Holidays Still Means Emails For Many Of Us

So we’re coming up to holiday time – funnily enought, the idea for me of getting on a flight to a hot destination…doesn’t really work for someone whose life should be co-sponsored by Ryanair and Easyjet.

However, on my travels and the occasional 2-day break I do stay in a mix of “business-class” and “real” hotels, preferring the latter by far, in the same way that I prefer drinking local beer in local places, rather than global, industrial-strength lager. In other words, you take your chance a little more but the rewards can be far higher.

But here’s the real deal. How many people worldwide are working in or with IT in one form or another, who need access to email and maybe don’t want to run up vast Blackberry bills when they are on the move, biz or hols, despite the new enforcement of reduced tariffs across Eorope? So, where are the hotels that cover that splendid middle ground between Hilton and “High Tide”? Interestingly, increasingly the latter are more likely to offer free WiFi than the former, though it is still all too often either ludicrously expensive and often unreliable, or simply non-existent.

Given the number of homes now with WiFi/Internet access – even if the Nintendo Wii is the primary channel – what has happened to hotels since WiFi began to popularise itself 5-6 years ago? Essentially they’ve barely moved on.

And even when you are loaded with two 3G data dongles with two different operators and a mobile phone with a third different operator and various WiFi enabled devices, it doesn’t guarantee you can get ANY access as I found out recently on a brief visit to Fowey in Cornwall. Given that our testing last year showed how bad many smartphones are in the first place at maintaining calls/signal strength, this – combined with the massive holes still in mobile network coverage – the only alternative, unless Femtocell technology gets a look-in, currently is WiFi/cable. So why doesn’t every public establishment have it? Is it because it’s too expensive (surely not now?), or too complex (let’s face it many places have Sky TV but don’t seem to offer access to the bundled Internet access) – I don’t think so.

Is it because us IT guys should be running the hotels (and pubs, bars, cafés etc) instead? Fancy yourself as a Basil Fawlty? Or is it because there is still a huge (and largely artificial) gap between what is seen as “business” class and “leisure” class? And “business” means milking every penny on the assumption that its “guests” are on business expenses and that the business is question is not run by them. But increasingly guys in any form of business are totally accountable and expenses are not the free meal ticket they once were. And – the number of people who run their own business, or are involved in small, “don’t spend owt that’s not essential” companies is signficantly higher than it once was. And, whereas once a holiday meant precisely that, for too many of us, it simply means an office relocation by the sea/in the mountains etc, with email access – even just once a day – being essential.

Let’s then start a campaign for IT-enabled hotels that don’t have to belong to the Hilton/Marriot etc chains, but can be owned and run by Fred and Doris Smedley and serve real, freshly cooked breakfasts to order while offering free WiFi for you to check emails while downing a second cup of cofffee. Or freshly baked croissants and “wiffy” if in France and run by M et Mme Mangetout etc etc.

Or let’s just approach a VC with the idea and become to the hotel trade what Steve Jobs is to the IT world. The word iPad could take on a whole new meaning….