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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 | Comment (1)

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.

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Victory! Loews Hotels Are Now Offering Free WiFi

January 22, 2014 at 10:39 AM | by | Comment (1)

UPDATE: The free WiFi is in effect at all Loews Hotels. "Prompt, reliable Internet access has become a necessary and expected hotel amenity. We're delighted to be one of the first hotel brands in our category to offer complimentary Wi-Fi access to each and every one of our guests," said Paul Whetsell, President & CEO of Loews Hotels & Resorts." AMEN.

Ladies and gentlemen and kids of all ages, start your laptops, smartphones, tablets, etc.,: Free Wi-Fi is available at Loews Hotels beginning January 22, 2014.Has hell frozen over? It feels like it with recent weather we're having and with this little bit of news that we just got--Loews Hotels is now offering FREE WIFI in all of its 18 hotels. Yes, that even includes the Orlando hotels.

There's a big announcement on the home page of LoewsHotels.com today and we hear a press release with the full info will be coming soon.

What we want to know is if the WiFi will be outright free or if you have to be a member of the YouFirst loyalty program. Not that it matters. All that matter is that WiFi is free. Our years of pleading for free WiFi are finally starting to pay off. A round of drinks on us!

[Screengrab: Loews Hotels]

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HotelChatter Flashback: What the Hotel WiFi Options Were Like in 2004

June 20, 2013 at 5:28 PM | by | Comments (0)

It's time for a walk down memory lane with a HotelChatter flashback!

Way back in 2004, HotelChatter put together its first ever WiFi Report. Check out who made the first annual Best and Worst Hotel WiFi lists.

Best
· Kimpton Hotels (still doing it free for their InTouch members)
· Omni Hotels (still doing it free for their Omni Select Guest members)
· Marriott's Residence Inn (still free!)
· Best Western (still free!)
· Holiday Inn/Holiday Inn Express (still free!)

Worst
· Marriott Hotels (free in lobbies, most charge in-room, except if you are an elite member of their loyalty program)
· Fairmont Hotels (free for members of their President's Club)
· Hilton Hotels (free in lobbies, most charge in-room except if you are an elite member of their loyalty program)
· Hyatt Hotels (still charges for WiFi except if you are an elite member of their loyalty program)
· Any other hotel that charges for WiFi in the lobby (plenty of hotels still do this, particularly if you aren't a hotel guest.

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The 2013 HotelChatter Hotel WiFi Report

April 30, 2013 at 11:07 AM | by | Comments (8)

Ever since HotelChatter's first annual Hotel WiFi Report in 2004, we've insisted that in-room WiFi was as essential as a working shower or air conditioning and that it needed to be offered free, fast, and reliably.

Hotels often gave us the run-around, blaming the costs of installing WiFi networks, the contracts they signed with the hotel owners or network security. But as more and more travelers book their hotel stays based on free WiFi, hotels have begun to drop their nickel and diming ways.

Today, at least two thirds of hotels have realized that offering free WiFi is in their best interests. Progress! Furthermore, many of these hotels have doubled down to put in reliable, fast WiFi networks for their older hotels, even if it means a big capital investment.

However, the battle cry for free WiFi should not die out just yet. One third of hotels out there are still charging for WiFi, including many luxury brands who charge premium internet fees on top of their pricey room rates. But if the nefarious one third don't start offering free WiFi at a basic level (checking email, surfing the web), potential guests will make a reservation elsewhere.

Even when the WiFi is free, there are still some caveats such as requiring guests to join the hotel's loyalty program, offering it free only in the lobby or having it free for just a limited time (anywhere from 15 minutes to two hours) before a charge is incurred. Furthermore, the WiFi fees can vary wildly from property to property within a hotel brand. These gimmicks are just another reason for guests to join together and demand better standardization for hotel WiFi.

Now, if you are a hotel currently offering excellent free WiFi, congratulations! You have made it to the next round of the games. In this round, which has already begun, guests will come to your hotel armed with multiple devices and expect to use those devices as remote controls for everything. Clearly, the end game in the battle for precious guest dollars is free, reliable and capable WiFi. So, let's see who the top contenders are in here in 2013. Shall we?

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HotelChatter's 2011 Hotel WiFi Report

April 26, 2011 at 10:45 AM | by | Comments (19)

**A HotelChatter Exclusive**

Chances are, you are probably reading our seventh annual WiFi Report right now on your iPad. Or your iPhone. Or your Blackberry, Droid, Kindle or Galaxy Tablet, if anyone actually uses those.

Much like cellphones have practically put land lines out of business, mobile devices are fast changing the way we sign onto the web when we’re on the go. And that includes when we're staying in hotels.

While the hardware we carry into hotel rooms is changing seemingly from one month to the next, our demands free and reliable WiFi have not wavered a bit. And as more and more of us start to travel with cellphones, laptops and tablets, the call for free WiFi is more urgent than ever.

