The Links Golf and Racquet Club

What does refurbishment mean to the resort industry? Typically it has meant that the rooms get transformed and upgraded for longevity and guest satisfaction; new pillows, mattresses, carpeting, light fixtures, etc. It makes sense. You have to keep those things from getting outdated and strained from their overuse. Tips for regular refurbishment are simple; high quality lasts longer. Shop around.

But, if guest satisfaction is the overall goal of the hospitality industry then there’s an incredibly important piece of the puzzle that many resort should look into drastically refurbishing – their internet connectivity.

We know that strong internet connectivity and Wi-Fi is more important than ever because we are all connected with smart devices. A 2015 study by Pew Research Center found that 68% of adults have smartphones, 45% have tablets and 86% of those aged 18-29 have smartphones. Being able to use these devices, watch our videos, check out email, stay in touch on our social networks – all without draining our data plans is vital to a positive guest experience at a resort.

According to a Gallup poll, customers put “internet connectivity, a comfortable bed and responsive employees” as the top things travelers seek; so much so that they would pay a higher premium rate to stay at a resort that guaranteed these.

Not only do customers want strong Wi-Fi, but they want it for free. A 2015 study by ranked free Wi-Fi as the number one amenity travelers, both business and leisure, look for when booking, over free breakfast, free parking and even swimming pools.

It’s especially important for International travelers to the United States. According to the American Hotel and Lodging Association 2015 Industry Trends report, “the United States receives a larger share of International tourism than any other country.” Many of these travelers don’t want to upgrade to expensive international data plans when they can stay in touch for completely free as long as they have Wi-Fi.

So, we know this is more than important. It’s absolutely, without a doubt, vital to the guest satisfaction at our resorts. As all industry insiders know by now: guest satisfaction is everything. It’s our marketing. It’s our sensitive reputation. It’s our online reviews. It’s the backbone of our revenue. It’s the entire reason guests do business with us. It’s the key to helping properties to not just survive, but thrive.

The Links Golf and Racquet Club in North Myrtle Beach, South Carolina is comprised of 112 two-story townhome units, spread across 13 acres in 16 different buildings. It’s a large resort with a real problem in getting guests’ multiple devices connected to the internet.

“We had so many complaints about our internet that we were constantly getting poor reviews, and it was negatively affecting our ratings,” said Susan Crow, general manager of the Links.

Recently, Michael Fluharty, of WiFi Likes changed that. According to Fluharty, when he initially evaluated the situation the Links didn’t have near enough the needed bandwidth (techie speak for how much information can be streamed). They were getting approximately 15 MGs, now they get around 300 MGs. Most consumers don’t realize that their internet, both at businesses and residences, is shared internet, meaning that copper wire is run down a street and the signal is funneled to many from there. It’s limited and, as internet providers split it over and over again to all their consumers, it dwindles further and further leaving weak signals, buffering videos, constant disconnects and more.

“Shared internet is similar to having a tiny sprinkle of water to share among a big group of people, whereas dedicated internet is like having your own personal water tower with more water than you could possibly consume,” said Fluharty.

Fluharty and his WiFi Likes team solved both problems by giving the entire Links property dedicated, super strength WiFi and doing so in a way that’s feasible for it to be free for guests. They accomplished this feat with fiber optic cable which, as opposed to the limitations of copper, is virtually limitless in its ability to provide bandwidth.

In addition to the fiber optic cable, WiFi Likes has built a platform that helps the consumers by guaranteeing them connectivity at all times and giving each device the required bandwidth to watch videos while still benefitting the resort. Customers gain access by quickly and easily logging onto the Wi-Fi with their social media accounts. They get access; the resort gets data.

There’s also the ability for potential up-sales or advertising revenue from the landing page where users are automatically directed after logging on. On the landing page, Links Resort provides information and calls-to-action to connect guests with the sales department. Other businesses WiFi Likes works with have sold the space to local restaurants, activities and more to help cover the cost.

As the Director of Marketing for Defender Resorts, I can vouch for just how valuable this data is and how hard it can be to get, making services like Fluharty’s incredibly valuable. The first line of contact at a resort is a staff member who is trying to get guests checked-in happily and efficiently. Their priority is not gathering information for the marketing department, and we have to understand that and find alternate ways. If a consumer has traveled all day and is ready to get settled in, their happiness level is parallel to the speed in which they get into their room, without a ton of questions. It’s also common that their email address might not even be the most valuable one.

“Think if a grandmother owns at a resort, makes the reservation and it’s her email address in the system. The kids and grandkids are the ones using the internet and if you can capture their information there’s no limits to what your imagination can do with that,” said Fluharty. “You can connect with Facebook and show a targeted ad when they are planning their next vacation. You can introduce smart TVs with SkyBox and eliminate your huge cable bill. You can outfit your staff through technology with documentation, housekeeping checklists and instantly text customers when rooms are ready. Wi-Fi is the backbone to endless communication and connectivity options that help resorts and satisfy their guests.”

So, when your resort is thinking about its next refurbishment, it might be time to think about a modern day refurbishment of the technology that is powering your guests’ ability to brag about their vacation, check-in at your resort and maintain their everyday lifestyle, without issues. Your guests will be happier, your reviews will be higher, your revenue will be more and that’s the biggest success you can have from any refurbishment.