Luxury hotel managers are increasingly being asked to soothe the frayed nerves of guests who must choose between paying for Wi-Fi access in their rooms or settle for public Wi-Fi while sitting in a noisy lobby or bar.
According to a new J.D. Power survey of 53,000 travelers, free wireless Internet access is the most desired amenity. Free Wi-Fi was the most important feature for guests in virtually every hotel segment. This has become a key issue for hotel management teams.
Curiously, high-end hotels were the least likely to offer free Wi-Fi. Guests staying at Ritz-Carlton luxury hotels are charged for Wi-Fi access and it's becoming a big bone of contention among guests. While some Ritz-Carlton hotels offer free Internet access in their lobbies and other public spaces, Carlton InterContinental charged $31 a day to use wireless Internet in the room.
In stark contrast, a surprising 96 percent of guests staying at mid-scale hotels indicated they were offered free Wi-Fi. Even budget hotels were more "tech kind," offering Wi-Fi to 64 percent of their guests. Best Western requires all its franchisees to provide free Wi-Fi. Even Starbucks offers free Wi-Fi for patrons who simply buy a cup of coffee. The problem is that hotel owners are reluctant to drop Wi-Fi fees, because room-service wireless brings in rivers of cash.
Hotel managers should take note of the growing backlash toward in-room Wi-Fi charges that force many guests into crowded lobbies and onto dining tables. While many luxury hotels offer free Wi-Fi as part of their reward programs, nickel and diming luxury guests for what many perceive as a necessity will eventually backfire.
For an added perspective, check out this video:
Alex A. Kecskes has written hundreds of published articles on health/fitness, "green" issues, TV/film entertainment, restaurant reviews and many other topics. As a former Andy/Belding/One Show ad agency copywriter, he also writes web content, ads, brochures, sales letters, mailers and scripts for national B2B and B2C clients.