It used to be an extra, but now people expect it – and are annoyed to pay for it.
Really, it makes no sense: Cheap hotels have free Wi-Fi in the rooms, expensive hotels don’t. It is time that America’s hotels make a resolution for 2014: Stop charging for in-room Internet access.
Why? There are a million reasons, but here are four:
• As technology races ahead, it is archaic not to offer it.
• Hotels that still charge for Wi-Fi seem fuddy-duddy and dated.
• The practice annoys guests and makes them feel ripped off.
• The money hotels make on paid Wi-Fi from a few guests cannot be worth the loss of goodwill by all guests.
Years ago, it made sense for hotels to charge for the Internet. It required wires and techs, passwords and cords. It was fragile as an egg, always breaking down. The equipment was expensive.
Now? Most Americans — including hotel guests, employees and managers — think of Wi-Fi as an invisible, ubiquitous utility like air conditioning or water. Connectivity is part of modern life. A lot of hotels use cloud-based Web services, eliminating the bandwidth burden on individual properties.
Today, many travelers don’t even need the service. They have hot-spot devices to bypass hotel Wi-Fi costs. Most leisure travelers can simply use their cellphones to go online.
So who, exactly, is left to pay for access? I am not sure.
But if I had a big hotel and was charging megabucks for the room, I sure wouldn’t be charging $30 or even $10 a day extra for Internet access.
For 67 percent of travelers, free in-room Wi-Fi is the most important hotel service they look for when booking, Hotels.com found in a June survey. The magic words travelers seek are “free in-room Wi-Fi” or “complimentary high speed in-room Internet access.” I’d give it to them, then get guests to part with their money another way, with $10 yoga classes on the beach or $9 vodka martinis.
The industry site HotelChatter.com this fall reported that while guests rank free Wi-Fi and a comfortable bed as the two most important hotel priorities, a third of U.S. hotels still do not have free Wi-Fi.