Friday, September 4, 2009

Hotel Internet Access – Luxury or Norm??

These days many of us are connected to the Internet perpetually, whether with our Smartphones, laptops or home workstations.  Our customers, colleagues and friends expect us to be accessible, and not just in the 9-5 realm.  That is reality.

Folks traveling frequently, as part of their job, face the dilemma of balancing the business needs of the trip with everyday responsibilities.  Since much work these days is done online an Internet connection at the “home away from home,” (hotel), is a necessity, not a luxury.Hotel In Room Access

Unfortunately, some companies don’t view Internet access as mandatory, for their traveling employees.  To me, this is shortsighted, but that’s for another discussion, at another time.  The focus of this blog post is to weigh in on the still-pervasive belief, by many hotel companies that charging hotel guests for Internet service is a smart business strategy.

This morning I read a news article posted in the USA Today addressing this subject.  According to a USA TODAY survey of 80 hotel brands, 40% charge such a fee at all or most of their U.S. hotels. The charge can vary at hotels within the same brand but often ranges from $9.95 to $14.95 daily.

One Hotel company, Gaylord Hotels, charges a mandatory “resort fee,” at all their properties, currently $15 per day added to the room rate.  The resort fees includes: local phone calls (first 20 min. of each), toll-free and credit calls (first 20 min. of each), high-speed Internet access in guest room, access to hotel’s state-of-the-art fitness center, bottled water (two per room, per day) and a daily newspaper.

“As long as hotels can generate the revenue, they will charge for it …  There is no more telephone revenue, and this is one way to replace it.” Jeff Weinstein — editor in chiefHotels magazine

I have discussed this issue with many event professionals and the majority of them find these types of fees, especially when they are mandatory, to be a challenge.  In the interest of getting an objective opinion on this issue I created a TwtPoll to address this topic. Please vote as your opinions are much appreciated and will be referenced in a follow up article.

Personally I believe Hotels charging for this service are missing out on a huge customer service opportunity.  In a difficult economy, where business people are expected to do more for less, with fewer resources, offering this service for free would foster very positive customer feedback, and even brand loyalty.  What do you think?  Here are the opinions of two Event professionals:

“I think all hotels should offer Internet access (at the very least WiFi) at no charge in both sleeping and meeting rooms. In many of the lower priced hotels they are already doing this and many upscale hotels offer it at no charge to their best customers. Practically every business traveler has a PDA, Computer or some device with them so they can to stay in touch when out of the office. Hotels who provide this service to their guests without nickel and dime-ing them, I think, will get more business and more loyalty. I am finding at my citywide conventions, the hotels offering free WiFi fill up first.   For our smaller meetings contained in one hotel we always negotiate to get free WiFi for our attendees…at the very least in their sleeping rooms.” Deidre Ross, Director — Conference Services, American Library Association

“Hotels should no longer charge their guests a fee for internet access. At first it [internet access] was considered a luxury, but now it is common…so why charge for something that guests expect? In fact, I specifically seek out hotels that provide free internet access and encourage my clients to do the same.” Emilie Barta, Professional Trade Show Presenter

Please share your thoughts with us on this fiery issue.  I look forward to your responses!!!

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