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The 2014 HotelChatter WiFi Report: Who is Still Charging for WiFi and Why?

April 22, 2014 at 11:27 AM | by | Comments (11)

It turns out that luxury hotel you've been dying to stay at doesn't actually have everything you need.

Whether you’re a frequent traveler or a once-a-year vacationer, there’s one amenity you’re probably counting on during your next hotel stay--free, working WiFi.

You're not alone. Hotels.com released a recent survey where hotel guests ranked free WiFi as the most important in-room amenity. See ya, minibar Snickers!

Fortunately, free WiFi has become more commonplace these days (at least 64 percent of hotels!) especially at hotels that caters to business travelers like Courtyard by Marriott and ones that hang with millennials like Ace Hotels. Even traditional brands have let their guard down, like Loews Hotels, who went free at all 19 hotels earlier this year.

Yet there are still a few greedy grinchy hold-outs, typically the luxury hotels and the heavily-franchised brands.

In past editions of our Annual WiFi Report, we’ve done extensive research, lists, diagrams, infographics and the like, all of which you can scroll through here. But this year, we’re taking a "Scared Straight" tactic.

Here are 10 hotels that are STILL charging for WiFi. You can make your booking decision accordingly*.

1. Marriott Hotels

2. Ritz-Carlton Hotels

3. W Hotels

4. Westin Hotels

5. Sheraton Hotels

6. Hilton Hotels

7. Waldorf Astoria Hotels

8. Hyatt Hotels

9. InterContinental Hotels

10. Wyndham Hotels

*Some of these brands offer WiFi free in the lobbies or public spaces and some individual properties even offer it free everywhere or as part of a resort fee. But more often than not, you can expect to pay for internet at these hotels. See even more brands that charge for WiFi here.

Keep reading for more on why hotels charge for WiFi and how you can get it for free.

Geez, why don’t hotels just make it free already?

Greed is one reason--charging for WiFi is the new charging for telephone calls--but there’s another issue at hand--the owner/operator struggle. Most hotel brands don’t actually own the physical property that the hotel is located on. Instead, they sign a management contract with the hotel’s owners and then runs all the operations under the brand name.

The owner has to commit to some of the hotel brands' standards and programming (services, amenities, decor etc.) but free WiFi isn't always on that list.

DoubleTree by Hilton offers free WiFi in the public spaces of all their hotels but not in all rooms. That’s a decision that's left up to the owners, said John Greenleaf, global head of DoubleTree by Hilton Hotels. But making WiFi free everywhere is something they think about.

"It’s something we’re always looking at doing, to try and meet both the guests’ and the owners’ needs," Greenleaf said.

As other franchised brands grapple with the Free or Not Free issue, independent hotels or hotels that are developed, owned and managed by the same group, tend to take a different stance on WiFi.

Andrew Zobler, CEO of the Sydell Group, which owns and operates several properties including The Nomad Hotel in New York and the just-opened Line Hotel in Los Angeles, has free WiFi at all his hotels. Being the owner and operator makes free WiFi easier to enforce but it's also something Zobler feels strongly about.

"To charge for WiFi is just terrible. It's like charging for water, something you just don't do," Zobler said. "Having really good WiFi and having it free is critical."

Critical to the guest experience which in turn is critical to a hotel's bottom line. More and more guests are making their booking decisions based on whether or not a hotel has free and/or working WiFi.

The last-minute mobile booking app, HotelTonight, will steer away from listing a hotel if they've received bad feedback about the WiFi offerings.

"We curate our hotels based on guest experience. And slow WiFi is considered an amenity that doesn’t work," said Sam Shank, CEO and founder of HotelTonight, comparing a hotel with bad WiFi to a one that advertises a full fitness center but in reality, only has a few dumbbells and one cardio machine.

If guests complaints about WiFi charges or badly working WiFi aren't enough to convince hotels to change, maybe the very real threat of losing precious booking dollars will. In the meantime...

Where can you find free, working WiFi during your next hotel stay?

For starters, consult this list of hotel brands that are known to offer free WiFi. If you really want to stay at one of the hotel's on the offending list above, look at their websites for special offers and package deals as those often include WiFi.

You can also get free WiFi by becoming a member of a hotel loyalty program. Some brands offer it free to all members, some only for elite members.

