I'm a member of a LinkedIn group called Luxury Hoteliers, where there's currently an interesting conversation going on around whether or not guests at five-star hotels should expect internet access without paying extra. Seems to me that at that level of operations, wireless access should b treated as a utility, along with electricity and water.
What do you think?
Mark i have to agree, internet is no longer seen as an additional service, it is exepcted just as much as people expect to see a TV. I beleive the is what would your guests think about you as a hotel if you charged for all TV channels?
That's a good analogy, Matt. Just imagine if you turned on BBC1 to eatch the news and a registration form appeared onscreen asking for credit card details!
The luxuries of yesterday so often become the 'bog-standard' of today. Remember when things such as a radio or door mirrors were costly luxury extras on cars?? However, I think budget hotel chains such as Travelodge have also reversed that trend, in that the standards of yesterday, such as a selection of toiletries, several towels etc have gone back to being considered luxuries in their sector. And, having used a car analogy, it is actually the luxury carmakers that do charge extortionate extra amounts for things such as metallic paint and leather seats, on the basis that if you can afford one of their cars, these 'extras' are a relatively insignificant amount to you.
I think it comes down to whether or not value for money is part of your brand positioning, as to whether internet access should be free or not. To me the biggest challenge is then whether or not it is free to meeting delegates, as you then have the prospect of 200 meeting delegates all wanting to get on-line at the same time, for which you have to have an adequate size of 'pipe', which then requires significant investment, above and beyond what you normally need to allow internet access.
Having said all of that, so many of us now go on-line from mobile devices ( I think the latest figure is well over 50% and rising all the time), that this debate could well go in the same direction of telephone charges and become irrelevant before there is an industry norm!
Mark, this is indeed an interesting post and one that will no doubt be debated for some long while yet! In my opinion, the customer expects to be able to access the internet whilst they are staying away from home, whether their stay is for leisure, business or a combination of both. We live in a wonderful technological age and should be embracing the technology wherever we can. Instead of charging the customer for this service, hotels should be using it to their advantage and asking customers to join the Hotel's social networking forums, Twitter, Facebook pages, LinkedIn etc. Customers should be asked to give email addresses to the hotel in order that the hotel can follow up the visit with a customer exit survey, perhaps offering a loyalty reward to encourage the customer to return and recommend the Hotel to Friends and Family.
Hotels are there to encourage the customers to become loyal customers, so by offering 'free' services such as Internet access, they will be delivering what a lot of customers want.
Founder of Cherish the Customer
Lots of situations, lots of different customers types. For every customer who 'wants' free internet access, there will be one who doesn't and isnt bothered by it.
There will inevitably be a cost associated with installing wi fi, which ultimately will be passed onto the customer. One way around this is to calculate the costs involved and add a nominal amount to each bill. Therefore wi fi can be technically offered 'free'... As a compromise perhaps wi fi can be offered FOC in the public areas, thus encouraging spend in the bar.
If Hotels or other establishments are looking at the wi fi charge as a stand alone revenue stream then I believe they are mis-guided.
Whilst staying away is it possible for any of the facebook/twitter/LinkedIn addicts to leave their addiction at home for 24 hrs? Alternatively most mobile devices allow a fairly decent internet connection through their 3g connection allowing social media and emails to be used.
I think hoteliers understand now that this is the attitude of the market and it won't be long until it is considered the norm. There's the tricky task first of all to repay the investment in all the equipment but eventually someone will lead and others will follow.
If you look at 5-stars in particular though, you would think by their nature their service would be the best it could be - the fastest service with the best coverage within the hotel, whilst perhaps some of the smaller grades would be acceptable to have free wi-fi in the lobby or free broadband access in the room if people can connect by cable.
It offers a great opportunity. If people can access the internet whilst at your hotel, they can tell people about it! The amount of times I've been somewhere great and not been able to tweet or check-in through Foursquare, and it's a missed opportunity for the property
Free internet access is fast becoming the norm at top hotels. In fact the list of things included within the room rate is long: Heating, electric light, hot water, bottled water, cleaning, fresh towels, repairs, re-decorating, furniture, soap & shampoo, state of the art TV and audio, replaced carpets and curtains, evening turndown, the availability of room service and all the facilities of the hotel. Oh yes... and a fresh set of linen to sleep in. None of these items actually appears in the guest's bill but they all cost something to provide.
By contrast I once received an invoice for legal services which included a substantial sum for "considering my response to the other party's letter". I'd love to see a customer's reaction to a hotel bill that included a charge for the general manager's thinking time.
I will remember that when if you stay with us Peter!
I think that the next question will be how far will this go and what will the guest want next 100MB high speed access? download limits in the teroobites? I think that hotels must move with the times and the days of charging for internet access are over. I am lucky enough to run a hotel close to BT's technology development centre which is the second largest technology site in the world and as a result the expectations of some of my guests are high in this regard. If we did not have the access to the internet they simply would not stay. At the same time the things that I have been party to see that are on the way in the future are mind boggling. do we jump on the 3d TV or the internet TV bandwaggons? or do we wait and see what is next?
Yes it should be free. Many hotels are already doing it and the ones that are not, I am sure are under a lot of pressure from their guests. It's hard to justify charging £15 a day for internet access when you can pay a month's broadband with the same amount of money.
From a customer's perspective, yes!! It is now a utility. For many, almost as important as water and electricity.
I also aggree with the majority of people in discussion and believe that five star hotels should provide free internet. Its importance as a utility or amenity has greatly increased in the last 2-4 years and its clear to see that most hotels are clocking onto this.
However, I do not believe this should only apply for five star hotels. All walks of consumer from family's with children to single travelling business people, would now be expecting a comprehensive wireless service for free.
There are now many types of businesses that now offer free wireless internet such as Starbucks and Mc Donalds, heck, I was even in Pizza Express yesterday and they offer free wifi! So my augment would be, yes to free internet in five start hotels but why stop there?
William I'm with you. Guests in my neck of the woods consider it an essential that should be covered in the price rather than as a paid for extra. More to the point, they also expect reasonable capacity and speed
It has to be yes, it is expected amongst generation Y consumers, lets put it this way, if macdonalds can provide free and unrestricted wifi to its eat in guests then it will follow in the guests minds that a hotel espeacially if it is conferance and function hotel
I agree with the above. Consumers are all for best value and it's a bit cheeky that you can get it free in McDonalds but not in a five star hotel!