About 10 years ago, hotel operators were able to squeeze a nice chunk of change out of guests by charging high toll rates for phone service. However, most of that revenue went by the wayside in the early 2000s when every man, woman, and child on earth started carrying a cell phone. While this loss of revenue was in some cases offset by fees for Internet usage, thanks to 3G access cards most business travelers don’t even bother with hotel Internet service anymore — especially if they have to pay for it.
Yet, these access cards, and even your cell phone, aren’t always reliable in certain hotel settings, such as in interior conference rooms. But, are these simply examples of the random “dead spots” we encounter within the wireless world, or is there more to it? From off-the-record conversations with IT managers, we have learned that many of these rooms are designed with materials that deliberately block 3G signals — or at best make no attempt to allow the signals in. This is especially troubling in hotels that are still hanging on to the pay-for-Internet revenue stream, which will exist as long as customers (or their companies) will support it.
However, reliable complimentary Internet access is quickly becoming an increasingly common selling point for many hotels and is already a difference maker for some chains. We expect this will soon become a selling point even for the large conference centers that are currently implementing the pay-for-access plan.
While meeting the needs and expectations of every hotel guest can be challenging, the ability to provide reliable and affordable Internet service should be a relatively painless way for hotels and conference centers to keep customers happy. Reliable Internet service can be a differentiating factor and an incentive, or deterrent, for future business.
The challenge is finding a balance between the customer-satisfaction benefits of providing such a service and your bottom line. When it comes to Internet service, many hotels and conference centers are achieving this balance with the help of the NetEqualizer system. In the end, the NetEqualizer is allowing hotels and conference centers to provide better and more affordable service while keeping their own costs down. While the number of 3G and 4G users will certainly continue to grow, the option of good old wireless broadband is hard to overlook. And if it’s available to guests at a minimal fee or no extra charge, hotels and conference centers will not longer have to worry about keeping competing means of Internet access out.
Note: I could not find any specific references to hotels’ shrinking phone toll rate revenue, but as anecdotal evidence, most of the articles complaining about high phone toll charges were at least 7 years old, meaning not much new has been written on the subject in the last few years.