Fee-less Wi Fi: when giving away brings in more

JD Power & Associate's latest survey of European hotels ranks the need for "reliable" and free internet as one of the top reasons for consumer satisfaction with internet connectivity or lack of being particularly critical for Gen X and Gen Y customers. Unsurprisingly, the survey found "complimentary Internet access has surpassed complimentary breakfast as the most important amenity."

Free Wi-Fi is probably an over-wrought and over-written topic but consensus thinking within the hotel industry remains mired in archaic ideas centered around the direct costs of providing the service. More than a few industry insiders still attempt to defend this indefensible charge or more aptly tax, considering that like water it is used by nearly 100% of guests.  One worthy even suggested that managers who wanted to abolish internet charges will end up in "a special place in the unemployment line".  Where they certainly could find a job is in local government considering the latter's penchant for taxing the hotel industry to fill ever expanding budget gaps under the absurd notion that it won't be noticed.

The JD Power survey rightly notes that reliability and fee-less internet in hotels will soon be de-rigueur "particularly since Internet access is becoming more widely available in non-hotel settings." Widely and non-hotel take on new meaning considering that even some local governments such as New York City's has begun rolling out free Wi-Fi in 26 public park locations across the five boroughs of the Big Apple. That does not include some private parks like Bryant Park have had free Wi-Fi for nearly a decade.

Advances in technology have made it possible for hotels to offer a tiered structure to guests considering the mushroom growth of  cellular phones, tablets, netbooks, printers, hard drives, and projectors all or most of which are now Wi-Fi enabled. It is now possible to have multiple channels at the same time offering varying speeds and coverage. Hi-tech routers make it possible to enable levels of access with hotel guests being limited, if needed, to the internet only while back office staff have deeper access to servers and peripherals with disparate passwords all enabled by encryption.

In the end, hotels that continue to levy an internet fee with an ostrich in the sand approach to pricing risk missing out on attracting more guests just as jurisdictions that are intent on levying taxes on "out-of-towners" assume (falsely) that there is a net gain in revenue.

 

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Vijay Dandapani

Co-founder and president of a New York based hotel company for 24 years. Grew the firm to five hotels in Manhattan and also developed a greenfield project at MacArthur airport, New York. Speaker at numerous prestigious forums including Economy Hotels World Asia, Lodging Conference, NYU, Columbia University Real Estate Roundtable, Baruch College's Zicklin School and ALIS. President and ceo of New York City Hotel Association since January 2017.

One thought on “Fee-less Wi Fi: when giving away brings in more”

  1. Vijay,
    Hotels that insist on charging for WiFi are losing more than they are gaining.
    They can certainly count the how much revenue they earn by charging. What they will never determine is how many customers they lost because of the charge.
    Based on the JD Power research on customer satisfaction they are losing more than they think.
    Apple Core Hotels couldn’t “offer value and comfort” in the heart of NYC if they charged for WiFi. I’ve stayed with you before and can attest that FREE WiFi does increase perception of value and customer satisfaction.
    Like you, this is a subject near to my heart. Enjoy my blog post from last year. http://blog.madiganpratt.com/2010/09/08/how-long-will-it-be-before-wifi-is-free/. Americans and Europeans are of one mind when it comes to Free WiFi.

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