Lastly, several hotels offer free WiFi to guests who book directly through their website. Mandarin Oriental Hotels started doing this last year. Guests have to sign up and create a profile as well as book a published rate through the hotel, but after those hoops, you should save about $20 a day on internet fees.

What if you need more bandwidth to stream the Harry Potter movies, er, Game of Thrones?

If you’re staying in a franchised hotel brand that offers free WiFi, chances are you can pay for more bandwidth and faster speeds.

Marriott International doesn't have free WiFi at their flagship brand but their select service brands--Courtyard by Marriott, Fairfield Inn and Suites, Springhill Suites, Residence Inn and Townhill Suites--have a tiered WiFi structure in North America and Central America.

The structure is pretty simple—basic internet browsing is free but if guests need more bandwidth, they can pay for "Enhanced High Speed Internet." This way, everyone can get the bandwidth they need, without bringing down the hotel's network.

"We quickly identified how our guests’ growing reliance on the Internet was causing bandwidth issues," said Violeta Seidell, Vice President, Project Services, Marriott International. "Therefore, we created minimum bandwidth standards and infrastructure improvements that would take into account the trend of transferring larger files, as well as streaming content."

The "enhanced" rate varies from property to property but Marriott Rewards Gold and Platinum Elite members will be able to get the enhanced internet option for free. Marriott International plans on rolling out the tiered structure globally later this year.

Hilton Hotels launched a similar program for their "focused service" brands-- Hampton Inn & Suites, Hilton Garden Inn, Homewood Suites and Home2 Suites. Guests can still get basic internet for free but to stream an HD movie, they can pay $3.95 for more bandwidth. This new tier is in place at 700 properties in the U.S. with plans to take it worldwide by the end of this year.

But what if the free WiFi isn't actually working WiFi?

Here are some quick tips to get that WiFi up and running.

1. Make sure you're connected to the right hotel network.

2. Make sure you've entered the right password, name or room number.

3. Turn your WiFi off then back on.

4. Try another site other than Google.

5. Try a different browser.

6. Call the front desk and ask for tech support, along with "a little something" for your troubles

Still have more questions about Hotel WiFi? Peruse the FAQs from our previous reports. Or just send your question to us and we'll answer it...provided we can get on the network during our hotel stay.

Have you logged on recently? Let us know your Best and Worst Hotel WiFi experiences here!

Comments (11)

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Shout out to International WiFi

Just wanted to mention that when I was in Paris and London in February, I went to four different hotels and they all had free WiFi--Pullman Hotels in Paris, EDITION Hotel in London and The Berkeley Hotel in London. The last two can be considered luxury hotels while the first two are biz-traveler oriented. That's a huge improvement from a few years ago when only the indie spots in Europe were savvy enough to offer free WiFI. Vive la Free WiFi! (or as they say in France, Wee-Fee)

Marriott Experience

Earlier this month I stayed at the San Diego Marriott Mission Valley which provides WiFi in the room for $12.99 a day! When I questioned this they told me that I had the option of using the free WiFi in the Lobby, which didn't help me when I needed to check my email while still in pajamas at 6:00AM. Other than the WiFi situation the hotel was great, but it's the only reason I need to ensure I never book this hotel again. It's a shame that they will lose my future business over a rediculous WiFi fee, but I'm guessing I'm not the only one.

Atlantic City, NJ

I am fairly often in AC, and I am staying where I can get a "comp" (free room in a casino hotel, where you just pay fees and taxes, typically between $5 and $13 per night, depending on the hotel).

The Resorts has the biggest standard rooms in the city (in the newer Rendezvous Tower), while the Revel is the newest hotel, and they also have the best ocean views, from all rooms.
The Revel is a bit more expensive, BUT their wifi is free everywhere in the building, lobby, rooms, casino, just everywhere.

The Resorts Casino Hotel lacks that, and I have recently told them in a customer satisfaction survey what I think of that. So when I am staying in their property, I have to walk over to the Revel (15+ min walk) to check my emails. Or pay around $15 to the Resorts. While I could afford that, I am just not willing to do that.

So when I have the option to choose between Revel and Resorts, I'll take the smaller Revel room with the free wifi.

As far as I heard from other AC visitors, the other properties also still charge extra for this essential. No wait, just yesterday I read the Trop(icana) is also offering free wifi everywhere. I have never stayed there, as their rooms have such a bad reputation.

The Borgata (both main property and attached sister property "Water Club") have free wifi in designated areas. If you want to connect in your room at night or early, you will be charged around $14. Not cool.