Yet hotels around the world, especially those luxury ones, are still charging daily rates of $10 or more for WiFi. Worse, some are even double-dinging us for our mobile devices.

This leaves guests the choice of navigating the always, ever-changing WiFi fees at mid and high-end hotels, or spending the night at budget places just for the internet.

So you better know the lay of the free hotel WiFi land before you book your room. After all, the one thing we can do as loyal, frequent hotel guests is vote "free WiFi" with our credit cards.

Once again, we’ve broken down the Hotel WiFi landscape into Best Hotels, Worst Hotels and the best and worst from the International Hotel Scene. We’ve also added a couple of new sections; picking out the Best and Worst cities for free hotel WiFi, tips on getting secondary devices on for free when the hotel wants you to pay per device, and where to stay in stylin' and free WiFin', to name a few.

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HotelChatter's Annual Hotel WiFi Report 2010

April 28, 2010 at 12:00 PM | by | Comments (31)

A HotelChatter Exclusive

This year marks HotelChatter's sixth annual hotel wifi report. Over the years we've documented the progression of hotel WiFi, from blatant disregard, to price-gouging for WiFi access, and reliable WiFi for loyalty program members, through guests taking matters in to their own hands with wireless lap top cards and 3G access. A year ago, we thought guest demand for free, reliable, hotel WiFi might just go away, thanks to 3G.

Well guess what? The demand for hotel WiFi has not gone away, quite the opposite, a growing number of hotel guests not only demand the hotel they book have proper wireless access but most will consider *not* staying at a hotel that can't meet their basic access needs. That's right, WiFi is a make or break amenity for many hotel guests that can sway booking decisions -- and that isn't going away.

How did this happen? Wasn't the new decade supposed to be all about getting off the hotel's WiFi grid and relying on own wireless 3G cards? It was. But it seems that the cellular networks are woefully unprepared for all the Foursquaring, Twittering, Facebooking, Tumblring and old-school emailing that we need to do. And don't think this is just an early adopter phenomenon.

More and more business travelers need to access their documents in the cloud, family travelers need to stream children's movies for their kids on their devices and laptops, and we probably don't have to mention the fact that the iPad and other popular media consumption devices focus on WiFi connectivity and not 3G.

However, if hotel general managers are licking their chops thinking they can charge guests exorbitant amounts for providing free, fast, reliable WiFi, not so fast. Remember all those side of the road motels that trumpeted "Free HBO?" Well the majority of guests view WiFi the same way--as a must-have amenity, not something they should pay for. This is the conundrum for hoteliers today, how can all this demand for more access translate into a revenue source, without alienating guests?

Today, the hotel landscape is firmly divided into those who follow Best WiFi Practices and those who do not. And while old stalwarts will probably never change their policies (cough, Four Seasons, cough), many up and coming hotel brands realize free, reliable, basic WiFi is an easy way to earn guest happiness and loyalty.

As to how hotels will be able to please their guests, deliver stellar free wifi, and turn their services into a revenue stream, might we suggest hoteliers Google "Freemium".

HotelChatter's WiFi Report 2010

BEST HOTEL WIFI
WORST HOTEL WIFI
INTERNATIONAL HOTEL WIFI
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
2010 WIFI CHART

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HotelChatter's Annual Hotel WiFi Report 2009

May 6, 2009 at 1:22 PM | by | Comments (70)

Using the complimentary Kimpton Hotel WiFi in the lobby and poolside at the Hotel Palomar Westwood

A HotelChatter Exclusive

When we did our first HotelChatter WiFi Report back in 2004, we focused on the few hotels and hotel chains that were offering free, reliable hotel wireless and those who weren't. Over the next couple of years, more and more hotels began addressing the issue of adding dependable wireless for their guests, both in-room and in-lobby. However, what we are seeing in 2009 is a trend towards the corrosion of the upkeep, reliability and "freeness" of hotel wireless services.

To our dismay, some hotels that boast free WiFi in their guestrooms offer the worst kind of WiFi you can get: the slow kind. Worse yet, just because you've forked over a daily fee for the internet service in your room, doesn't mean you're guaranteed a fail-safe, four-bar connection.

This year, we'll be looking at the hotels and chains that are putting a new spin on free and reliable service as well as those hotels that have fallen off the reliable WiFi wagon. We'll also touch on International hotel WiFi gems and rip-offs. Remember, just because your favorite brand gives it to you for free here at home doesn't mean you'll get it on your next trip abroad.

In short, our message to hoteliers in 2009 is this: don't make us rely on our iPhones, Blackberries, and 3G cards; we still rely on hotel WiFi. Offer us the dependable wireless connections we need for getting on our laptops, checking out online videos, stalking old friends on Facebook, tweeting, buying music and movies for the trip home (or even for the hotel room) — and maybe even getting some work done.

· Best Hotel WiFi 2009
· Worst Hotel WiFi 2009
· International WiFi Hotels 2009
· Connecting In-Room
· 2009 WiFi Chart

These reports were compiled by HotelChatter editors and information gathered came from in-person trips to these hotels and member and reader emails and comments between May 2008 and May 2009.

