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The WiFi Wall is Coming Down




More and more hotel companies have realized that if I could get free WiFi in a $10 a night guesthouse in Cambodia in 2009, I must be able to get it for free in a hotel 10 or 20 times that price.  All of the major hotel companies have been saying that it has been in the works for quite some time; but “coincidentally” many have begun offering some sort of free WiFi in the past months.   We can’t get too excited yet, in some cases free wifi comes with some restrictions. 

According to HotelChatter’s 2014 WiFi report, Marriott, Starwood, Hilton, Hyatt, Intercontinental, and Wyndham did not offer free in-room internet as of the report’s April 2014 publication. 

WHERE ARE WE NOW?

IHG:  You didn’t see this one coming from Intercon, but they were the first to announce in March 2013 that they would begin offering free WiFi for all of their loyalty members in 2014.  This was based on an IHG commissioned study founding that, “43% of adults surveyed said that they would choose not to stay in a hotel that charged for internet”. http://www.ihgplc.com/index.asp?PageID=116&NewsID=2937

Marriott:  Stepping up with an October 2014 announcement, Marriott rolled out free-wifi, also only for its members, in January 15, 2015.  There is one condition, not only do you have to be a Marriott Rewards member, but you must book through Marriott.com or another direct channel.  Oh, and there’s another caveat, everyone gets standard WiFi, but only Gold and Platinum members get “enhanced” WiFi. 

Starwood:  Following on Marriott’s footsteps, Starwood announced on December 17, 2014 that starting February 2, 2015 you could get free standard WiFi.  Same story as Marriott, you must be an SPG member and book through an SPG direct channel.  Also, only Platinum and Gold members get what Starwood calls “premium” internet. 

Hyatt:  Coming to the party on December 22, Hyatt brought the gift of free internet with no strings attached: everyone gets free internet, regardless of booking method.  There is a mention in their press release that in some places Gold and Platinum members would have access to “premium WiFi service”. 

Hilton:  Finally.  Just today, Hilton announced through FlyerTalk (no official press release available yet), that it would begin offering free internet for everyone starting in August, must book direct.  Diamond members will have access to premium Wifi as long as they book thorough a Hilton channel. 

Aside from the obvious good news to travelers, there are some key takeaways:
  • Most importantly, hotel companies are now being able to shorten the roll out of a worldwide program like this to as short as 2-3 months.  It might not seem like a complex process to roll out a product upgrade change, but with hundreds of properties in different geographic operating areas and hundreds owners to deal with, this is a refreshing change from the usual 1+ year timeline for a corporate rollout of this kind. 
  • Free WiFi has become a point of parity (and a standard amenity in this day and age)
  • Peer pressure continues to work and hotel companies continue to follow. 


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