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Wifi-Hotspots-1-300x208Editor’s Note: The following is an article from Woodall’s Campground Management, sister publication to RVBusiness, examining the growing demand for Wi-Fi in campgrounds and the industry’s steps to provide the service. For the full story click here.

When Catherine DeStasio, marketing manager of TengoInternet, ran across a report on a recent speech by Dimiter Zahariev, the manager of passenger experience development for the International Air Transport Association made one comment that really resonated with her.

“He said Wi-Fi is the fourth utility, after electric, gas and water,” DeStasio said. So she decided to raise the question in LinkedIn’s RV Park and Campground Management Group.

Interestingly, the virtual roundtable of mostly private park operators mirrored the views of attendees at a Wi-Fi session during the Kampgrounds of America (KOA) Convention, which raised the same question.

The consensus is that, like it or not, pretty much everybody realizes campground guests not only want it, the expect Wi-Fi service.

“We made a conscious decision to install high-speed Wi-Fi at our park. We chose this instead of offering cable as more customers use Wi-Fi to communicate and to check out social media,” Jacqueline Dyer, general manager of Kenanna RV Park in Grayland, Wash., said in the LinkedIn discussion.

“We up the bandwidth 
during the summer season then lower this during the slower winter season. We get quite a few foreign customers and military families who use Skype to communicate with their relatives,” Dyer said.

Michael Stuart, director of technology for KOA, said, “it’s so important to your guests. It’s almost moved from being an amenity to a utility. It’s an expectation.”

KOA’s statistics bear that out, with the franchise system reporting that 73% of their guests want Wi-Fi when camping. IN fact, 84% camp with cellular telephones, and 34% camp with laptops. Compare that to only 30% who want cable TV, according to KOA. As KOA CEO Jim Rogers told Woodall’s Campground Management, “It’s become like the bathroom. You’ve got to have it. It’s just the expectation.”

Teri Blaschke of Hidden Valley RV Park in San Antonio, Texas, said she’d never really thought of Wi-Fi as a utility, but she didn’t reject the notion. “When I speak with prospective guests, I always mention Wi-Fi right along with water, electric and sewer.”

Dianne Jackson, general manager at River’s Edge Campground in Vergennes, Vt., agreed. “One of the first questions I am asked when someone calls in for a reservation is if we have Wi-Fi. We do, and it is apparent that we have arrived at the day where reservations are contingent on whether you have Wi-Fi or not.

“It used to be just, ‘Do you have full hookups?’ Now it is, ‘Do you offer Wi-Fi and full hookups?’ I’ve even received calls in the middle of the night after a late check-in because they couldn’t connect to the Internet,” she continued. “It IS that important to people, as crazy as that sounds. Wi-Fi is the new electricity.”

There’s not much consensus these days, though, on whether to charge for it. “The ‘utility’ label implies a cost to be borne by the end user, which will do away with free,” said Joss Penny, executive director at the British Columbia Loding and Campgrounds Association. However, he continued, “it also demands a higher standard of service expectation, so RV parks will need to increase bandwidth.”

For the full story click here.