Having a clean room, running water or a comfortable bed aren’t the only requirements guests have from hotels. Wi-Fi – and especially free Wi-Fi – is slowly becoming one of the top demands from travelers.
Hotels know this, The New York Times reports, and while some are trying to accommodate the needs of their customers, and others trying to make money from this highly desired amenity.
“I imagine the Wi-Fi fee has to be what phones were 30 years ago and what baggage fees are to the airlines,” Ritani CEO Brian Watkins said. “It’s found money.” Watkins, who manages a jewelry business, travels with a mobile Wi-Fi hotspot to avoid paying up to $25 per day for wireless access during business trips.
However, more and more guests expect to find free Internet in the hotels they choose, and might be surprised to discover that the nicer the hotel is, the more expensive the wireless connection can be.
Some hotels are offering free Wi-Fi to guests who sign up for their loyalty programs, while others offer a two-tier type of wireless connection: free for email and web surfing, and paid for video streaming and online gaming.
InterContinental, Marriott International, Starwood Hotels & Resorts, and Hilton Hotels and Resorts have started offering a loyalty-based Wi-Fi program to guests while Hyatt Hotels offer free Wi-Fi to all guests.
In customer surveys, Wi-Fi charges were among the top complaints. A J.D. Power North America Hotel Guest Satisfaction Index Study last year said that luxury hotels dropped 65 points because of Wi-Fi costs and fees – that’s a massive drop on a 1,000-point scale.
Loews Hotels & Resorts waived its Wi-Fi fees in North America early last year, as Wi-Fi charges were the top guest complaint at the hotel. Since then, guest satisfaction has risen, the hotel told the Times.
“This has got to be part of the basic package,” Cornell University School of Hotel Administration marketing professor Chekitan Dev said. He added that hotels should also scrap the two-tier Internet offers they currently offer travelers, as their customers will not make the distinction between texting and video streaming. “Given millennials’ voracious appetite for Internet content 24/7, in real time, the only suitable answer is free, fast and uninterrupted,” he said.
“There’s money to be made, but the money is to be made in a nonobvious way,” he said, in support of his belief that free, high-quality Wi-Fi should be a must-have feature in hotels.