In this article entitled, Life After Free WiFi posted on Hospitalitynet.org, Jason Jeffreys reports that only 64% of hotels offer free Wi-Fi. I posted a link to this article on Twitter and received an amusing response from @DanShappir who responded, "wonder if other 36% also charge for electricity, water & TV." In fact, it does make you wonder since quality Wi-Fi connectivity has become just as important as electricity, water and TV and hotels are under increasing pressure to provide free services in a highly competitive landscape. Jeffreys indicates how hotel revenues are for video on-demand services are declining, and with customers insisting upon free Wi-Fi, the loss in revenue appears permanent.
Indeed, it's simply another sector of the economy under attack as the shift of power moves from company to customer through the steady and deliberate consumerization of IT. The gist of Jeffreys' article is that hotels need to conform to the trend quickly and take advantage of the fact that guests are hopping on their internet connection before unpacking, looking at the view or checking to see if there are enough towels.
However, an opportunity is lost when upon login, the hotel simply redirects guests to their home page. Similar to how the guest services channel always appears first when the TV is turned on, a guest services web page should be first upon successful connection to the Wi-Fi. Jeffreys points this out and I couldn't agree more. Dining options as well as coupons for attractions and other services would fit perfectly here. Offering discounts for booking another stay or getting guests to the bar with a free drink coupon are other ideas.
Quality Wi-Fi at hotels is becoming a commodity. Charging for it angers guests. I don't care how luxurious the hotel chain, free quality Wi-Fi is simply an expected piece of the overall customer experience puzzle nowadays. However, I've seen some hotels who offer free Wi-Fi to all guests and then also charge for a premium high speed wireless service. I like this. When I am on the road and know that I need to send some pretty big files in addition to the usual news and sports checking, I'll pay extra for this service without scoffing at it.
I do not know which hotel was first to offer free Wi-Fi to its guests, but it was an innovative and highly disruptive move setting off a chain reaction in the marketplace that's unfolding before our eyes. Retail stores and restaurants are wrestling with this trend too. It's expensive to provide Wi-Fi to patrons and the ROI isn't completely clear. The last thing they need is another cost of doing business excuse. As Wi-Fi connectivity becomes increasingly integrated into our lives, charging for it is simply a business killer. Therefore, leveraging the connectivity and using it to bridge the gap to other products and services that have profit margins is the key.