Hotspot Internet For Your Hotel?
Today’s hotel guests don’t just want an Internet connection, they’re demanding it.
This means padding revenue with premium telephone services is dying off, while the now-common “Color TV” is no match for interaction with the net.
Chances are, your guests have already checked out local attractions and services such as car rentals, before they even arrived. For phoning home they’ll use VOIP (Internet telephone) or just send an email.
The good news is you can make such issues work in your favor, simply by offering your own Internet connection, preferably via Hotel WiFi hotspot.
It may also be much easier than you’re expecting…
Why Hotel WiFi?
The rise of smart phones and ultra-lightweight laptops (“netbooks”) means people are increasingly bringing their own computers with them. They’re favoring personal portability over a large screen on someone else’s computer (like that old clunker in your lobby).
When it comes to being portable, nothing beats WiFi; it’s wireless, fast and works with most modern devices. It also saves you having to wire up every room.
Guests are willing to pay a small premium to stay at WiFi equipped lodgings, for the convenience it gives them. This can be built into the main bill, as “free”, or offered as a low cost service. The important thing is to ensure they know it’s available at your hotel.
Even backpacker’s hostels are likely to offer WiFi now, making a mockery of nearby establishments calling themselves 3 or 4 star hotels, without wireless service. Guests expect access to the net in their rooms, the restaurant, the lobby, or while sitting outside waiting for a taxi. Wired access just isn’t enough now.
All this is great for the guests but what are the advantages for you and what features should you be looking for, when offering WiFi at your hotel?
What you need
It’s no secret that having happier guests is good for business. The tricky bit is making it easy for both them and your staff, yet retaining control.
Hardware requirements for Hotel WiFi are simple and straightforward; your local dealer can set you up without problem. Much more important is the software “brains” running your hotel’s WiFi system.
Ideally it should be software of a truly professional level, able to easily integrate with your current billing software, reducing training or the need for extra hardware. Your staff should be able to do everything they need to, without having access to higher level settings, while customer accounts should be flexible and your resources intelligently shared.
To maximize your hotel’s WiFi’s potential and to avoiding getting stuck with a 2nd rate system, here’s a quick rundown of the technical capabilities your ideal system should have:
• Brandable – to boost your hotel’s identity, not the software makers
• Can control and monitor Internet access for both wired and wireless
• Ability to create various account levels (for guests, staff, visitors etc)
• Offers “free” and paid access, with easy setup and minimal staff training
• Accept credit cards online, using your favorite payment gateway
• Post charges to the guest room using PMS integration module
• URL filtering and redirection
• Full and detailed Statistics
• SMTP Roaming
• Customizable login page
• Supplied secure (HTTPS) server software
• NAT (Network Address Translation)
• Download/Upload Rate Control (Traffic Shaping)
• Bandwidth Quota Control (Traffic Management)
• Multiple Location Support
• Large Number of Simultaneous Connections
• Automatic E-mail Notifications
• IP and Port Filtering
• Secure Login or Autologin
• Optional Free Login
• Usage Scheduling
Why you need the above
All the above features are important for a Hotel WiFi, yet most software programs will fail on at least some of those points.
Self branding is important for a Hotel WiFi, as ultimately your guests are paying for the overall experience and your name. It makes no sense to brand your towels, soap, napkins and other such items, only to jar the visitor with the brand name of your WiFi software. Ideally you should be able to brand everything, including what your staff see.
Account flexibility may also be important to you. If, like most hotels, you allow casual visitors to your restaurant to boost revenue, then it helps to offer higher level accounts to overnight guests or conference attendees, while still offering “Free WiFi!” to passing trade.
On the more technical side, features such as SMTP redirecting (so your guests don’t need to alter their email client settings to check email) along with secure server software, will make the experience more pleasurable. Business users are especially discriminating on these, making them essential if you host seminars and conferences.
URL Filtering can block the access to those web sites containing specified keywords in the URL address. This way you can prevent the access to porn, warez and so on, maintaining a family-friendly environment and protecting your system.
With Packet Filtering you can specify IP and port blocking rules for outgoing traffic. That means you can prevent guest access to your mail, FTP and web servers in a specified IP range, while retaining the benefits of wireless access for you and your hotel admin.
In short, your Hotel WiFi hotspot system must be flexible, brandable, technically proficient to handle current and future technology, yet remain simple enough to be used by seasonal employees.
The Hotel WiFi software solution
Naturally, Antamedia has a software program that gives you all of the above and more.
It’s called simply HotSpot, and it’s equally simple to use. The easy tabbed interface makes for intuitive navigation:
Just like your guest’s access (see below) Hotspot configures different accounts for staff such as operator, manager or, for you, full access to settings as an administrator.
The Operator mode can be extended with low cost licensing, making it easy to spread your revenue collection and control to the pool, golf course etc. To learn more about Antamedia’s easy licensing terms for additional Hotspot gateway operators, click here.
You’ll also be glad to know that HotSpot has a built-in shopping cart. This enables transaction processing with any of the major Internet payment service providers, so guests don’t need to go to reception or call room service to obtain an account. The payment process is completely automated and your customer is able to choose their own username, password and pricing plan.
Your Hotel WiFi Hotspot setup – quick overview
Having installed the software, you decide if you wish to offer
free or paid access, or perhaps both with different levels of service (such as connection speed or bandwidth). You can also create various levels of each, such as two different types of pre-paid account.
Hotspot’s configuration is easy but extremely flexible. When setting up your system you specify at what times of the day different account levels are available, the length of session blocks, the number of logins per day along with things such as expiration dates etc.
Virtually everything is optional. Configuration is via the Windows interface and clicking your mouse. Easy!
Boosts your commissions
It can be tough to make a profit from brochures today, especially as so many of your guests will prefer to look online for local attractions. All is not lost though…
You can have the best of both worlds with Antamedia, by letting local firms promote their businesses on your customizable login screen.
You can use different login screens for different locations, such as advertising your hotel’s restaurant or services to those by the pool, or external activities to those near the lobby.
A second revenue source is by using Hotspot’s “Whitelist” system. You set certain websites as whitelisted and your guests can browse them entirely free, without even needing to log in. This way you can offer access to your own website or corporate sites, plus sponsored sites, to anyone within range of your WiFi hotspot.
A further advantage of web advertising is that website visits can be tracked, putting you in a much better position to earn direct commissions. You can even set logins to require e-mail authentication, meaning you can keep in touch later for your own special offers, such as off-season discounts etc.
Since guests or casual visitors are already using your hotspot, it becomes a natural step for them to move onto your full service. If they attempt to reach websites not on your whitelist, they get the subtle hint of landing on your branded login screen instead.
For office staff you can also whitelist in reverse, by whitelisting the MAC or IP address of certain computers. Those employees can then bypass the need for login sessions or viewing advertising.
Your first step
The easiest way to evaluate Hotspot Hotel WiFi software for your hotel is to download the brochure or free trial linked below. With your trial you can explore the control panel and features on any Windows PC, with no special hardware required.
Even the free trial won’t show you everything, such as Antamedia’s long-established reputation in resource management software, or our free technical support 7 days a week. You need to start somewhere though, so download your free trial right now, then if you have any questions just call or email. We’ll be happy to help your hotel get started with Wifi!