The State of Wi-Fi for Travelers in 2016

by Jeremy Kressman + Skift Team - Apr 2016

Skift Research Take

Traveler demand for, and use of, Internet connection services is soaring, creating a dilemma for travel brands that must walk a precarious tightrope between charging for access and risking customer anger over unreliable free service. How are travel brands coping with these challenges, and what future innovations in connection services might transform the industry?

Report Overview

Executive summary

Travelers’ use of Wi-Fi, and the number of connected devices they bring on trips, has never been higher. On top of this, more consumers than ever before have come to expect free Wi-Fi, thanks to the precedent set by companies like McDonald’s and Starbucks, which offer free access. Yet even as expectations and demand for Wi-Fi is peaking, travel suppliers are struggling to keep up. A complicated range of factors, ranging from infrastructure challenges to internal company debates about how to provide Wi-Fi with minimal impact on the bottom line, are causing customer dissatisfaction and indecision among travel business owners.

The strategic calculus about how to offer connectivity, and at what price, varies depending on the industry. While the majority of the hotel sector has moved towards a free (if limited) Wi-Fi standard for guests, other industry segments like airlines, cruise lines and meetings and events still charge for access. Even when guests are willing to pay, they still face a number of logistical and bandwidth hurdles that may prevent them from getting anything done.

Meanwhile, as travel executives look toward the future, a number of new business models and technologies may upend the industry’s current connection practices. As more travel providers consider offering free Internet access, business models built around ad-supported connectivity and partnerships with content companies are looking increasingly attractive. In addition, new technologies like “Internet of things” devices and beacons may provide additional opportunities for travel brands to improve their customer experience and drive more revenue.

Skift’s “State of Consumer Connectivity” examines the soaring demand for connection among travelers and investigates how status quo expectations for Internet access put more pressure on travel companies to provide fast, cheap, reliable service. It also analyzes how travel brands’ business decisions about Wi-Fi are evolving, and considers what strategies companies across the airline, hotel, cruise and convention businesses are using to please customers and maintain the bottom line, now and in the future.