Hotel Wifi; a charge fiasco

Screen Shot 2014-07-07 at 23.04.00In the last 10 days or so I’ve stayed at 5 different establishments each with a different wifi service.

I needed internet to access email messages, research plans for each day, and my current writing projects. My mobile phone would let me do all that, but it’s not a comfortable tool for writing and there is a daily data limit when roaming under my current contract.

Boutique Hotel

The first was a boutique hotel in central London. Wifi was free throughout the hotel, but password protected. The room rate was high, and every luxury is included so it’s not surprising that wifi was also included.

Central London

I then moved to a more budget friendly option, still in central London – walking distance from the district line. Wifi was considered an additional service and charged at 10 pounds per day. And that’s 24 hours of availability, not 24 hours of use. Plus it was for a single device – I was carrying three devices that could use a wifi network. But the staff are obviously sick of discussing the wifi charges, the concierge gave me an extra login when I needed to send a quick email related to my booking.

Tourist City, Business Hotel

I left London and went to a tourist city, staying in a hotel geared to business people. The charge there was 15 pounds per day. But free in the public areas – for one hour.

It made me regret my booking. I’ve done some research and come up with half a dozen hotels in the town with free wifi for a range of room rates – often lower than I paid.  I complained via twitter and was told “it’s hotel policy”.
Screen Shot 2014-07-07 at 19.21.37Fair enough, now that I know I won’t book there on my next trip.

Airbnb

I stayed at an airbnb place for two nights, where wifi was free. I’ve stayed at Airbnb places in several cities now, wifi has been included for no extra charge at all places. I realise there is a different level of complexity providing wifi to 100 rooms rather than one, but it does show that there is an expectation for wifi that airbnb hosts are meeting.

Yotel

For my last night in the UK I stayed at the Yotel at Gatwick airport; wifi free. The room rate is less than half that of the Central London or Tourist City hotels. The room is very basic, in fact they call them cabins. There’s another hotel, a more upmarket version of the same concept called Bloc Hotel at Gatwick, which also provides free wifi – and boasts of its speed.

So the places at the top and bottom ends of the price range include wifi; they know their guests need it and they’ve responded to that demand. Two and a half years ago I predicted that there would be a growing demand, for wifi, in that I was right. I wouldn’t have guessed that the customer demand would take so long to shift the policies of mid-level hotels.

There are of course plenty of other options for wifi; cafes, bookshops -even McDonalds in London provides free wifi. I used it even though I wasn’t a customer (probably not their intention!).

But if McDonald’s will provide free wifi for the price of a hamburger what is the issue for those mid-level hotels? Given the growth and growth and growth of internet access via mobile relative to desktop why aren’t hotels changing their policies? Why am I asked to pay a 10% surcharge for what should be a standard feature? After all they don’t charge me based on water used or TV watched.

It’s going to be a selection criteria from now on. I bet that decision saves me money.

What’s your take on wifi in hotels?

 

Image; Wifi / themaninblue / CC BY-ND 2.0

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3 thoughts on “Hotel Wifi; a charge fiasco

  1. Hi Louise, what a great blog post and what a rather interesting and thought-provoking reflection as well on the connectivity issues of road warriors for what more and more is considered a necessity, more than a nice-thing-to-have. Loved it! Thanks for putting it together!

    My favourite example is that one of a hotel chain that has been having the same wi-fi provider from over the years providing one of the most appalling and horrifying experiences you can ever imagine and 4 years later not having done a single thing to change or shift gears. Take a look into this blog post where I originally blogged about the experience and a few other folks have been adding their own feedback over time. All over Europe, too!

    It’s probably the perfect case study to demonstrate how neglecting and not engaging with your customers can have a toll in your business. In 4 years I have never gone back to that hotel chain and I keep strongly recommending everyone not to either. Yet, not a single response showing concern, caring, or willingness to even look into the issues. Too bad for them, I guess, more than anything else because for as long as they keep up that attitude they would no longer have me as their customer. And I bet I’m not the only one for that matter either.

    Nowadays, my take on what I would need from a hotel room is down to three basic things: 1. Clean bed; 2. Clean bathroom; 3. Free *decent* wifi. A hotel providing all three of those will have as a faithful customer for many years to come, like a few of them I keep staying at already do when travelling 🙂

  2. Thanks for your comment Luis, you were definitely fed up when you wrote that blog post! But you’re absolutely right. If a hotel wants to attract business travellers the wifi needs to work and be secure. I think it should be free – particularly if they’re looking for road warriors as clients. As the independent hotels and new entrants to the markets seem to be providing free wifi perhaps it will add more competitive pressure.

    In terms of using hotels I now have the same basic list as you – with the addition of location = safe and central.

    • Hi Louise, absolutely! I feel that’s what most hotel chains are missing out on at the moment, which is the fact that they don’t just seem to understand the wants of road warriors with a need to work while on the road and therefore be connected. The leisure, random access to wifi from the casual tourist is no longer the case from the businessmen and women who need to continue getting work done while on the road in a secure, fast manner.

      I’m surely hoping more and more hotel chains start getting their act together, because otherwise they are off to a massive disruption from entry players like Airbnb who understand how the world of work is changing to be more distributed, virtual, (hyper)connected. It’d be interesting to see whether they can adapt to a new reality or not. To me, those who won’t adapt are no longer on the radar of hotels to stay at, I am afraid. Time to raise the stakes as to what we would want to have when we embark on business travelling.

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