Ditching the digital detox: Lack of Wi-Fi a deal-breaker for Arab tourists

Sunday 19 August 2018
Amanulla Khan, Managing Director of Linksys Middle East, Turkey & Africa
Dubai - MENA Herald:

Much has been said about the ‘digital detox’ – in which web-weary travelers seek screen breaks while vacationing.

Yet new research by Linksys®, a leader in networking solutions for the home and business, suggests the trend isn’t gaining traction; conversely, tourists now consider internet access an integral part of their holidays.

“Most Middle East travelers want to be connected all the time, wherever they are, just like at home,” said Amanulla Khan, Managing Director of Linksys Middle East, Turkey & Africa.

“This insightful research shows that we have become more dependent on Wi-Fi even when we travel and consider it a basic need.”

With the summer in full swing, school is out and everyone is in full holiday mode. This means a lot of extra time to spend on social media, streaming movies, shopping, video gaming and – for the conscientious – checking work emails.

Linksys commissioned a consumer study of 8,000 people living in several countries. They found Middle East-based participants valued internet access even more highly than those in Western Europe, demanding the same level of connectivity while on trips as they did when at home and declaring it an absolute must.


No signal, no stay

Only a tiny percentage of people surveyed said they would be prepared to ‘switch off’ completely by going offline for the duration of their break.

Lack of internet access was a no-deal for Arab travelers’ choice of accommodation, 95.2% of whom said they would refuse to book anywhere where the web was unavailable. This sentiment was most marked amongst UAE residents, 96% of whom ranked this a top priority, compared with 94.4% of Saudi Arabian residents. More remarkably, around half of Middle East respondents questioned would definitely choose alternative accommodation due to lack of Wi-Fi connectivity and a third would strongly consider staying elsewhere.

The survey found 92.9% of Middle East-based respondents rated Wi-Fi availability as a deciding factor when planning a holiday. Just 1.5% of Middle East participants didn’t consider Wi-Fi important at all, and 3.3% rated it ‘not very important’. UAE residents valued it slightly higher than their counterparts from Saudi Arabia – 94% versus 91.8%, respectively.

Conversely, participants from Western Europe placed less of an emphasis on connectivity. The British residents valued it most highly – 82% considered it essential – in contrast with 75.3% of German residents.


Family values

Families with children have a greater need for Wi-Fi connectivity than those traveling with their adult offspring – 77% versus 62%, respectively. It also appears that the under-18s’ preferences had a greater influence on their parents’ choice of hotel, campsite, or privately rented accommodation than those of grown-up kids.


Home from home

When travelers from the Arabian Gulf vacation in their home countries, access to Wi-Fi is a huge factor – 94.8% of these respondents considered the presence of Wi-Fi to be important. In contrast, only 77.3% Western Europeans rated this important. The situation was similar for those traveling to other countries: 82.3% of Middle Eastern travelers versus 67.5% of Europeans said Wi-Fi was a necessity. Some 84.4% of Saudi Arabians demanded it, followed by the UAE in the second spot with 80.2%.

Khan said the results were clear – lack of Wi-Fi really could be a deal-breaker. He advised owners of holiday lets, Airbnb landlords, and hotel managers to ensure they could offer strong, fast, and secure Wi-Fi connections to their guests, or risk losing their custom.

Fortunately, he added, setting up a guest network is a simple way to provide strong connectivity to customers while restricting their access to the staff’s internal home network or any Internet of Things devices connected to it.

He added: “When we are home, we take it for granted that we have Wi-Fi to stream on our 4K TVs, smart speakers playing our favorite music, laptops, PCs, and tablets to work from home and do homework as we connect more and more smart IoT devices to our networks.”


About the research

Vanson Bourne conducted this research on behalf of Linksys (part of Belkin International). The results are based on a web-based survey of 8,000 consumers. Respondents were interviewed in May and June 2018 and came from the United Kingdom (2,000), the Netherlands (2,000), Germany (2,000), France (1,000), United Arab Emirates (500) and Saudi Arabia (500).

In order to qualify for the survey, respondents had to meet the following screening criteria:

  • They had to be aged between 18 and 64 years old;
  • They had to hold some form of decision-making responsibility for purchasing new technology within their household;
  • They had to use either a Wi-Fi router or a Wi-Fi router/modem combination device at home.

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