PHG Research, a division of Pompan Hospitality Global, Inc, released a survey that found that 87.5 percent of respondents make WiFi available in all public spaces of their properties, while 70.8 percent make WiFi available in all guest rooms.
Additionally, the survey indicates 70.8 percent of these now provide the service for free in meeting and public spaces, while 60.9 percent provide free WiFi in guest rooms. As time goes on, all of these numbers are expected to rise.
The survey reveals that technology advances at an aggressive pace, and businesses must keep up by adapting to those advances in ways that satisfy not just customers’ immediate needs but also their broader expectations. And based on a survey completed by executives at 26 dedicated conference facilities in the United States and Canada, this segment is rapidly adapting how it provides and charges for wireless connectivity during meetings and events. (Properties were defined as conference centers because at least two-thirds of their total business comes from meeting and conference groups).
The survey was compiled and tabulated in mid-March 2014 by PHG Research, a division of Pompan Hospitality Global Inc., a strategic consulting firm for conference centers, resorts, and hotels based in Easton, PA.
“One of the foundations of the conference center concept is that the learning environment consists of the entire property,” says Tom Cappucci, a Vice President for Pompan Hospitality Global Inc. “Conference rooms must be equipped to support the present and emerging learning needs of the attendees. But public spaces such as lobbies, prefunction areas, foyers, nooks, and patios are frequently used as venues for additional formal and informal information exchange. As a result, these spaces need the same WiFi support as traditional conference spaces. The use of phones and tablets – easily carried by attendees and easily utilized in ways that can boost a conference’s effectiveness – virtually require easy connectivity as well. Even guest rooms are designed to be a continuation of a property’s learning environment. With these notions in mind, most conference center operators acknowledge that wireless service provided to attendees should be not only consistent in quality, but without additional charges.”
In fact, conference attendees are likely to expect this scenario at conference properties even more in the coming year, as various other public areas they pass through in the course of their business travel provide free WiFi service. For instance, more than 90 percent of the 150 largest U.S. airports were offering free or “freemium” Internet connections by the end of 2013, according to wireless software company Devicescape. And a February 2014 article in Fortune magazine noted that “at some point in the last year, the failure to offer a free, consistent connection has become a competitive disadvantage” among airports.
With customer expectations rising because of advances in other travel-related niches, then, conference center operators will see the same among those who pass through their doors. What’s more, given meeting planners’ frequent use of the meeting package concept at many conference facilities, their expectations for WiFi being made available for everyone as part of the total meeting cost is sure to rise as well.
Neil Pompan, president of Pompan Hospitality Global Inc., sees how the landscape is evolving, and encourages conference facilities to adapt rather than risk appearing behind the times, or as operators who “nickel-and-dime” their customers. Pompan notes that Internet access is now a key component of all communication, a mandatory service for all hospitality providers -- conference centers and hotels alike. “Some properties are trying as best as they can to pass the cost along to the customer" says Pompan, "but there exists a shrinking window of opportunity because of the growing number of people who get access via personal hot spots and 4G services built into their devices. So there could be a tipping point where people will no longer rely on the facility for access.”
"On the other hand", Pompan continues, “the opportunity for facilities to generate revenue via WiFi will eventually be for large-bandwidth service,” he adds. “Right now, facilities are struggling to determine how to provide such services because few clients understand the technology and have a hard time determining how much bandwidth they need. Over time, however, this confusion will diminish. We predict that there will be a line drawn between basic service and higher-speed service; and that for properties to successfully compete, they will be compelled to offer complimentary basic service.”
The entire survey and results are available on the PHG website: http://bit.ly/1hhZRBM