“Free” Wifi in Hotels | It Ain’t So Free

Over the last 2 weeks, while visiting Europe, the only major complaint that I really had was in regards to connectivity. As an international traveler, I’d rather die than turn on roaming on my iPhone. But this isn’t the issue. I can understand why roaming costs are so high.

My issue is with something which I would have thought by now, would be a non-issue. WiFi in hotels.

Wifi in Hotels | It Ain’t So “Free”

Hotels are known for sucking every last penny out of their guests, whether it’s through $8 colas in the mini fridges, ridiculously priced breakfasts, or hidden Internet costs. What bothers me more, isn’t so much the cost, which I’ll touch on shortly, but the deceiving nature in which they advertise that they offer “High Speed Internet” at their hotels. I understand that hotels are companies, and that companies need to make money, but I believe there are better ways of going about it.

I stayed at three hotels over the last 2 weeks. Two in London, and one in Paris. All three hotels stated in their “Complimentary Services” section, they they offer “High Speed Internet” at their hotels. And it’s only after you go on a treasure hunt do you discover that it’s “complimentary” only to those who have “Gold” membership status with the hotel in question. If you’re part of the “99%” who don’t have your wallets stuck up these hotel’s behinds, you better get ready to either suffer without Internet, or fork over your left arm, and a second mortgage. While I agree that it’s sometimes nice to disconnect from the world for a few days, if you’re like me, who runs a one-man business, it’s not very practical.

All three hotels I stayed at offered daily or multi-day passes. The daily passes would have cost me about $20/day, while the 5 day pass ran about $80 after the currency conversion. Of course, there’s always a kicker. Another important fact that these hotels don’t tell you, is that the connection passes only allow you to use Internet on one or two devices. If you’re visiting the hotel with 3 people in a room, you are required to purchase an additional pass in order for all three guests to go online.

“It Costs Too Much”

Of course, hotels claim that offering Internet in their hotels is a pricy endeavor. I have news for you. It’s really not. After researching hotels that do offer free wifi in their hotels, the service itself costs around $300/month, plus the installation of the routers (which should already be installed in most hotels). Assuming a hotels only has 300 rooms, which we all know isn’t the case, it would cost $1 per room, per night, for the additional service. Hotels that contain thousands of occupied rooms should have no excuse to not offer free wifi.

“We Gotta Make Money”

Sure, hotels need to make money. They advertise ‘dirt cheap’ rooms to their guests, hoping to stab them in the back with extra fees, like $5/minute local calls, but they’re doing it all wrong. If you’ve logged into a public hotspot recently, you’ve likely had to accept some terms, enter some basic information, or fork over your first child. Finding out that that connecting to the network will charge your card will steer away a large number of potential customers. If I had to guess, up to 80% of hotel guests would rather walk to a Starbucks than pay $20/day for wifi in their hotel. (I spent hours in a Paris McDonalds to avoid the hotel’s costs)

So what’s the solution? To me, it’s simple. With the booming mobile advertising market, it surely wouldn’t be very difficult to strike a deal with Visa, Amex, or even a local company to run a 2 minute video ad before connecting to the network. Watch the ad, you get your wifi, the hotel gets paid. If you factor in the 80% of people who would now be connecting to the network, I bet hotels would make as much, if not more by offering free wifi. And I’m sure hotels would be able to easily strike a strong deal with advertisers looking to get their message out, especially in high tourist areas.

I could be wrong

I’m not a marketing guru, nor a financial adviser, so there’s a good chance that this idea makes no sense at all, but for a service that is offered at McDonalds and Starbucks at no additional cost, hotels can certainly follow suit. If they really want to make a extra buck, hire a good negotiator, and pop on a video ad before connecting to the network. I’d much rather sit through a 2 minute ad than pay $80 to stay connected, and I’m sure others would agree.