Internet connectivity a key requirement for travellers

Being able to connect online with family and friends is now the top priority for travellers, new research from InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG) has revealed.

40 percent of the 10,000 business travellers who responded to the survey said that being out of contact was the biggest annoyance when travelling. The global research was commissioned to mark the launch of IHG’s renamed loyalty programme, IHG(R) Rewards Club. It is intended to help IHG to understand hotel guests’ priorities when travelling, as it becomes the first and only hotel group to offer free global Internet access to all of its loyalty members.

Lack of Internet is considered more vexing than poor transport links, as cited by 26 percent, while 24 percent cited a noisy location as the most vexing circumstance. Of those surveyed, 61 percent said that Internet was the most important facility they could have in their hotel room. It was considered more significant to a good stay than the having a television (17 percent), a bath (5 percent), or a fridge (3 percent).

Almost two-thirds (64 percent) would prefer to use the Internet rather than a phone to contact family, the study said. Nearly two thirds of respondents, (65 percent), would be very unhappy travelling if they had no way of connecting with loved ones back home. Over half of parent business travellers (53 percent) surveyed cited connecting with family at home as the best way to de-stress at the end of a working day. A mere 1 percent of respondents said that a mini bar was the most important facility they could have in their hotel room.

89 percent said that free Internet would make them happier whilst travelling away for business. More business travellers said they would log on to available Internet networks as soon they arrived rather than unpack.

Relationship expert, Jenni Trent Hughes, commented in the Telegraph: ‘Just hearing a voice on a telephone is no longer sufficient for the 21st century traveller, we need the comfort of being able to see loved ones too. We want to see our children’s smiles when we’re reading them their bedtime story over Skype; be able to look our partner in the eye when we tell them how much we miss them, as well as keep up with all our social media obligations and emails.

‘We now believe that when staying away from home, being connected with a minimum fuss and maximum ease is crucial for keeping our various relationships ticking over. When these expectations aren’t met, we feel anxious and frustrated so it’s no wonder that nowadays many of us can’t relax until we are safely checked-in and logged-on.’

Richard Solomons, chief executive of IHG, said: ‘We understand how important it is for our guests to be able to stay in touch whilst travelling. That’s why, alongside great existing benefits such as points that never expire, we have introduced free Internet for our members as part of IHG Rewards Club. These leading benefits are why IHG Rewards Club has been chosen by more travellers than any other hotel loyalty programme, worldwide.’

Hotels have also faced criticism in recent years for continuing to charge guests for Wi-Fi. A study of 70 different hotels and hotel chains by Telegraph Travel in 2012 revealed that just 24 offer free Wi-Fi.

Holidaymakers Insist On High Speed Internet Connectivity

Holidays are no longer just made up of sun, sea, and sights, now mobile computer coverage has joined the must have amenities for a good holiday, according to a recent survey.

Travellers are most impressed with the availability of Internet connectivity at their hotels, with 86 percent of the respondents to a survey stating a preference for hotels with wireless connectivity.

Brocade, a company involved in fabric networking, said that European holiday makers are increasingly influenced by the availability of Internet connectivity at their destinations, and they often use it to check mails, make internet calls, or simply browse the net.

Around 95 percent of respondents confessed to taking their mobile devices on vacation, and often using them for work as well as personal use.

John McHugh, the vice president and chief marketing officer at Brocade, said, ‘There is significant blurring between personal time and work time in modern society, with the consumerisation of IT and BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) working policies leading many people to rely on smart phones and tablet devices around the clock, wherever they may be and whatever they may be doing.

Our research clearly illustrates that this is causing fundamental changes in working patterns and demands on networking architectures. It used to be that when people went on vacation, that’s what they did. Now it seems that we can never switch off from work, even when we’re at the beach. With this, the demand on service providers and mobile operators to provide ubiquitous, reliable coverage has never been higher.’


High charges discourage smartphone use abroad

High roaming charges, data protection concerns, or simply a lack of an Internet-compatible device – according to a recent survey, these are the reasons why many travelers reject smartphone use abroad. Together with ITB Berlin, Hochschule Heilbronn polled a total of 4,000 people from Germany, France, the Netherlands, and the UK to find out their willingness to make use of local services abroad with their smartphones. These services identify a subscriber’s geographical position, which make it possible to access navigation systems, maps, special information, and booking services in the area. The representative survey was carried out by IPSOS, an international market research institute.

According to their findings, unpredictable roaming charges discourage travelers from using phone services abroad. Overall, 66 percent of the respondents in all the countries put together said that charges abroad were the main reason for not using local services when on holiday. Fifty-five percent of those polled lacked a suitable device to even access these services. The high cost of these phones prevented them from buying one. Forty-one percent voiced data protection concerns and for that reason would rather not use local services.

Dr. Manfred Lieb, Dean of Studies at the Faculty of Economics 2 and in charge of the survey, said, “What is interesting is that people in every country display a positive attitude towards modern technology, the Internet, and mobile devices and that they accept desktop capabilities which have been transported to mobile devices.”

David Ruetz, Head of ITB Berlin, said: “The survey does, however, show that people’s use of smartphones on holiday is determined by costs and not by a non-availability of service apps. In order to achieve broader smartphone use, charges must become more transparent. At the same time, users’ data protection concerns must be taken seriously, and online services must be made as secure as possible. These are some of the topics we will be examining at the newly-enlarged eTravel World section at ITB Berlin 2012.”