 


Atlantic City, NJ

I am fairly often in AC, and I am staying where I can get a "comp" (free room in a casino hotel, where you just pay fees and taxes, typically between $5 and $13 per night, depending on the hotel).

The Resorts has the biggest standard rooms in the city (in the newer Rendezvous Tower), while the Revel is the newest hotel, and they also have the best ocean views, from all rooms.
The Revel is a bit more expensive, BUT their wifi is free everywhere in the building, lobby, rooms, casino, just everywhere.

The Resorts Casino Hotel lacks that, and I have recently told them in a customer satisfaction survey what I think of that. So when I am staying in their property, I have to walk over to the Revel (15+ min walk) to check my emails. Or pay around $15 to the Resorts. While I could afford that, I am just not willing to do that.

So when I have the option to choose between Revel and Resorts, I'll take the smaller Revel room with the free wifi.

As far as I heard from other AC visitors, the other properties also still charge extra for this essential. No wait, just yesterday I read the Trop(icana) is also offering free wifi everywhere. I have never stayed there, as their rooms have such a bad reputation.

The Borgata (both main property and attached sister property "Water Club") have free wifi in designated areas. If you want to connect in your room at night or early, you will be charged around $14. Not cool.

 


Picture

LOL - I love the picture!  I was staying at a Hilton and the Holiday Inn across the street WIFI came through stronger and it was free.  Guess which WIFI I used?

Free the wifi!

I cannot believe that there are hoteliers who keep charging for wifi whereas it is considered as a basic need!

I have worked in different hotels and I would feel very uncomfortable to ask my guests to pay for something which is inclusive in their room rate.

Here is an article that I just wrote, have a look if you get French! (Enlish version yet to come)

<a href="http://hospitalityinsiders.net/free-the-wifi/">http://hospitalityinsiders.net/free-the-wifi/</a>


Industry Experts Comment on the Topic

We asked hospitality experts whether they thought Wi-Fi should be a standard free service in hotels - this is the response:

<a href="http://www.hotelcontractbeds.co.uk/blog/2014/07/should-hotel-wi-fi-be-free-industry-insights-from-linkedin">http://www.hotelcontractbeds.co.uk/blog/2014/07/should-hotel-wi-fi-be-free-industry-insights-from-li nkedin</a>


Wifi

Many, well most hotels in Birmingham include wifi within the room rate. I suppose it depends on the hotel and why they choose to set a fee to use wifi within their premises.

Complimentary WiFi is a must !

WiFi is a must as complimentary if hotels are waiting reservations from through their webpage and online system. We are in 2014 and Wifi is a basic need for Travelers and tourist. When I travel somewhere not only for business purpose, internet connection is more vital then a breakfast but also for touristic purpose to get contact with my family and to search about sightseeing.

Therefore last time when I was travelling to Istanbul, I decided to stay in Retaj Royale Istanbul while I was comparing with other ''big''chains who offers Wifi with extra payment appx. 40 Euro per day. Retaj Royale provides Wifi as complimentary also with high speed.

If you are willing to travel to Istanbul either for business purpose or touristic, don't be hesitate to stay Retaj Royale with the complimentary Wifi.
You may book through this link <a href="http://www.retaj-hotels.com/offers2/index.php">http://www.retaj-hotels.com/offers2/index.php</a>


Wifi Charges ?

Internet is becoming basic need for everyone. either travelling from one  place to another or staying in hotel  people demands WiFi. WiFi charges is as low as buying some chocolate but it will create bad impression on the customers. So it's better to take off the WiFi Charges from the bill.  

St. Regis frustrates me

Just came back from Bangkok and stayed at two luxury hotels, Fourseasons and St. Regis. Fourseasons has complimentary wifi but St. Regis don't, only free at lobby, I have to go downstaris at midnight to lobby to use my iPhone.( with pajamas?)
But the price I have paid for St. Regis is double than Fourseasons.
The room costs more than USD$200 pre night at St. Regis Bangkok, actually I don't mind to spend 10 dollars more for a night. For most luxury hotels guests, $200 and $210 are actually the same. But the management team is too stupid to charge extra 10 dollars instead of including it into the selling price, which makes me annoyed and frustrated. USD$210 per night with free wifi, and USD$200 per night, wifi is extra for $10 per day, which one you prefer?  

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