long as you can, guests will eventually suffer from slower speeds, incompatibility with newer devices and, worst of all, poor security.

Build a Wi-Fi refresh into your budget at least every three to five years.

Myth 2: You can set it up and manage it yourself

Even if you’re relatively tech savvy, you’re still the owner of an independent hotel, and that’s not the sort of job where you have five minutes spare to fix an dynamic IP address issue on your router.

Instead, make sure you invest in the services of someone who can set up and maintain your internet connection. It’ll be one of the best investments you make, because they’ll ensure your connection is configured properly and will be on hand when it all comes crashing down (which it will).

Myth 3: Guests will pay extra for decent Wi-Fi

Take a trip to your local shopping centre and there’s a strong chance you’ll be able to log onto Wi-Fi that’s fast enough for a bout of browsing and video streaming.

It’ll have been free, too, like most Wi-Fi connections these days.

Are you still charging for access to Wi-Fi or offering a paired-down connection for guests who aren’t willing to pay?

You won’t win many rave reviews if so.

Myth 4: Decent Wi-Fi will cost the hotel fortune

Good news: it won’t.

Speak to two or three providers and ask them to quote. You’ll be pleasantly surprised by the packages they offer and the various ways in which you can finance the hardware.

Remember - great, free Wi-Fi will make your guests very happy indeed, and if they return, any investment you’ve made in your internet infrastructure will have played its role handsomely.

Myth 5: Guests will bring their own internet connectivity

Granted - most of your guests will have access to smartphones that have 3G or 4G internet connectivity, but don’t assume they’ll use it over free Wi-Fi.

Most simply won’t. Regardless of the connection symbol displayed on their phone, they’ll usually seek an alternative that won’t cost them anything or eat into their data allowance.

Furthermore, people still use laptops and tablets that don’t have built-in cellular connectivity, and they absolutely need a route into the digital domain.

Wrapping up

If we still haven’t convinced you to review the Wi-Fi connectivity you provide guests, there’s one last thing you can try.

Take a look at a few random TripAdvisor reviews and make a note of how many contain negative comments about poor internet connectivity. Do you want to number among them?

Image credit

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