Does the Beach need to get connected?

This summer’s heat wave put the topic of “Connected Kids” and the evolution of their holiday requirements at the forefront of my planning for Summer ‘14.  For as long as I can remember, mum’s have dreaded the 6 week summer school holidays because of their kid’s need for intensive interaction, play dates or days out, to offset their inevitable boredom.

However, the Internet, game consuls and Sky TV have brought massive changes in our children’s behaviour, with the new challenge being how to get them out of their bedrooms and outside.  Over the last 10 years beach destinations have embraced Sky TV, with football games, Coronation Street etc. being available in bars in virtually every major destination. Owners simply consider it a cost of doing business – if they do not offer this service their revenues decline rapidly.

Oddly, most hotels regard Digital TV and Internet access as revenue opportunities via paid for services, rather than being willing to invest in them as service differentiators. This might be acceptable if the service they provided was actually effective. I have lost count how many times I had to sit in a hotel reception to use the Wi-Fi or gone to connect in the room only to realise my iPhone, iPad or Mac cannot be plugged into the out-dated Internet cable provided.

To be fair, a key problem is the sheer size of most hotels. It is relatively simple for a bar or coffee shop to provide a free Wi-Fi service, since their maximum concurrent capacity is likely to be 10-20 people trying to use the service. Also customers are less likely to want to use streaming services for watching Netflick’s etc. and more likely to just be downloading emails or accessing Facebook.

Conversely, most beach hotels will have 200 plus rooms on multiple floors over a wide expanse of space. Hence, whilst most provide Internet access often it simply cannot cope with the demand and this results in a poor impression for hotel. Soon, a key search criterion for beach hotels, driven my kid’s requirements, will not just be “Does it have Wi-Fi”, but what broadband speed does it offer! Believe me this is coming.

At next month’s World Travel Market event in London, I have organised a session with key industry players to discuss this exact topic and try to raise the awareness of the importance of the issue with our hotel partners.  Personally, I want to take a radical look at the whole in-resort entertainment experience for kids and will be suggesting some of the following

Þ      My DJ set. Keep some of the traditional cheese of the nightly kids discos, but allow the slightly older kids to create play lists on their iPhones so they can have their own DJ sets during the evening.

Þ      International electro Olympics. Most online games support multi player action. So allow kids to create national teams and compete against each other. You never know we might finally be able to beat the Germans at a penalty shoot out on FIFA ‘14.

Þ      Game Hardware. As online gaming has developed, the equipment for playing games on has become incredibly cheap relative to the Game discs themselves. In my opinion hotels should put space aside and invest in 10-20 game consul and TV combinations, whilst leaving the kids to bring their own game discs or renting game disc’s in order to generate a revenue stream to pay for the initial £5-10k investment required. However, more progressive hotels will follow the bar owners approach to this and just see it for what it is; a basic cost of doing business.

Þ      FREE WiFi per Floor. Make the investment and put in a broadband connection in per floor and Wi-Fi routers labelled with the floor number. This will make it incredibly simple for customers to know which one to connect to. Wi-Fi cannot continue to be a revenue opportunity in the future since it is going to be a basic hotel service.

Þ      Capturing customers email address. Make customers access passwords to the Wi-Fi their email address. This will open up a new world of cost effective CRM, where hotels can encourage customers to leave online reviews and pass on discount codes, which can turn customers in to hotel advocates that bring in other customers.

 Even this approach will have to evolve over the next 5 years, as the EU finally move to banish outrageous and completely unjustifiable “roaming” charges that customers are currently ripped off by, when using their mobile phones overseas.

Realistic roaming fees will see individual mobile phones becoming the access point for all customers computing devices via tethering. However speed may remain a big restrictor in some beach countries where 3 or 4G networks have not been rolled out.

The bottom line is that if hotels do not evolve their offering it will be harder to get kids to go on the traditional beach holidays and if they do not experience them as kids, don’t assume they will prefer them over other holiday option when they become adults themselves. We really are talking about an investment in to the future of beach holidays here.

 

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