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How Some of Marriott's Hotels are Making Free and Working WiFi a Priority

April 24, 2014 at 12:06 PM | by | ()

To get online at a Marriott Hotel, typically you have to hang out in the lobby where the flagship brand of Marriott International has free WiFi for all, across all their hotels. Marriott has done this for its other brands too, including JW Marriott and Ritz-Carlton. But unless you're an elite member of Marriott Rewards you still have to pay for WiFi in your hotel room.

This is frustrating for sure, but even more so when Marriott International's select service brands----Courtyard by Marriott, Fairfield Inn and Suites, Springhill Suites, Residence Inn and TownPlace Suites--have free WiFi for all guests, everywhere in the hotel. And they aren't just offering free WiFi, they're making sure it's really good WiFi.

In the past year, these brands have been pushing hard to improve the quality of their WiFi speeds for guests through a variety of strategies. For example, the newest Courtyard by Marriott which opened in NYC earlier this year, has "1.25 gigabytes of bandwidth with horizontal and vertical fiber optical cable network that allows for fast, extensive use on multiple devices at one time." Marriott has also introduced a tiered structure where basic WiFi is free and where faster WiFi can be bought. (The tiered WiFi structure is also in place the brands that charge for basic WiFi.)

While we can only hope that all of Marriott International's hotel brands will soon have free WiFi in the guest rooms, we do have to commend this special group for making free and working WiFi a priority.

To that end we asked Violeta Seidell, Vice President, Project Services for Marriott International a few questions (via email) about Marriott's recent WiFi strategies. While her answers focus mainly on the select service brands, a Marriott rep tell us the answers also apply to the full-service brands.

How are your brands implementing this free WiFi standard?

Marriott recognizes the critical importance of the Internet experience to our guests, and we have been working with our owners and franchisees to improve our infrastructure and to provide options for our guests.

Our select service (Modern Essentials) and Extended Stay brands (Courtyard, Fairfield Inn & Suites, Residence Inn, SpringHill Suites, TownePlace Suites) have offered free Internet for more than 10 years, and our free High Speed Internet offering is still available in those brands, as well as in the lobbies of all of our hotel brands.

Our most recent change is implementing tiered Internet service, to offer our guests the option to select a faster speed if needed for high-bandwidth activities. Our Marriott Rewards Gold and Platinum Elite members receive the Enhanced High Speed Internet offering free of charge across all brands. (Ed. Note: The charge for Enhanced High Speed ranges from $5-$7 more than the basic internet fee, if there is one. If not, then the price is between $5 and $7 to upgrade.)

What are you doing to improve the quality and speed of the network?

Together with our hotel owners and franchisees, we have been making investments in our broadband infrastructure to meet the evolving needs of our guests. A few years ago, we recognized our guests’ growing dependency on their mobile devices and laptops as central to their lives, whether for work or play. In fact, our guests now typically travel with multiple Internet-enabled devices.

We quickly identified how our guests’ growing reliance on the Internet was causing bandwidth issues. Therefore, we set out to solve the problem by creating minimum bandwidth standards and infrastructure improvements that would take into account the trend of transferring larger files, as well as streaming content.

Our hotels are fully compliant with minimum bandwidth standards and more than 70% are compliant with the infrastructure standards, and as a result, the Internet experience for our guests is becoming more reliable as they travel from hotel to hotel.

Today, about 30 percent of our hotels in the US offer tiered service with a more consistent, user-friendly login process, and more and more are coming online. Guests can choose High Speed Internet for tasks such as email, surfing the web or checking social media or Enhanced High Speed Internet for streaming movies, video conferencing and gaming.

Bandwidth usage levels are also reviewed and new minimum bandwidth standards are established annually to ensure that we’re continuously keeping up with increases in demand.

Why have you made this a priority?

Our guests have told us that reliable Internet access during their stays is extremely important to them. Today’s guests are traveling with multiple devices and are almost constantly engaged in Internet activity throughout their travel journey. Marriott has a strong commitment to supporting the digital needs of our guests now and as the digital landscape continues to change. Internet access is just the foundation and represents only a portion of the broader digital infrastructure that Marriott is committed to delivering in the coming years, such as mobile apps.

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

[Photo: HotelChatter]

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