Hyatt, Starwood and Marriott all began offering free Wi-Fi this year — but there are still several holdouts.
It’s been the year of sort-of-free hotel Wi-Fi. Earlier this year the premium brands of Mariott and Starwood Hotels began offering free connections to guests — if they had a loyalty membership and booked direct. Hyatt tossed in Internet for all guests with no extra requirements.
“We can’t continue to differentiate and innovate our guest experiences when we’re charging some guests for the technology that powers future improvements,” wrote Kristine Rose, Hyatt’s vice president of brands, in a blog post last December.
It’s the continued industry thrashing over whether to help guests get on the Internet without helping themselves to additional fees.
While hotel companies like Shangri-La offer free high-quality Internet access, some premium chains only drop the connection charge under special conditions. When room rates start at $300 or more a night, asking another $15 or $20 to go online can seem … grasping.
Who is still charging — and how much? Here is a rundown, with information coming directly from the companies or corporate websites:
Free access to only to loyalty club members. Non-members pay between $10 and $15 a day, although some of its hotels offer free access to all guests.
- Four Seasons:
Free basic Internet service — for four devices to check email or basic surfing, although the speed could probably support streaming video — at 90% of its hotels and resorts. If you want six times the bandwidth for six devices, a typical charge would be $20 a day.
Some of the more economical, hotel brands offer free Wi-Fi. Guests at pricier brands must be third or fourth tier loyalty program members for free Internet or pay a fee “competitive within the market” that depends on the specific hotel.
As of February this year, free standard Internet to all customers across all its brands.
- Mandarin Oriental hotels:
Offer free premium Internet connections to guests who create an online personal profile and book directly. Otherwise, daily rates are $12 to $20.
Offers free Wi-Fi not only in guest rooms and public spaces, but in its own car service fleet.
- Ritz-Carlton (owned by Marriott)
Offers free access at participating properties for loyalty card members who book directly. Otherwise, prices can run from $12.95 to $16.95 a day.
Offers free Internet access to all guests and also provides service in its fleet of hotel cars.
For perspective, Starbucks stopped charging for Wi-Fi access in 2008. At least 64% of hotels offer free Wi-Fi, according to HotelChatter.
Free in-room Internet access was ranked the second most important factor after room cost in choosing a hotel. Property-wide free access was the fourth most important factor. Charging for Internet is a vexation.
Why are chains charging for it? Because they can. It is a source of revenue. For many hotels, that’s something they’re not willing to give up.
As for chains that differentiate between loyalty club members and other guests, Mandarin Oriental told us the income “allows us to continue to invest in higher levels of bandwidth in our hotels,” which can make or break Wi-Fi experience and a customer’s satisfaction. Guests who create profiles get free access because “establishing a direct relationship is of tremendous value to us.” And according to a Marriott spokesperson, “Free Wi-Fi is a meaningful way to reward our most loyal customers and continue to attract next-gen travelers.”
As several experts said, the loyalty program membership and direct booking hurdles provide behavioural incentives: better information for hotel marketing and the removal of commissions otherwise paid to travel agents or online booking sites.
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resource references: Fortune