Extended-stay operators need to consider these 6 things about Wi-Fi

The extended stay hospitality market is having a moment. With the market projected to expand steadily by almost 12 percent CAGR over the next 10 years, conventional brands like Choice Hotels, Hilton, Hyatt and others are joining bellwethers like Extended Stay America in opening a slew of new long-term rental options from budget-friendly to high-end properties. 

This is great news for people who depend on these accommodations, like construction crews, travel nurses, families needing alternative housing due to fire, natural disaster or major remodeling, and even those going through a separation or divorce who need a place to call their own. Greater selection and increased competition mean customers have more options at a variety of price points. 

But it also means extended stay operators must rise to the occasion, delivering the “home away from home” experience longer-term guests demand. For the vast majority, having fast, reliable Wi-Fi connectivity is a must-have to keep them plugged in, entertained and in-touch with their loved ones. 

To learn more about just how important dependable Wi-Fi is, and identify some crucial strategies extended stay operators should consider, we asked the experts at one of the best in the business: Extended Stay America.

“Eighty percent of our revenue comes from stays of seven-plus nights, and our guests come with all the connected devices: phones, tablets, streaming devices, gaming consoles,” said Extended Stay America Chief Information Officer John Laplante. “And they expect it all to work without any issues when they stay with us, just like it does at home.”

As new investments crop up and existing properties aim to keep up with the competition on delivering exceptional guest experience, extended-stay operators must think beyond the bare minimum when it comes to providing internet connectivity. Managed Wi-Fi solutions can provide the robust service and scalability needed to meet guests’ expectations, along with the networking capacity required for seamless back-office operations. 

Here are six things extended stay operators need to consider when it comes to deploying managed Wi-Fi that guests and operators can count on.

1. Seamless, ubiquitous connectivity. Getting logged on and staying connected shouldn’t be a chore. Just like their devices automatically connect to their home Wi-Fi as soon as they’re within range, guests expect the same from their extended-stay experience. 

That means providing automatic user authentication that remembers guest devices so they don’t have to log in every time they return to their room, and they can enjoy seamless connectivity throughout the property—at the onsite fitness facility, lounge or breakfast bar. 

This feature of managed Wi-Fi also allows operators to better understand guest utilization of amenities across the facility by tracking where they connect, use mobile device access and consume bandwidth in specific areas.

2. Bandwidth provisioning. Between work demands, streaming and gaming, and Facetiming with friends and family, guests have high bandwidth demands and slow Wi-Fi can make all the difference between a loyal guest and one who never returns. 

Managed Wi-Fi solutions provide operators with simple bandwidth provisioning that ensures each guest room has the capacity they need for work and play, and prevents high-consuming neighbors from bogging down the connection. 

Bandwidth provisioning also provides an up-sell opportunity for operators, giving guests the option to pay extra for more bandwidth to support high-capacity needs.  

3. Support for Internet of Things. For the back-office, the landscape of IoT connected devices is rapidly expanding from self-service check-in kiosks and NFC door locks to PTAC systems and water sensors to apps for maintenance and housekeeping management. Because extended-stay properties typically run with a much smaller staff than full-service hoteliers, having sufficient connectivity and capacity for these devices is essential for operational efficiency and maintaining guest satisfaction. 

“The only device hardwired in our properties is one back-office computer. Everything else relies on Wi-Fi,” Laplante said. “Ensuring you have the bandwidth for IoT devices and the ability to monitor your network health in a single pane of glass is critical. Most vendors have their own network requirements, so you must ensure there are no connectivity conflicts within your environment.”

4. Guest tech support. Having Wi-Fi available is only useful to guests if they can connect to it. With so many devices, it can be a minefield of technical trouble. Extended-stay operators must not only ensure that their networks are up to the challenge with ease of connectivity and sufficient bandwidth but also there’s help for guests when they need it. With limited on-premises staff, the best solution is often to partner with a tech support provider that’s available 24/7/365. 

“Gaming consoles are a challenge because there’s no interface for accepting the terms and conditions for Wi-Fi use,” Laplante said. “In order to connect a gaming console, our guest must call our technology partner for assistance in getting the device connected. Having a partner to provide that technical support to our guests is essential for ensuring their satisfaction and loyalty.”

5. Cybersecurity. With so many connected devices on property, the threat landscape is exponentially wider. Aside from guests, many technology vendors also need access to their on-premises systems for monitoring and maintenance, and across every industry, vendor systems have become prime targets for cyberattacks that then infiltrate the network. 

For guests, the best cybersecurity practice is to use a VPN when connecting to guest Wi-Fi, but Laplante says one best practice is segmenting network traffic to separate vendor, operator and guest access, which provides added protection for all three. Some managed service providers and gateway hardware provide built-in policy-based firewalls, which can potentially eliminate the need for separate security appliances. 

6. Employee and guest safety. While guest experience and operational efficiency are important, nothing trumps safety. For employees, Wi-Fi-connected smart badges allow staff to request help at the push of a button and provide built-in fall detection, along with real-time incident notifications and precise location tracking to mitigate safety risks and enable immediate response. 

A robust managed Wi-Fi network can also help extended-stay operators balance cybersecurity and data privacy. 

“Monitoring quality of service and overall bandwidth consumption is only the start,” Laplante said. “You need a multi-faceted monitoring approach to ensure you can identify issues within your network in an ever-changing environment.”

While Wi-Fi connectivity has become as essential as AC and hot water for guests, all networks and solutions are not created equal. As extended-stay expands rapidly, investors, operators and developers cannot overlook the importance of this vital utility. It’s not just an amenity—it’s a necessity for providing an exceptional guest experience and operational efficiencies that maximize revenue and profitability.

Mike Gray is global vice president of strategic partnerships at Nomadix