Donna Cobb, executive director of strategic partnerships and influencer marketing at Comcast Business, says WiFi and, with it, the bandwidth to power guests’ multiple devices—not just in their rooms, but throughout the property—is no longer an “amenity”—it’s a requirement, even for small boutiques and budget franchises. She discussed this reality, along with steps that even individual hotels can take to meet what she describes as “the minimum connectivity requirement.”
Cobb recalls that as few as five years ago, the focus of hotel technology was more on saving costs, improving the employee experience, and otherwise streamlining back-of-the-house operations. While those aspects are no less important now, she maintains, customer-facing technology is now an essential component of the guest experience.
“People no longer chose a hotel based on rate and physical structures, such as a restaurant or gym. Now, it’s all about bringing the in-home experience to the hotel stay. Leisure travelers with children want to be sure they can get to their content, play video games, whatever; and business travelers want what they need to do their work, but also to relax, for example, by catching up on their shows. And they want it everywhere. Whether they are in the lounge, the patio, gym, or their room, they need to have that seamless experience.”
And, as she describes, behind it all is connectivity. “Loyalty programs, streamlined check-in and check-out, WiFi, and the ability to use it everywhere all start with connectivity—that is, the backend structure to enable the new technologies to deliver on their promises of convenience and an enhanced experience.”
Cobb cites examples of how technology other than WiFi for devices impacts the guest experience. “Remember the long lines to check in and check out? Technology today puts much of that process in the guest’s hands. Some even have keyless entry, so guests can bypass the front desk and go directly to their room, using their phone to unlock the door. As for checkout, unless there’s have a problem, most guests can generally avoid it entirely.”
What less pressure on the front desk means, she points out, is that employees can help guests in other ways. “Staff doesn’t need to be heads-down, dealing with a long line, so when someone does come to the front desk, your staff is able to help them in other ways.”
Given how quickly providing these services has become critically important, Cobb says even the most modest hotels that don’t provide the desired connectivity risk losing their competitive edge; for that reason, some hotel companies are trying to create minimum standards across their franchises. For those without the resources of the big hotel chains, she says, the answer may lie in finding partners like Comcast to help provide the kind of tech support they need to remain viable.
“Not everyone needs keyless entry, but technology partners can place basic technology solutions for things like WiFi and loyalty programs in the hands of even budget brands—whose cost may be borne by individual property owners, making it possible to receive both backend support for the organization and connectivity for guests.”