Free WiFi impacts on hotel brand choice in the UK

    150 150 Daniel Fountain
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    London 29th March 2011: Results from leading market research agency, BDRC Continental, show a surge in the proportion of business travellers using WiFi, but increased resistance to paying for the privilege.The British Hotel Guest Survey, published each year since 1982, comprises detailed online interviews with 2,000 travellers and provides unparalleled intelligence to hotel chains looking to shape their future strategies. One of the key findings this year surrounds consumers’ usage of, and attitude towards, the provision of wireless internet access.

    “Every year we have seen usage of WiFi increase amongst both business and leisure travellers,” explains Tim Sander, Research Director at BDRC Continental, “but in the last twelve months the proportion of business travellers has jumped from 56% to 73%. This, in itself, is not surprising given how technology has improved, but what was interesting this year is that business travellers are starting to resist what they clearly consider to be excessive charges.”

    Tim’s assertion is based on analysis of findings on the pricing point at which people would begin to ‘log off’. Opinion was divided at £5, with roughly 40% saying they probably or definitely would be prepared to pay, and 39% saying they probably or definitely would not. When that price was increased to £15, however, 79% would be unwilling to pay, with just 9% still saying that they would.

    For years now, hotel chains have been in turmoil as to whether the benefit of offering free WiFi outweighs the cost impact. While evidence showing that fewer people will buy at a higher price point may not be revolutionary in itself, the British Hotel Guest Survey also revealed that among all UK business travellers, 49% are ‘very likely’ to replace their number one choice hotel brand in favour of another brand that offered free WiFi, assuming location and cost factors were satisfied.

    The question of WiFi apart, the British Hotel Guest Survey has revealed a domestic hotel market that is beginning to recover. “The British Hotel market, whilst still in flux, is showing signs that allow us to be cautiously optimistic,” continues Sander. “Business traveller room nights are up by 2m, bookings through hotel websites are at an all time high and the influence of loyalty programme participation on hotel choice is higher than ever before. All this leaves inspires confidence that the business and leisure travellers have begun to re-engage with the market place”.

    Daniel Fountain / 01.04.2011

    Editor, Hotel Designs


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