Friday, September 11, 2009

Hotel Internet Access — What’s Fair??

Last week I posted a blog entitled “Hotel Internet Access – Luxury or Norm??” My objective was to initiate a conversation regarding the pros and cons of hotels charging guests a fee for Internet access.  I posted a link to this article on Twitter, Facebook, and several business groups on LinkedIn.

Regarding the response from readers here are some statistics:internet image

  • Through blog analytics I tracked 364 unique views of the article.
  • Across the various locations I posted it there were 36 comments submitted.
  • Only One (1) hotel responded (see below comment)
  • In a Twt Poll I embedded in the article 43 people responded and 86% (37 votes) said Internet Service should be provided at no charge to hotel guests.  Another 12% (5 votes) were ok with paying a fee but felt it should be $5.00 or less (US Dollars)

In follow up I thought you would be interested in viewing some of the feedback received.  Not surprisingly, a whopping majority of people responding believe Hotels should offer Internet Access service on a complimentary basis to hotel guests, or at the very least at a significantly reduced fee.  There are some exceptions to this of course.

Here are a few of the “direct comments” made by readers:

“There is a HUGE difference in infrastructure investment and ongoing bandwidth costs between installing and managing a wifi network at a Hampton Inn vs. a Hilton & Towers. It’s really unreasonable to think that a hotel shouldn’t try to recover some of this expense and it’s unfair to fold it in the room rate for those that don’t use it.”

By Dave Lutz, Managing Director, Velvet Chainsaw Consulting

“Charging for internet access should be on the way out. Pretty soon, charging for internet access will be as outdated as seeing a pay phone in the lobby.”

By Allie Chamberlain, CMP Meeting and Event Strategist, Capitol Planning LLC

“It is my belief (and our hotel’s practice) that internet should be free. It is too important, especially to the business traveler, to have this service included. To charge upwards of $15 a day, especially in our current economic condition, is risking a long term relationship over a fee that is unnecessary.”

By J.J. DeBrosse, Crowne Plaza hotel Indianapolis

“My attendees are outright DEMANDING that it be available for free, period. And I have a somewhat older demographic at most of my meetings. The fact is, mid-priced hotels usually offer it all over for free, so when you come to a conference and pay a pricey room rate at a supposedly nicer convention hotel, you’re just MAD when you have to pay … additionally for the internet.”

By Joyce Paschall, Director of Education and Meeting Services, American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine

“At this point in time, every hotel should be providing complimentary internet. The cost to bring internet into a building compared to what hotels charge for access is ridiculous… I prefer a more inclusive approach to hotel rates, rather than the nickel and diming of planners and attendees.”

By Jessica Levin, Manager of Communications, Moore Stephens North America, Inc.

“I don’t think hotels should charge for WiFi internet access. Do they charge me when I turn on the lights? Do they charge me when I turn on the faucet in my room? Do they charge me for the air I breathe? WiFi access is a common utility that all business professionals need to access on a daily basis. It should be a regular benefit of the hotel just like water and electricity.”

By Jeff Hurt, Director of Education & Events, National Association of Dental Plans

“If I’m paying less to stay at a hotel with free Internet and probably free breakfast every day but with comparable amenities to a more posh hotel (pool, fitness room, gift shop) – why would I choose the more expensive option? To have the option of paying $20/day for parking? For what they might consider nicer decor? It doesn’t equate. And in this climate when the business proposition doesn’t make sense, it’s just not going to endure.”

By Midori Connolly, CEO, Pulse Staging, Inc.

I did some further research on the Internet and learned a recent AH&LA poll revealed 70.55% of travelers would choose not to stay in a hotel that charged for Internet Access.  Today I did a Twitter search (using “Search.twitter.com”) referencing the keywords “Hotel Internet Access” and not surprisingly there were dozens of tweets in the “search return” complaining about hotels charging for Internet Access.

One blog I came across, called the “Kayak Insider” offered the following tips for circumventing hotel Internet Access charges:

  • Join loyalty clubs (frequent Guest) before your stay, as members often receive perks like Internet access free of charge
  • Invest in a device like an Apple AirPort Express, which allows you to share your wireless connection with up to 10 other people. If you’re traveling with another person, you can pay the fee one time and share the connection.
  • You’ve got nothing to lose by asking hotel staff or a manager to make a deal with you. Try explaining that you won’t be using the free continental breakfast or evening happy hour, for example, and you may end up getting the charges removed from your bill.
  • Before you book your reservation, search for hotel rates and packages that already include Internet access.

One thing is pretty clear… the business model of charging Hotel guests for Internet access fee is not going away anytime soon.  In the meantime I believe it is important for folks to speak up and share their opinions as that is what drives change.  I would love to hear from the Hotel industry with their opinions… would love to hear the reasoning behind this business model!

What are your thoughts regarding this subject?  Do you know of other creative ways to avoid these charges for both yourself and your attendees, if you manage events?  If you represent a hotel, how do you justify these charges given the current business environment?  Please share your feedback!

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