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Worst WiFi Hotels 2008

May 6, 2008 at 3:21 PM | by | ()

A HotelChatter Exclusive

Yesterday we told you where you can get working WiFi in hotels for free so today we must tell you about the hotels where the WiFi is definitely not free, possibly not working and perhaps is not even WiFi.

Yes, it's time for the Worst WiFi Hotels of 2008. Much like our Best WiFi Hotels list, the Worst rounds up the usual suspects who charge you for internet access as well as calls out a few other hotel brands that manage to fly under our radar in other years.

These hotels also make this list for other reasons beyond billing. Inconsistent WiFi policies across different properties and brands is irksome, meaning you will get charged at one hotel in New York but not at the same brand in Miami. So is offering free WiFi in the lobbies but not in the rooms.

Yet what probably gets our goat the most is that these hotels are charging for WiFi purely for profit. We've even got a letter from a general manager of a Four Seasons hotel who tries to explain why the hotel must charge for internet. Essentially, the reasons why are all about profit except they are just hiding behind the pretense of customer service and network support.

Since we know that other hotels out there can provide complimentary WiFi, these hotels listed below really need to step it up.

These hotels could care less about how much you are paying for the night, they ain't giving WiFi out for free.

· Four Seasons Hotels: The Four Seasons is a regular on this Worst WiFi Hotels list so that's nothing new. What is new this year is an explanation that we received from a general manager at a Four Seasons hotel that was sent our way by a guest upset over a WiFi charge of $10 for a connection that didn't even work.

Basically, the Four Seasons blows a lot of hot air about how it is necessary to charge for internet access. Here are just some of this GM's "reasons" for doing so:

· Four Seasons' hotel IT staffs or designated personnel are the first line of support to assist our guests.  These employees will call the appropriate internet service providers on behalf of our guests to resolve their issues.  During non-business hours, hotel IT staff can be paged to resolve emergency guest connection issues.  

· In Four Seasons hotels, guests can request higher bandwidth or setting up a virtual private network for their colleagues who stay in the same hotel.  As well, Hotel IT staff will trouble-shoot guests' laptop PC configuration to resolve the connection issue. In hotels who provide free HSIA, no personal services will be offered.

You can read the rest of the letter here. The Four Seasons chain obviously subscribes to the school of though that if you can afford the hotel room rate, what's another $10 a day for internet? And they are not alone in this thinking.

· Las Vegas Casino Hotel Rooms

This is the first year that we've ever put a destination or a city on one of these lists but we had to do it. Even though most of you hit up Sin City to drink, eat, gamble and dance, remember that Las Vegas does serious convention center business. Meaning a ton of people are traveling to Las Vegas with their laptops and are arguably looking for some loving of the wireless kind.

They won't find it in any of their casino hotel rooms that's for sure. The casino hotels have largely moved onto wireless access which is a plus but it's going to cost at least $9.99 a day.

Our worst WiFi experience in Sin City came at the Bellagio which only offered ethernet for $12.99 a day and if you didn't have a cable you had to buy one out of the mini-bar for $10.99. However, there are some places we have heard of with free WiFi like: The Food Court in the Venetian, The Fortuna coffee shop at the LV Hilton and all terminals of the McCarran International Airport.

· Fairmont Hotels

Fairmont set off our Hotel WiFi radar this year, practically breaking it, when it took over the newly renovated Plaza Hotel in Manhattan. The hotel had promised to offer free wireless in their $800+ per-night rooms but then reneged simply because their competitors were charging hotel guests for internet access.

Most other Fairmont properties are offering fast-working wireless at a price of $12.95 a day. Grrr....

· Ritz-Carlton Hotels

We didn't want to bag too much on Ritz-Carltons this year because we have to begrudgingly respect their effort to start offering WiFi in newer hotels, although the act is about four years too late.

Of course, the hotel chain is still charging guests for that internet access, typically on average of $12.95 a day. And keep in mind that Ritz-Carltons are part of Marriott Hotels which offers free wireless in their extended stay/select service/budget brands like Residence Inn.

Despite repeated showings on our Worst WiFi Hotels list, these hotel brands aren't budging on their WiFi policy.

· Intercontinental Hotels: It's free at the Holiday Inn but at some Intercontinental Hotels its only free in the lobby and in your rooms there's a confusing pay-for-internet plan.
· Morgans Hotel Group: These hotels are in every major city and usually have the hottest and hippest clientele but going on the web will cost you at least $10.95 a day.
· Kor Hotels: Kor Hotels is rapidly expanding its Viceroy and Tides brand across the globe but no matter where they are, they will always charge you for WiFi. One exception? The Tides South Beach.

This is the most frustrating group of hotels. Most of these chains are offering it for free in their budget brands but refuse to give it up anywhere else.

