Internet access in hotels has increasingly become the subject of debate amongst frequent travellers, who complain about excessive charges. Most frustrating of all, as Le Figaro affirms, is that it is often the more higher end hotels that add internet connection charges to an already hefty bill. So why do they do this?
This isn’t necessarily just about hotels grabbing easy money from their clients; internet provision is costly, especially for large hotels. With installation costs averaging $125,000 and annual maintenance at $7,500 according to HotelChatter, it is understandable that hotels want to claw these expenses back. At the same time, it is clear that many hotels incorporate internet into their core business model (Le Bristol makes €400,000/ year through it, for example).
Hotel guests argue that internet has now become a daily essential, as fundamental as running water. Guests expect the basic commodities they rely on at home, and a reliable internet connection is one of them. With a survey by HotelInteractive claiming that 38% of guests take free Wi-fi into account when choosing a hotel, the provision of free internet could be worth far more for hotels in occupancy than its maintenance costs. So what can hotels do differently?
A common compromise to this issue seems to be a tiered system, offering free access in communal spaces such as the lobby, and charging for high-speed access. Some chains, such as the Hilton, offer this upgrade as part of a loyalty scheme. This type of provision covers the basic needs of guests, while also catering for those who depend on a good quality connection. Given that it can still generate revenue whilst keeping more guests happy, it would be unsurprising to see this setup appear in more and more hotels.
The need for internet follows a sharp rise in the use of mobile devices such as smartphones, iPads and laptops, which many guests keep with them on their travels. Connectivity is ever increasing (Hotel chain B & B recorded an average of over 17,000 unique users per hotel last year, says Le Figaro), and is no longer regarded as a positive ‘extra’, but a necessity.
With no signs of internet use relenting any time soon, perhaps hotels would do better to embrace internet into their services, looking into the many potential opportunities stemming from it rather than focusing on the initial setbacks.
For example, rather than merely providing a free internet service, what if hotels could go beyond that? LoungeUp provides a service enabling guests to make the most of their stay using the Wi-fi service offered by hotels. Extending the traditional services of the concierge to an online portal, it offers all the hotel’s extra services (orderable online) alongside local information such as tourist attractions. Using a Wi-fi service in this way means hotels can be of assistance to their guests, while also bringing in greater returns on their other services such as room service orders and spa bookings.
So, free Wi-fi is worth investing in for hotels not only to appease customer needs, but also to increase revenue in their supplementary services.