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.
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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.