Leading Meeting Professionals

Professional Convention Management Association

June 03 2013

The Future of Wi-Fi Costs at Upscale Hotels

By David McMillin, Staff Writer


Every hotelier, technology provider and meeting planner recognizes one undeniable truth: Internet access is expensive. However, ask the casual leisure traveler or conference attendee, and they may not see eye to eye. In a recent survey of more than 8,000 adults commissioned by InterContinental Hotels Group, 43 percent of respondents indicated that they would not stay in a hotel that charged for Internet.

IHG responded with a new solution. The hotel chain recently announced that all members of its loyalty program will receive complimentary Internet access. Other major brands such as Marriott, Hilton and Starwood have moved to offer free Wi-Fi in lobbies. However, one industry expert believes that guests will continue to ask for online access with a price tag that reads $0.00 - - even when they’re in their rooms.

“It is hard for anyone to understand why an economy hotel gives the service free and a luxury hotel charges a great deal,” David L. Jones, Ph.D., Administrative Director, Department of Hospitality Management, University of San Francisco, says.

SEE ALSO: 4 Steps to Control Your Connectivity Costs

The tide is already turning overseas, too.

“In Asia, Shangri-La is a five-star hotel group that already gives free Wi-Fi,” Jones says.

Jones also mentions the Four Seasons in Macao, which also offers free Wi-Fi for up to two devices. However, he believes that eventually all restrictions will need to fade into history.

“I think this limitation on devices is also going to have to go away,” Jones says. “It is a nuisance charge on the hotel’s best client who can afford to have more than one device and use them for things such as hotel bookings.”

SEE ALSO: 5 Reasons Why Free Wi-Fi Might Not Be the Best Deal

However, every meeting professional understands that connecting to the Internet comes with plenty of costs. So what’s the answer? Jones offers one solution.

“It’s time the hotels start building the cost into the rate,” Jones says. “They don’t charge to change the sheets or turn on the lights, so why the Internet charge?”

What do you think the solution is? Should upscale properties increase their rates to offer “free” Wi-Fi? Or will higher room rates backfire? Go to Catalyst to offer your thoughts on what will certainly continue to be a hot topic in the hospitality industry.


  1. 1 Kari Z. 05 Jun
    I don't get the argument that free internet access should be required in all hotels. It just doesn't make sense. Your internet connection at home isn't free so why should it be free at the hotel you love so much? People who complain about having to pay for their connectivity need to educate themselves on what that cost is to the hotel before they squawk so much. For a hotel, especially a large one, to outfit their facility with internet connections in all rooms, meeting spaces and public spaces is a major expense. And the cost of connectivity for each and every device in the building is way more than the cost of that clean sheet and washcloth in your room. Sure you can build it into the room rate but then that goes up and people complain even higher. A hotel is in the business to make money - not give the house away for free. And for the record I am not a hotelier, I am a planner.
  2. 2 Germaine Schaefer 04 Jun
    I've been saying for years that I wouldn't mind paying for WiFi - as long as the cost was REASONABLE.  I pay $20/month for my 3G on an IPad.  How does $14.95/day for WiFi in a sleeping room make sense?   If hotels had charged a reasonable rate from the beginning - lets say $5/day with a max of $20 per stay - I think they would still be able to charge for this and they wouldn't get as many complaints.  Instead most brands saw internet access as a cash cow and now they can't figure out how to replace the income on their budgets so they are loath to change their pricing strategy.
  3. 3 Vicky G. 04 Jun
    Internet at all hotels should be offered complimentary!  I am a supplier who travels extensively. I need to be able to work on the road while out of the office, without time constraints. My brand does not charge for wireless service in the guestrooms, meeting space, or public space. We feel that it's a special perk that our guests should have without incurring a fee.  Showing value to our guests and letting them know that we appreciate their business is our commitment! 
  4. 4 Bill Reed 04 Jun
    Mr. McMillan, there is a critical aspect of WiFi that is unaddressed in your article, the aspect of WiFi for meeting rooms.  The tide has shifted and expectations from meeting attendees extend that "WiFi should be free" into the conference rooms at the same hotels referenced in the article.  There is much emphasis in many articles (not just yours) on in-room or in-lobby WiFi, but what hits budgets to a greater degree is the cost of WiFi in meeting rooms.  That is the bigger story. 

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