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Bali Observations Part 2 – Is Wi Fi the missing link?

As commonly happens when we travel, we take our gadgets with us, whether it be just a smart phone or tablet, or all of the above and the trusty laptop, I am sure most business owners (and non business owners) are the same. We love to stay connected whether it be to share the holiday experience with those at home, or to run the business or simply if, like me, you are obsessed and addicted to them!

The biggest frustration a traveler faces is not being able to connect. We all try to avoid those mega scarey phone bills upon our return by getting access to Wi-fi wherever and whenever we can, and if not connected for some time, it is like the world has ended…..what if I can’t post, tweet, check that email, find the restaurant with Google etc.

I have written about this dilemma and the frustrations before, especially in comparing travels within Australia with other parts of the world, and for some reason we seem to be stuck in a mindset that internet access is not only hard to find for free, but a large chunk of cost if you connect from some hotels. There is NO consideration to offering wi-fi as a part of the total customer experience as a rule in Australia!

I am going to bore you with my recent awesome holiday exploits in Bali again, just to rub it in, but it was very apparent that this Asian country, which economically struggles more than we do has the approach of nearly every business offering FREE WI-FI, yes that’s right- FREE!

From the onset of the journey we had access in transit at Malaysia Airport, then on arrival at Denapssar, again at the hotel in lobby, room, bars, restaurants, pools, at small Kuta and Nusa Dua bars and clubs, at the massage shops, at clothes retailers, even saw it at a tailor with a sewing machine outside on the street!

With these businesses clearly being in a very competitive and different space to business here, why is it they offer such a service to anyone and everyone? Is there something I am missing here, or is it partly to do with the perceived or actual cost of supply is different (I didn’t inquire as to costs of service in Bali), but surely on a % to turnover it would be comparable?  Why is it that very few venues offer this as a part of the package?

I have asked some restaurant owners in Sydney this very question, and the answer surprised me. It was ‘ we don’t want people hanging around all day on computers’. Sure this is reasonable if they don’t order, or have one coffee and stay all day, but wouldn’t this be the exception rather than the norm? I know when I attend some of my favorite hang outs that DO have wi-fi they would certainly be ahead in the costs to me vs. them. When I go to Melbourne for example I head straight to Docklands and hang out at Acheliya, a Turkish Restaurant with free wi-fi and often stay all day and sometimes into the night. I have coffees, food, beers, shisha, meet people there, bring business in and generally make it my base. I think they like me and probably suffer a sales decline anytime I am back in Canberra! (it’s OK though as I will be back there this weekend!).

So is it a cost thing, a risk in attracting the wrong people, not wanting to have valuable table space occupied, poor internet access, bad management or something else sinister?

I would love to get your views to see what you think, or to tell me I am just a complainer about small trivial matters! I for one know I become very loyal to places who offer the service and value in what I need, and I contribute value not to cost, but to the services offered as well.

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