A look at the various European countries reveals individual differences: for the majority of respondents from Germany (68 percent) roaming charges were the main reason for not using local services abroad. Around 70 percent of the men and 67 percent of the women polled would rather not use smartphones due to costs. In second place were data protection concerns, voiced by 50 percent of both men and women. This was followed by the high cost of purchasing a suitable device.

In the Netherlands, the high purchase cost was the main reason discouraging smartphone use abroad. Both men and women, as well as older respondents, gave this as their reason. For younger people aged between16 and 29 who took part in the survey, it was high roaming charges that counted most. The second and third-place responses were high roaming charges and data protection concerns.

Respondents in the UK and France said high roaming charges discouraged them from using smartphones abroad. This was followed by a lack of a suitable device, due to the purchase cost, and data protection concerns when surfing the Internet abroad.

Orbitz, Others Raise Questions Over Online Booking Industry’s Attention to Detail

Consumers have taken to online price shopping travel websites in mass numbers. With the industry leader Priceline reporting steady profits and an ever-expanding market cap, it appears that shopping for air tickets by price is a winner for both customers and companies. But one online travel tool has been attracting all the wrong attention, racking up hundreds of consumer complaints last year.

The website in question is Orbitz, a fairly popular online booking tool that’s listed on the New York Stock Exchange and advertised nationally. The website is considered a leader in the online tourism field, although a slew of recent complaints reveal that it could be moving down the ranks. From an unusual marketing policy to poorly planned flights, customers don’t seem happy with Orbitz.

Public complaints have listed the website as one of several that shares customers’ bank information with third parties, most offensively, subscription companies that engage in unethical marketing. An Orbitz customer may find themselves enrolled in another company’s monthly ‘tips’ club, paying fees of up to $15 monthly and often completely oblivious to the fact that they have been enrolled.

A second Orbitz tactic that’s raising controversy is the service’s pairing of flight connections that are simply impossible. Customers are routinely pushed to purchase connecting flights departing from a location over sixty miles from their landing point, with all travel to be completed in an impossibly swift thirty minutes.

The company has publicly responded to some of the criticisms, arguing that its algorithm is far from a perfect solution and suggesting guests double-check itineraries before purchasing. It’s a smart call, but for the thousands of dissatisfied Orbitz customers, it could be one that’s too late. Search ‘Orbitz’ on Google and you’ll run into hundreds of prominent unhappy customer reports on the company.

WikiTravel Offers Simple Travel Information, Raises Issues for Publishers

It’s been named one of the World’s Best Websites, championed by open source advocated, and feared by the traditional travel publishing industry. The subject matter is, of course, WikiTravel, one of the largest travel websites on the internet and the single largest multi-user publisher of global travel tips online. Available in 21 languages with over 20,000 articles, it’s a true giant of the modern internet.

The website’s premise is fairly simple: users can manually create pages for travel destinations and activities that they love, just like Wikipedia. Once a page has been created, anyone with a memory or a guide book is free to add content to the page, provided it’s free of copyright. Each page sits in the idle state of near-permanent editing, with content changing slightly on a daily basis.

It’s a model that has travel industry giants – including Lonely Planet – quite worried. The internet was once out of reach for travellers, with laptop computers offering the closest experience mobile users were likely to run into. But with the rise of smartphones and the surge in sales of digital book readers, websites such as WikiTravel are quickly gaining ground on their old fashioned opponents.

The company has even released its own set of paperback travel guides, built using user-written and edited content and priced to compete with rival data from Lonely Planet. The website’s biggest win point – its rapid update speed – is obviously lacking in the books, however a sense of reason and a reasonable amount of user-picked variety makes the series a worthwhile alternative.

As the website continues to grow in popularity, it seems unlikely that its traditional competitors will be able to keep up. Although Lonely Planet has launched its own new web-based travel toolkit, the large publisher seems slightly behind the curve. For travel’s large open source community, the quick progress of WikiTravel is a development that will, with hope, spread further into the travel industry.

India’s ‘MakeMyTrip’ Booking Agency Debuts in the USA

Indian travel company MakeMyTrip recently debuted in the USA, drawing praise from expert travel industry analysts and a fair degree of controversy from its American competitors. After debuting its stock at $14 on the Nasdaq, the company’s shares gained over 67 percent towards the end of trading, moving over five million shares throughout the day and securing it a place in the US travel space.

The online travel company is the largest of its type in India, securing both air and rail tickets for the country’s growing middle class. While critics have pointed to the country’s low internet usage rates as a potential hurdle for the company, investors believe that MakeMyTrip will grow as India’s level of internet access increases. Seven percent of India has internet access, although growth is strong.

However, a series of controversial trademark violation lawsuits have popped up alongside the company’s rapid growth. Indian competitor Cox & Kings has accessed MakeMyTrip of using a network of online domains to divert traffic away from competitors and towards its own travel portal, ensuring that the company gains revenue that would otherwise go to competitors.

The lawsuit has reached the American Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), which will likely become involved should the two parties not reach an agreement independently. Domains remain a major point of contention and litigation for online companies, many of which depend on customer loyalty and ‘type-in’ return customers for their revenue.

For MakeMyTrip, the strong performance indicates that there is huge potential for growth in India’s domestic travel market. The company is present in almost every aspect of the Indian travel world, helping customers book tickets on major airlines and find hotels within the country. The company has shown no interest in expanding internationally, preferring to grow within India’s travel industry.