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More Noteworthy WiFi Hotels for 2008

May 8, 2008 at 6:00 PM | by | Comments (0)

In our Best WiFi Hotels 2008 report we stuck to large chains and hip boutique hotels but there's actually a whole bunch of other hotels that are offering their guests complimentary WiFi and we thought they deserved a shout-out too.

· The Setai: The Setai is a ritzy South Beach property where rooms can cost up to $1,000 a night in high season. Fortunately, unlike some other luxury hotels, the Setai lets you surf the internet for free in every corner of the hotel including by the pool.
· The James Chicago: The James offers guests complimentary WiFi in all of its 297 guestrooms as well as remote printing through a wireless network.
· AKA Hotels: This upscale extended stay brand offers complimentary WiFi in the rooms.
· The Marco Island Marriott: Now there is a charge for the WiFi here at a cost of $12.95 a day but the wireless signal reaches all the way to the beach. We admit we'd actually pay money for that.
· White Barn Inn: This Maine retreat is small with only 29 rooms but it has complimentary WiFi throughout.
· The Regent Palms Turks & Caicos: Another luxury property that's decided to offer complimentary WiFi for its guests.
· The Curtis: This Denver hotel near the 16th street mall has free WiFi in all of its 336-guest rooms.
· The Stafford: Don't pay for WiFi in London. The Stafford offers it for free.

Know of a hotel with complimentary WiFi in the guestrooms or a network that allows you to surf while you are actually surfing, keep us connected.

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The 2008 Hotel WiFi Chart

May 8, 2008 at 12:09 PM | by | Comments (3)

This year we went very in-depth with our Annual WiFi Report so that we could give you a better understanding of the hotel WiFi landscape in 2008.

But even we have to admit that's a lot of reading to do. And if you're in a hotel today paying by the hour or paying by the day or furiously trying to jump onto the free WiFi network outside the hotel's club level, then you probably don't have time to read every last word.

Hence the 2008 Hotel WiFi Chart was born. Here we take the five major U.S. hotel chains--Starwood, Marriott, Hilton, Intercontinental and Hyatt-- and round-up the internet options across all their brands. We're keeping it simple by only listing for you where the internet is free, where you pay and where it's free in the lobby.

Our suggestion for getting free internet at any of these places? Join the hotel loyalty program. If you're a frequent guest at one of these major chains, joining the loyalty program may earn you complimentary internet during your stays although it varies from program to program and property to property. So does begging the front desk to let you have internet for free.

The 2008 Hotel WiFi Chart

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Best and Worst International Hotel WiFi 2008

May 7, 2008 at 10:25 AM | by | Comments (0)

Now that we've squared away the Best and Worst WiFi Hotels stateside, it's time to look at what's happening abroad.

Baby bro Jaunted has continued its WiFi Week by publishing yesterday some helpful tips on finding wireless when traveling outside the U.S. and typically, you can always get some sort of access in a cafe.

But here we'll be looking at the hotels abroad where HotelChatter editors and contributors found or didn't find WiFi. We've been keeping tabs on the International Hotel WiFi scene all year long and unlike what's happening here at home, the Hotel WiFi trend seems to be improving in other countries.

For instance, we traveled to London and had complimentary WiFi in our hotel near Hyde Park. Also, several small UK-based chains have decided to give up WiFi for free to its guests. Over in Spain, Best Western continues to offer free WiFi and we even found out that there's WiFi in the Hilton in Cairo. Of course, it's at a fee of $7 but still, that's improvement.

Something that totally makes us melt? Radisson SAS hotel in Europe publishing a list of their hotels that offer free WiFi. Life is good again!

Keep reading for more of the Best and Worst International Hotel WiFi Report

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Worst WiFi Hotels 2008

May 6, 2008 at 3:21 PM | by | Comments (7)

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.

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Best WiFi Hotels 2008

May 5, 2008 at 12:41 PM | by | Comments (12)

A HotelChatter Exclusive

We kick off the first-ever WiFi Week with the Best WiFi Hotels of 2008. As we mentioned, there hasn't been much movement on the Hotel WiFi scene since last year. So rather than round-up our old standbys for the third time, we wanted to take a broader look at the smaller hotel chains that are offering complimentary WiFi to their guests.

These are hotels that we have personally visited ourselves over the past year and know for a fact that the WiFi is working, free and spectacular. We call these hotels Ready & Willing.

We've also listed a group of hotel chains that we've overlooked in past reports, either because they didn't offer free WiFi at one point or because we weren't sure how well their WiFi worked. But thanks to tips from readers we now know these WiFi truths to be self-evident. We say take a chance on them.

Lastly, we aren't going to let you peruse this list without telling you who has consistently been topping our Best WiFi Hotels list. These are our Tried & True hotels, places we book when free WiFi is a must.

So get in there, start reading and let us know what you think.

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