As we enter the busy fall conference and event season, hotels have much to look forward to. With most of the pandemic’s restrictions now behind us, events are rebounding dramatically. For example, in July 2022 the industry saw a 163.9% jump compared to July 2021.
While demand for events and conferences continues to skyrocket, hoteliers should remain mindful that not all is the same as it was pre COVID-19. One crucial component of event success - Internet access and supporting network needs - has only increased and is now frequently the deciding factor in meeting attendee satisfaction. This component raises a series of challenges for hoteliers who must balance ongoing labor shortages with the need to capitalize on the vital injection of revenue that conferences and events represent for their properties.
To maximize profits and avoid pitfalls, hoteliers should address three key trends that can make all the difference in earning a reputation as an event host of choice.
Trend 1: Bandwidth is King
Across the board, hotel guests are bringing more devices with them as they travel and using them for more resource-intensive online activities. As a result, many existing hotel networks are being stretched to their breaking point. The resurgence of face-to-face conferences and meetings, with a growing number of attendees (averaging 50 people in the early spring and growing to 121 in late summer 2022), complicates this issue even further. In fact, even as hybrid events recede, hotels are finding they still need increased bandwidth capabilities to serve the needs of the post-pandemic attendee.
Today’s meeting and event attendees are simultaneously keeping pace with their normal work communication – including file downloads, Zoom meetings and email – and accessing event tools like apps, vendor website and presentations that are outside of the scope of the normal guest needs. All this means that what might ordinarily count as fast and reliable Internet for other guests and hotel services can’t serve all the needs of those at an event. While hoteliers may be able to get away with providing gigabit Ethernet circuits offering speeds of approximately 500 Gbit/s for regular guests, this often is not enough to satisfy today’s attendee needs.
For average internet use, hoteliers should aim to provide 1Mbit of downstream bandwidth and a half Mbit of upstream bandwidth per individual. For higher attended events drawing more intensive online behaviors, it is reccommended that hotels plan for full gigabit circuits to fully serve the needs of attendees and event staff.
Trend 2: Outsourcing Network Design & Management
With the variable network needs of conferences and events, hotels often find that managing and revising their online infrastructure is a complex and challenging issue. Added to this, many hotels are still working to hire admidst staffing shortages, including those in the sales, event planning and IT departments. As a result, there has been a surge in the outsourcing of event network management to either local or national AV vendors.
While locally and nationally sourced AV providers are very adept at many aspects of running a successful meeting or event, they can’t offer the same expertise and troubleshooting know-how around Internet infrastructure and connectivity that a dedicated network partner can provide. For example, a trusted network provider can help sales staff and event planners right-size the bandwidth capabilities based on attendees and needs. They can also perform the hard work of network redesign, including the installation of new switches, firewalls, fiber optic cabling as well as the re-positioning of access points to ensure excellent coverage and connectivity. Better still, a dedicated network specialist can take full responsibility over pre-event logistics to ensure seamless and hassle-free connectivity for attendees and deliver analytics post-event to help hotels understand and improve future network performance.
As hotels look to outsource to trusted providers and mitigate against charge backs, they should consider splitting off network components from the larger AV needs.
Trend 3: Preventing Staff Shortages from Eating into Event Profits
A dedicated network provider can not only help adequately address the challenges of event connectivity, but can also provide a bulwark against understaffed operations. Although some properties have been able to boost their staffing numbers, many new hires often lack the industry knowledge necessary to tailor network service offerings or adjust a hotel’s internet infrastructure to address to specific event needs.
In these instances, outsourcing to a trusted network provider can help hotels avoid potential risks and capitalize on all contracted revenue, while also reducing the workload on onsite staff. These providers act as consultants – quickly identifying a hotels’ current capabilities and providing guidance for necessary adjustments.
This not only helps hotels deliver better attendee experiences, but it also helps ensure that hotels don’t have to pay clients charge backs on undelivered or overpromised services. And, as hotels work to staff up, a team of outsourced network providers can help them re-focus the attentions of existing staff on other areas necessary to guarantee a truly exceptional event experience.
The fall event and conference season looks promising for many hotels across the country. By keeping these three trends in mind and planning accordingly, hotels will have all the tools they need to welcome in-person attendees with open arms…and always-on Internet.