Vacationing on the Grid
At home and abroad, resorts need to provide guests with fast and reliable Wi-Fi.
Today’s travelers want to stay connected as they crisscross the globe. “Owners tell us the number one convenience they want at resorts is Wi-Fi,” says Peter Roth, vice president of marketing, communications and industry relations at ARDA. “People want to be able to reach a client or boss if needed. They want to be able to research local excursions and shops from their unit.”
Fast, free and reliable access isn’t simple. Jeremy Rock, president of hospitality information services company RockIT Group, notes that there can be infrastructure challenges, especially at older properties, and an increasing number of devices can put additional strain on a wireless network. (According to 2016 findings from the Adobe Digital Index, the average U.S. consumer owns 7.2 Internet-connected devices and uses 3.1 of them on a daily basis.) Bandwidth has to be carefully managed, as streaming services such as Netflix can use one gigabyte per hour to stream video in standard definition. And providing dependable Wi-Fi requires regular work, as standards are continuously shifting.
In order to accommodate upgrades and offset service costs, some properties have turned to a tiered model, offering basic Wi-Fi for free and charging for premium services. Alternatively, fees can be folded into existing payments. “Another option we’ve seen that works well for timeshare is to capture the necessary revenue in resort fees then provide complimentary service,” Rock says. “One more possibility is to bring in revenue by charging for broadband in meeting spaces.”
Many American carriers are set up to offload cellular data onto wireless networks, and travelers can incur substantial roaming fees when they’re unable to do so—making Wi-Fi access all the more important. Guests at AMResorts’ global properties can download the company’s Unlimited Connectivity app, which allows them to make international calls and plan outings through a wirelesses network, cutting down on roaming costs. International wireless systems are structured very differently than in the U.S., often resulting in more-expensive costs for bandwidth. As a result, a property might try to manage expectations or, if particularly remote, offer guests mobile wireless hot spots. As Rock puts it, “People get creative.”
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