Why hotels should not charge for wi fi

Wifi-HotspotsOver the year’s Business Travel News, and others too, have campaigned vigorously for hotels to drop wi-fi charges which can rise to US$50 in places such as Las Vegas.

Whilst we recognise that phone calls from guest rooms are not now part of a hotel’s revenue stream we believe the cost of offering wi-fi should be built into the bill.

It is noticeable that top end properties for the most part charge whilst those catering for a lesser markets often throw in wi-fi as part of the accommodation package.

With some hotel groups it has been the policy for some time to make wi-fi inclusive , for instance Radisson Blu.

For both the business traveller and holiday maker surfing the net is part of the travel experience. Some airports offer it for free, for example London City, and likewise a few railway stations, St Pancras (London) for instance. It is the norm now with coffee shops and fast food outlets.

A 2,000-person poll by Thistle Hotels found the average holidaymaker spends an hour each day on holiday catching up with friends and current affairs, online. BTN believes that this is also the case with business travellers and had Thistle asked that segment of the market they would have come up with similar figures. As a result, having to pay for wi-fi now ranks alongside traditional holiday grumbles such as rude hotel staff and rooms not being ready. 

Brits have become so reliant on smartphones and tablets on holiday, that having to pay for wi-fi is now one of our top ‘holiday hates’. According to the study, one in 20 of us actually admit we would rather spend time online, than with our partners when away.

The research, which was undertaken to launch Thistle’s new faster free internet in all its UK hotels, uncovered the top five ‘holiday hates’ as being:

Rude hotel staff (69%)
Rooms not being ready (45%)
Paid-for wi-fi (38%)
Limited buffet / menu selection (37%)
Not being as close to holiday attractions as advertised (32%)

The survey also found that when booking a holiday, fast, free and reliable wi-fi is more important (51%), than having a swimming pool (49%), being close to local attractions (41%) and even having a TV in the room (37%).

Mike DeNoma, CEO of Thistle said: “It’s crazy to think that in 2014 hotel chains are still charging up to £20 a day for wi-fi. Our research shows that free, fast and reliable wi-fi is very important to holidaymakers, which is why we’ve partnered with BT Wi-Fi to upgrade our existing free internet access. No registrations, no limitations and no fine print, customers can now simply click and connect without fuss or fee; and most importantly they do not have to sign up to memberships or earn loyalty points.”

Business Travel News has to agree with Mr DeNoma. Even Ryanair, notorious for its add-ons, could not get in-flight pay wi-fi to work.

BTN is winning the battle. We will not mention by names but some of London’s top 5-star hotels still insist on the extra charge, unless you are a member of their ‘club’. They will go the same way, the quicker the better. It is not a matter of cost but convenience.

Ryanair backed down when paying for the loo was suggested (we are told ‘in jest’). Chargeable wi-fi should be part of history, rather like paper airline tickets.

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Edition 49March 2014

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