Imagine checking in guests digitally as they walk into your hotel. Sending them a personalised welcome message, directions to their room from their current location, and a digital room key they can use directly from their device. No queues, no waiting, no hassles.

It might seem like ‘hotel of the future’ stuff, but the truth is, the tech exists and is already available in Australia.

While only the most sophisticated hotels currently offer this level of connectivity, there are still plenty of opportunities for hotels to ramp up their game and provide exclusive services that will develop loyalty and increase revenue.

Transforming hotel Wi-Fi

The Australian hospitality industry has been quick to get on board with Wi-Fi. As guests begin to demand the same level of connectivity in hotels as they do at work, home and on the move, free Wi-Fi - especially in public areas - has become an expectation.

As hoteliers know, and guests rarely realise, Wi-Fi in a hotel setting is nothing like it is in a home or office environment. Hoteliers face challenges such as securely supporting a huge range of devices moving around over large areas, interrupted by signal-blockers such as lifts.

“It’s hospitality Wi-Fi 101,” says Cisco’s Business Development Manager of Volume Business in ANZ, Helena Ng. “Unfortunately, there’s quite a lot of variability on end user experience, depending on their phone or tablet. Hoteliers can’t possibly know what kind of devices guests use, yet all guests expect a good experience.”

Fortunately, things are changing.

Partnerships, such as that between Apple and Cisco, are creating new solutions that not only deliver better experiences to guests, but also eliminate the load placed on hotel IT departments as they constantly work to move devices around the hotel’s Wi-Fi infrastructure.

This means that not only are guests using Apple devices guaranteed to have a better Wi-Fi experience wherever they are on the hotel grounds, but that a hotel’s IT workforce can now be utilised in other areas of the business.

When properly used, a hotel’s Wi-Fi environment can be rich grounds for data collection.

"Once you have a living, breathing, invisible network (Wi-Fi), anything that has Wi-Fi capabilities suddenly becomes trackable within the hotel premises,” says Helena. “Once you start looking at it as a business process, visibility and improvement asset, then suddenly Wi-Fi begins to offer much, much more.”

“More sophisticated hotels are using Wi-Fi location analytics to see their property room by room - guest rooms, conference rooms, kitchens, front of house - and track assets like projectors and screens. Staff carry a trackable tablet or device, so they no longer need to log activity on paper. And of course, you can integrate this with customer experiences.”

This approach has delivered huge benefits to hotels that have embraced this kind of technology, increasing revenue by up to 20 per cent, thanks to increased loyalty.

Genius conferencing

Not only does a strong Wi-Fi service in your hotel offer more to guests, but it can also deliver much more to businesses using your hotel for conferences and meetings, especially when paired with intelligent technology such as the Cisco Spark Board.

The Spark Board is a game changer for conferencing. Forget the reams of butchers paper and sticky notes: the Spark Board is all guests will need to present, white board and audio/video conference, wirelessly, on any device, within the hotel or beyond.

Compared with ceiling-mounted projectors, tables with wires and manual connections, hotels offering wireless conferencing and collaboration are way ahead of the game, and can expect to grow revenue streams obtained through corporate bookings. Hand-in-hand with superior Wi-Fi offerings for guests, your hotels could jump way ahead of your competition, and reap the benefits.