Dear hotel industry: The time for free hotel-wide WiFi has come2012-04-19
It was around 11 p.m. when I arrived at the Delta Hotel in Regina, Saskatchewan. It had been a long day: a full-day workshop in Saskatoon followed by the trip to Regina. By car, it’s only about a 2-1/2-hour drive. But I was flying Air Canada, which required a connection in Calgary, so I was tired and a bit cranky when I got to the hotel.
But I brightened up considerably when I saw this sign on the hotel’s front desk:
I was so happy to see this, in fact, that I shared it Instagram picture, which prompted a few notes from folks, notably this one from Kim Bratanata, a communicator with SWIFT in Belgium:
For someone looking at hotel reviews on TripAdvisor, that full point could be the difference between making a reservation and choosing a competitor. Yet among better-quality hotel brands, it’s still the norm to charge exorbidant rates for Internet access. Last week, when I stayed at the Crowne Plaza in Amsterdam, I paid 10 euros a day to be able to check my email and perform other online tasks.
Had I needed to be able to connect with my phone or tablet, it would have been an addition 10 euros for each. (Thank goodness Neville Hobson turned me on to Connectify, a free download that turns any Windows 7 computer into a hotspot, so paying once let me connect through all three devices.)
I can understand why hotels initially charged for Net access. In the early days of providing high-speed connectivity, not everyone needed it and hotels had just incurred the expense of installing it. But these days, as Delta Hotels puts it, being connected is a necessity, not a luxury. In the U.s., I can avoid the hotel charges—which can run up to $20 per day, depending on the property—by using the USB dongle that connects to my mobile broadband network. But that costs $50 per month, and the only reason I have it is that it’s cheaper than the average $12 per night for hotels. Outside the U.S., though, there’s no alternative to coughing up the extra dough.
Today, charging for wifi is like charging extra to run water through a tap or turn on the air conditioner. Yet the pricier brands for Hilton, Marriott, Starwood and all the other major hotel chains continue to soak their customers for something they just can’t do without.
Considering the Delta Regina was a terrific hotel by all other measures, this has become an no-brainer. (Oddly, the cheaper brands—Hilton Garden Inn and Fairfield Inn, for example—which are run by the very same hotel chains, don’t charge for wifi.) When in Canada, I’ll stay at Delta. Sorry, Hilton and Marriott. Charging for wifi has become a dealbreaker, even if it means losing reward points. So instead of making an extra $12 per night from me, you’re losing my Canadian business altogether.
I’ll do the same for any hotel chain that makes the right move and includes hotel-wide wifi access as part of the room rate. It’s time for the hotel industry to wake up and realize the 21st century has arrived while they’ve been napping.