Sleep or Wi-Fi: Which Do Business Travelers Choose?

By Lori Castle, Editor in Chief — September 17, 2013

Mobile technology could essentially eliminate the need for business travel. Video conferencing, enterprise and collaboration apps, Facetime, web meetings etc.— all make it possible to get together from anywhere. But being in front of someone in business is still often the first step in forming a lasting relationship or the final move for closing the deal. 

In fact, according to the U.S. Travel Association, direct spending on business travel was $259 million in 2012, and U.S. residents alone logged 460 million “person trips” for business purposes. The business travel industry is estimated to support 2.2 million domestic jobs as well.

So actually, mobile technology has created a new need. For employees today, even those on vacation, connectivity is second only to having a comfortable bed according to the Q3 iPass Global Mobile Workforce Report. “Wi-Fi is a disruptive technology; it changes the way we work,” said Evan Kaplan, CEO, iPass. 

Wi-Fi has become a “must-have” for business travelers, trumping other standard amenities such as hotel restaurants, in-room mini-bars, and gym facilities. What else do business travelers think about the current state of Wi-Fi?

  • 82% of respondents feel that free hotel Wi-Fi services are limited, slow and unreliable. More than a third of respondents reported using high bandwidth apps that demand continuous, high-quality connectivity, such as unified communications; they rely on cloud-based business applications and collaboration apps to get the job done.
  • Tablets continue to be a favorite among mobile workers with the 10-inch iPad begin the preferred device; 47% of respondents chose 7- and 8-inch tablets as an intended tablet purchase in the next six months. This compares with 29% of respondents who had plans to purchase the full-size iPad.
  • Wi-Fi inflight is top of mind for business travelers when choosing airlines. Close to one-third of those surveyed indicated that they take Wi-Fi into consideration when choosing a flight.
  • 81% of respondents believe that the cost of mobile data roaming is either “too high,” or “way too high.” In 2012, 20% of workers had no opinion on the topic of roaming prices, but this year, that figure dropped to 13%, which indicates that awareness of the high cost of data roaming is growing.
  • Vacation time is connected time. The majority of mobile workers log onto the Internet for business while on holiday, and they’re logging in more often than ever before; 37% of mobile workers now report connecting two to five times a day, which is up from 29% at this time last year. The number of users who log in five or more times a day grew 6% a year ago to 13% this year.
  • There are consequences with a bad experience; 81%  have had an unsatisfactory experience with hotel Wi-Fi in the past year an  74% say that a bad Wi-Fi experience would prevent a return visit.
Business travelers have come to rely on Wi-Fi as a primary source of connectivity, a trend brought on by the wide spread use of connected dependent mobile devices and the enterprise applications needed to get the job done.  However, mobile workers are not just literally disconnected at times, the survey showed a strong disconnect between their expectations for Wi-Fi, and what the hospitality and airline industry is delivering.
Solution providers also have a huge opportunity here. Plus, the employees own enterprise has a vital role in enabling mobility on the road, not just in the “field” but on the road as well.
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