Patrick Clover: Home comforts on hand for worldly travellers

It wasn't too long ago that going on holiday meant you were out of reach to anyone who wasn't away with you for a couple of weeks. There might have been a person who would know your hotel so you could be contacted in an emergency, but that was pretty much the size of it.

Travellers expect to be able to post holiday snaps on social media. Picture: Scott Taylor
Travellers expect to be able to post holiday snaps on social media. Picture: Scott Taylor

Times have changed and travellers expect to be able to stay in touch with those back home throughout their break, whether it’s posting photos on social media, checking emails or WhatsApp messaging, being able to easily access the internet is an important part of the holiday experience.

In addition, browsing online to see what’s going on where you’re visiting, planning trips or meals out, looking at maps and seeing what other travellers have recommended or suggested avoiding is something many visitors expect to be able do.

VisitScotland recently published the results of its annual survey from visitors to the country during 2015-16. Feedback was overwhelmingly positive, however, better or more free WiFi was highlighted by 19 per cent of tourists as an area that would have improved their experience. Only the top answer of “having a longer holiday” was selected more frequently.

In choosing accommodation, almost half of long-haul – 46 per cent – and 28 per cent of guests overall rated free WiFi as the most important factor in their selection of a place to stay.

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Listening to our visitors and giving them what they want to enjoy their stay seems like an open goal. Having an unreliable service that fails or is difficult to access in the first place just won’t cut it. Sites such as Trip Advisor have 1.1 billion visitors annually and offer reviews of bars, restaurants and attractions. One in ten tourists use review sites when choosing a place to eat out.

The savvy business has cottoned on that they themselves can provide effective WiFi to supplement the guest’s experience and also make it easier for those enjoying their visit to leave feedback on websites there and then.

The benefits to business of smart WiFi systems go beyond attracting customers and aiding them to get online. An effective set-up only requires visitors to enter their details once and can provide insights into guests’ visits and enable businesses to interact directly and send special offers. As an example a cafe can directly message a long staying customer to offer a discount second cup of coffee or invite them in for a free drink on their birthday.

As the saying goes, the best form of advertising is word of mouth. In today’s connected society, blogs, reviews and message board conversations can be consumed by more people than ever before and remain available for years on end.

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Visitors expect it and are increasingly demanding it, providing an internet service that gives the customer what they want is good for business.

Scotland is a wonderful country and tourism is a major part of the economy with thousands of jobs reliant on it. We can improve the visitor experience, making it better for them and also for all of us.

Patrick Clover is founder at Edinburgh based tech start-up BLACKBX