Forget sun, sea, sights and enjoying yourself – more than a third of European holidaymakers say that good mobile data coverage is a determining factor when choosing a destination, with 86 percent expecting wireless connectivity at their hotels to feed their “online addiction.”

The finding comes from new research conducted by Brocade, which points to a sea change in the holidaying patterns of increasingly well-connected European travellers.

On holiday, as at home, the temptation to work from mobile devices persists, with more than half of holidaymakers admitting to doing so. Whether it’s checking one final e-mail in the departure lounge, or making a conference call from the beach bar, it seems that the majority of us have a hard time letting go, on vacation or otherwise.

Some 95 percent of the respondents admitted taking their mobile devices on vacation, and they are as likely to use them for work as for personal use. More than half (56 percent) of respondents said that they used their mobile device for accessing work e-mail or downloading work documents, an increase over last year’s figure of 48 percent.

“There is significant blurring between personal time and work time in modern society, with the consumerisation of IT and BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) working policies leading many people to rely on smartphones and tablet devices around the clock, wherever they may be and whatever they may be doing,” said John McHugh, Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer at Brocade.

“Our research clearly illustrates that this is causing fundamental changes in working patterns and demands on networking architectures. It used to be that when people went on vacation, that’s what they did. Now it seems that we can never switch off from work, even when we’re at the beach. With this, the demand on service providers and mobile operators to provide ubiquitous, reliable coverage has never been higher.”

More than a third (37 percent) of respondents noted that good mobile data coverage (for example, 3G/4G) was a determining factor in their choice of destination. Furthermore, 86 percent expected hotels to provide free Wi-Fi access. A lack of available Wi-Fi was also the second most popular concern about accessing the Internet from abroad, behind only high roaming costs.

These findings, McHugh suggests, could show the leisure industry the way to securing a competitive edge in challenging economic times: “With incoming 4G networks promising to multiply speeds and available bandwidth, mobile data coverage will exert an even greater influence on people’s holiday choices. People want to reduce the overall impact of work on their holidays – both for themselves and for those they travel with – and they are looking for ways to get the same amount of work done in just a fraction of the time. To do this, the underlying network infrastructure needs to be able to cope.”

However, the findings may indicate that there is still a gulf between the expectations of modern travellers and the reality. “Many destinations remain unable to satisfy holidaymakers’ demands when it comes to connectivity,” explained McHugh. “Hotel owners should look at the incredible demand for free Wi-Fi networking and provide residents with reliable connectivity – whether in their rooms, at the bar or by the pool. Widely available, high-quality Internet access could very soon make the difference between a hugely successful season and a disastrous one. Without it, hotels risk damaging both their revenues and their reputations.”

Other key findings of the research included:

  • Smartphones emerged as the most popular device for holidaymakers, with 91 percent of respondents taking one with them on holiday. This was followed closely by laptops and netbooks (49 percent), and tablet computers (42 percent)
  • Coming in second only to accessing personal e-mail [when asked the primary reason for using a connected device on holiday] was accessing work e-mail. The use of social media also featured prominently in the responses, placing third
  • Approximately a third (32 percent) stated that they intended to stream coverage of the Olympics through their devices whilst on vacation, again placing immense pressure on local networks to provide sufficient bandwidth and service reliability to users.

“These findings serve as a reminder that the smartphone/tablet revolution is on-going, and that the challenges of supporting the volumes of mobile data will continue to tax the communications industry,” continued McHugh. “This explosion in mobile data is one of the key challenges to the industry. Mobile devices will place an increasing strain not just on Wi-Fi and mobile networks, but also on corporate and data centre networks that form the foundation of any service. These underlying networks need to be extremely robust, and designed specifically for the challenges of mobile data.