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Five connectivity tips for the tourism sector

  • Mobile connectivity and wifi is crucial for hospitality businesses and visitors alike following a surge in staycations and remote working
  • After Virgin Media O2 confirmed it’s upgraded 45,000 UK postcodes to 4G, we caught up with Becky Hamilton at Accessible Holiday Escapes, winner of the Best Rural Start Up Business 2021, on why her business model depends on rural connectivity
  • And our very own Maria Fernandez at Virgin Media O2 shares her five connectivity tips to help your business

Becky and Phil Hamilton set up Accessible Holiday Escapes (AHE) in 2019. They’d struggled for years to find holiday accommodation offering the facilities they needed for daughter, Emily, who has a rare genetic disorder that affects her mobility.

What makes AHE different from the bigger travel sites is that it features more than 50 different accessibility filters. Which means holidaymakers with friends or family members living with a disability can find holiday lets that cater to everyone.

Based in Flintshire, Wales, the business has gone on to pick up Best Rural Start Up Business, sponsored by O2, and been featured on the Mail Online Money. And one of the biggest reasons for its success has been rural connectivity.

As Becky explains, Connectivity is essential to our business because it’s based completely online.” Her role involves her speaking with property owners on the phone, checking new property listings that get uploaded to the site, and when bad weather affects the wifi signal, switching to mobile connectivity to carry on monitoring the site and any queries that come in.

The Hamilton family run Accessible Holiday Escapes, a website that has over 50 accessibility search options to help travellers with disabilities find holiday accomodation.

Connecting with your customers

Connectivity isn’t just critical to the day-to-day running of AHE either. “Many of our properties are in rural destinations,” Becky continues. “Everyone’s needs are very different and some people need to stay connected for a whole host of reasons.”

Around 75% of AHE’s listings are rural and some can be on remote farms or places right by the coast. This might make for an idyllic holiday setting but it can also add concerns for those who need to stay in touch with medical specialists or get easy access to particular equipment.

“Wifi and mobile connectivity provide peace of mind to our customers,” Becky explains. “It might be that people need to be able to video call their doctor or disability nurse for on-going care. Or phone local providers of disability equipment when they need something, like hiring a mobile hoist. Even if it’s just simple things like where to book an accessible taxi. All of this depends on good rural connectivity.”

Connectivity is vital for the property owners too. Instead of everything going through Becky, the AHE site puts holidaymakers in direct contact with the people who live or run the homes, converted barns and even old railway carriages in these secluded holiday spots. So they need to be able to upload videos of their properties to show all the facilities. Or respond to messages and emails from people looking to make a booking.

Key takeaways when starting and running a rural business

Becky gave us her three ‘takeaways’ for running a successful small business from a rural location:

  1. Always be available. Ensure you’ve got a good phone signal so that you can always reach people and they can reach you. If you’re working on the go and you need to connect to the internet, you can use your mobile hotspot.
  2. Finding a quiet space to work from home. Having a dedicated space to work prevents all those other everyday distractions from getting in the way.
  3. Maximise every opportunity to promote the business. Becky was surprised to win Best Rural Start Up Business but the exposure and follow up has created strong foundations for continued commercial success.

 

Looking to the future, Becky already knows what AHE needs. “People find it really easy to use AHE to book an accessible holiday that ticks all the right boxes for them. But all the feedback tells us that we need to keep adding more and more properties. The accessible tourism market is worth something in the region of £15 billion in the UK. So we need to keep expanding the functionality of the site. And keep on connecting with more property owners and more customers as we grow.”

Five connectivity tips for the tourism sector

At O2, we can help businesses like Accessible Holiday Escapes stay connected. Maria Fernandez, Director of Small & Medium Business at Virgin Media O2, shares her connectivity tips for small businesses in hospitality and tourism to make sure they’re ready to bounce back this year:

  1. Control your connectivity costs. When you’re in an industry that changes season to season like tourism, you need flexibility with your connectivity. Busier times mean taking on more staff and more guests on the wifi, quieter times mean the opposite. So make sure you can get a flexible data plan, so you can increase your mobile data when you need it and decrease your mobile data when you don’t.
  2. Give your people a choice of devices. Taking phone bookings needs a phone. Taking guest orders room-to-room may be easiest on a tablet. Monitoring stock levels may be easiest on a laptop. With a range of devices from sim only to mobiles, tablets and laptops, you’ll be able help everyone work in the best way for them.
  3. Build your business’ virtual workplace. There are many apps that can help your people do their jobs productively wherever they are – even on the go. Our range of apps and mobile Bolt Ons can be added and removed easily. And if you’re a small business with less than 10 employees, you can take them up on 30-day rolling contracts for added flexibility.
  4. Provide your people with a reliable connection. Your people should be able to get online whenever they need to, whether they’re in your B&B’s garden shed or on the other side of town.
  5. Get productivity tips and updates any time. Just like in hospitality, things are always moving in the world of connectivity. With O2, you’ll have a dedicated Account Manager who’ll help you stay up to speed and give the advice you need to adapt as your business changes. And for businesses that have under 10 employees, you can simply call our Business Gurus for free tech advice.

To find out more about how we can help visit: https://www.o2.co.uk/business/why-o2/flex-your-business



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