I still find it curious that in 2010 so many hotels treat WiFi as an ancillary charge, rather than a complimentary service. It’s obviously a personal point of view (and feel free to disagree in the comments), but the majority of my hotel and hostel bookings are made on the basis of free WiFi – meaning the cost, or lack thereof, is something of a dealbreaker.
The way we consume media has changed dramatically in the past few years. How many of us watch films from laptops? Plenty of us email photos and keep in touch by email while we’re away, and as tablets like the iPad become more common, it won’t be unusual for guests to require a data connection to stream and download rich media.
After location and price, WiFi availability is the most important consideration to me – I can make so much time to travel by virtue of my work, the only caveat being that I have WiFI, for those spare hours before I go to bed, for when I wake up too early through jetlag, for when I need peace and quiet to meet a deadline. But I won’t and usually can’t afford to pay £10 (or more) per day to go online; I’ll simply find somewhere else to stay.
Hotels are beginning to recognise the importance of WiFi to their guests, if an article by USA Today is anything to go by. Unfortunately, they seem to be going about matters in entirely the wrong way:
Given the growing backlash against paying $10 to $17 a day for guest-room Wi-Fi at upscale hotels, it’s worth noting that a number of full-service hotels are starting to offer guests two rates for their daily Internet access. The cheaper rate lets you check your email, while the pricier one lets you do things like watch movies.
I discovered two different Wi-Fi rates on Sunday, when I settled into my room at the new InterContinental New York Times Square.
When I logged on the InterContinental’s system, I was asked to choose between a $10-a-day option for low bandwidth (good for checking emails and reading online articles) and a $15-a-day option (good for VPN access, sharing PowerPoint presentations and watching movies).
There are two issues here; one is that when using the web, a clean line can’t be drawn between between low and high bandwidth usage; what if the online article I’m reading has an embedded news report? If I can send emails, can I upload batches of high-resolution photos to send? The Internet doesn’t run at two speeds – it’s not a system of gears you can switch between, it’s all meshed together.
The second issue is that a hotel charging $350 a night shouldn’t really be charging $15 a day for Internet access. Obviously the management’s feeling is that people who can afford $350 can also afford the additional charges. I’d say they’re missing the point.
And then there’s this quote from the end of the article:
Since the InterCon Times Square opened barely two months ago, it was too early for seasoned general manager Drew Schlesinger to talk in detail about his guests’ Wi-Fi purchase patterns. But he did say that people do like having a choice.
Is is it really a choice? The real choice seems to be that guests either have no WiFi or they pay for it.
A better choice would be to remove other complimentary services that are becoming obsolete in a wired world. I can’t remember the last time I turned on the television in a hotel, bothered to look in a minibar or sat in the single armchair for the sake of sitting in it – can we get rid of all the dressed-up expense so I can have free WiFi please?
The hotel that offers me free WiFi not only wins my business in the here and now, but will usually win it again in the future. Those hotels enjoying short-term profit are sacrificing long-term loyalty.
Is complimentary WiFi a sticking point for you when booking your hotel? Do you expect a free service, or are you happy to pay extra?