· Hilton Hotels: The Hilton brands have managed to stay under the radar in previous WiFi report years. This may or may not be a good thing. It could mean that the hotel's WiFi policy is not too painful or it could also mean that no one we know is staying at a Hilton. However, we stayed in the Waldorf-Astoria this past year and it was ethernet only at $12.95 a day. This is true for the upper echelon of Hilton hotels like Conrad and the flagship name. Meanwhile, the Hilton Garden Inn brand has free internet all over.
· Starwood Hotels: True, Starwood has a lot of brands under its umbrella but not only is the corporate WiFi policy inconsistent and confusing, the same holds true across the brands. We can hardly keep track anymore of what Sheratons, Ws, and Westins offer free lobby WiFi and which ones make you pay for in-room WiFi. All of this makes it very confusing for the hotel guest to know what's what. There is one constant, the luxury properties of Starwood (St. Regis, Le Meridien, Luxury Collections) will bill you for internet.
· Marriott Hotels: Marriott's budget/business traveler brands made our best list but they can't seem to get their act together with the flagship brand with some places offering ethernet, some offering wireless and all charging a fee.
· Hyatt Hotels: We don't mind the T-Mobile Hotspot that Hyatt uses in almost all of its hotels. If you have one already then it's almost like free internet. Plus even if you don't, the connection is steady and fast. What we do mind is that Hyatt Place offers it free throughout their properties. So why not at Grand Hyatts, Hyatt Regencies and Park Hyatts too?

Got a Worst WiFi Hotel story that you wanna share? Drop it in comments below.

Archived Comments:

Re: Worst WiFi Hotels 2008

I think New York hotels make this list. PERIOD. Recently I had to snag a week stay for a friend in Manhattan, and living in the city I never realize the extras added onto an already hefty bill (we're talking $500-800 a night at the hotels I was searching). WiFi is free in some of the freaking parks here! So I think it's crazy that internet usage is extra $$ in properties like the Soho Grand.

Re: Worst WiFi Hotels 2008

yeah, i can't understand it when a fast-food joint in denver offers free WiFi while the Hyatt made me sign onto T-mobile hotspot.

Re: Worst WiFi Hotels 2008

You know what I hate? When you use the ethernet in the rooms (cause the rooms arent WiFi yet) but when you go into the convention/exhibit/common areas of the hotel (which do have WiFi) - you have to pay again! It doesnt acknowledge that I paid for internet 20 floors up.

This happened to me once at a Crown Plaza in NJ last year.

Fortunately I went to the front desk to explain - and they gave me "complimentary" access to the WiFi in the convention area for the inconvenience - but the charge for internet access from my room was still on my bill.

Go figure.

Re: Worst WiFi Hotels 2008

I think it should be tiered. If all you need is Internet, then, it's free. If you need to dip into the IT team for troubleshooting, like the Four Seasons guy explains, then fine, charge me. Because otherwise, his explanation is telling me that unless I wind up using the IT team for troubleshooting purposes, I'm basically paying for a service that I can get for free at a budget chain down the street.

And yes, I agree with your statement that these upscale hotels probably figure that an additional $10 doesn't mean much to their customers anyway. Either $10 is a drop in the bucket to you or you're a business traveler who will wind up expensing the charge anyway. Either way, it's a little under-handed.  

Re: Worst WiFi Hotels 2008

It's the the 21st century, and the Internet is a way of life at home and on the road.  It is not, repeat not some chi-chi luxury we've got to pay 10+ bucks for each and every day. And really... for ethernet?  That's it.  I'm springing for a wi-fi plug in. And I won't be opening the mini-bar either ;-)

It's too bad, really...

Hotels have an AMAZING opportunity to connect with, impress, and keep guests with great Internet service and they continue to blow it.  I think fundamentally, hoteliers still don't think that HSIA is THAT important to guests.  One of our recent surveys at GuestSurveys.com tells all:

"Of the following, which is the most important hotel amenity to you?"

Reliable Internet Access | 49.34%
Pool | 5.49%
Complimentary Breakfast | 14.81%
Friendly Staff | 18.63%
Cable/Satellite TV Stations | 10.68%
Video on Demand | 1.05%

You read that right...more than twice as important as friendly staff

And to twist the knife:

"Which is more important to you in your hotel room?"

High Speed Internet Access | 84.34%
TV / Movies | 15.66%

Yes that's right Mr Hotel Operator, guests care less about the $2mil you just spent on a new VOD system and more about the vastly less costly Internet service.

Hopefully 2009 is the year of HSIA enlightenment.


Those numbers are amazing... even more extreme than I had expected. Thanks for sharing. I was planning on running a survey throughout our network which would basically ask these same questions. It's truly is surprising after all this time how overlooked or downplayed guest Internet is by many hoteliers. We encounter it every day. Some get it... most don't. They'll have to take it more seriously eventually.