Hotels are changing their attitudes toward Wi‑Fi for guests
Monday, November 09, 2015
What was once a luxury hotel amenity, Wi-Fi has become a necessity for guests when booking a hotel. Wi-Fi is in such high demand these days that hotels are not only scrambling to make accommodation for it in their hotels, but are also getting into trouble for it.
According to a survey conducted by Hotels.com, 60 percent of global travelers say they wish Wi-Fi would become the standard at all hotels this year. That is down 6 percent from 2013. 53 percent of U.S. travelers agreed with that sentiment.
Hotels.com suggests that due to increased availability of free public Wi-Fi hotspots and enhanced mobile data plans, travelers have lessened their reliance upon hotel Wi-Fi. To compete with the demand of Wi-Fi, many hotels have begun to offer free Wi-Fi as a standard amenity when booking a room.
In October, Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts introduced free Wi-Fi at its locations across the world.
"The use of Wi-Fi has become so pervasive, and everything that drives many of us in our lives is coming through Wi-Fi," says Scott Taber, senior vice president of rooms at Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts. "In collaboration with owners in our hotels, we wanted to make free access standard at all of our hotels."
The Four Seasons joins other major hotel chains such as Marriott and Hyatt, who introduced free Wi-Fi for guests earlier this year.
"We can't continue to differentiate and innovate our guest experiences when we're charging some guests for the technology that powers future improvements," wrote Kristine Rose, vice president of brands for Hyatt, in a recent blog.
Although both chains offer free Wi-Fi for all guests, those wanting faster speeds will have to pay for it unless they are an elite member of the respective hotel chains.
The American Hotel and Lodging Association says fewer hotels are charging for in-room Internet services. Only 11 percent of respondents said they charged for Internet; down 23 percent from 2012.
Despite these efforts, hoteliers are still facing dilemmas when it comes to Wi-Fi — specifically regarding hot spot blocking.
Recently, the FCC revealed that hotel chain Hilton was being investigated for allegedly blocking guests' personal Wi-Fi hot spots. The FCC has proposed a $25,000 fine "for apparently willfully and repeatedly violating a commission order by failing to respond to the bureau's letter of inquiry and obstructing the bureau's investigation into whether Hilton willfully interferes with consumer Wi-Fi devices in Hilton-brand hotel and resort properties across the United States."
The case began about a year ago when the FCC received a complaint that the Hilton Anaheim in Anaheim, California, was blocking visitors' personal Wi-Fi hot spots unless guests paid the hotel a $500 fee for Hilton's Wi-Fi. Hilton joins a list of hotels who have suffered a similar fate at the hands of the FCC.
In October 2014, the FCC fined Marriott $600,000 for blocking a guest's personal Wi-Fi hot spot. In August 2015, the FCC fined Smart City Holdings $750,000 and ordered the company to stop blocking visitors' mobile hot spot Wi-Fi at several convention centers across the country.
"Consumers must get what they pay for," the FCC said in a statement regarding the Marriott fine. "The Communications Act prohibits anyone from willfully or maliciously interfering with authorized radio communications, including Wi-Fi. Marriott's request seeking the FCC's blessing to block guests' use of non-Marriott networks is contrary to this basic principle. Protecting consumers from this kind of interference is a priority area for the FCC Enforcement Bureau."
A report by New York University's School of Professional Studies projects the U.S. lodging industry will spend a record $6.4 billion on capital expenditures this year, including upgrading Internet service. One thing is for certain, Wi-Fi will continue to innovate and change the technology landscape for hotels.
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